3 Things I've Learned In Marriage So Far
In 2014 Allie and I walked down the aisle after saying our "I do's" to the Rend Collective song "Build Your Kingdom Here". In some aspects this project is a realization of the promise we made to each other that day. We promised that wherever we are, the Kingdom of God would come with us in heart and mind. That's a big scary audacious promise! It's hard to live that promise out if we're being transparent. Being married is the way this promise is better facilitated for us while at the same time it poses some challenges. Think about it for a minute. You are taking two people from different upbringings and creating a convergence with their lives. Allie and I had never lived away from home and never slept with other people. We had and have no idea what we're doing! Even with these variables we have learned to be successful.
Here are 3 things I have learned and wished that I would have known before getting married:
1. Sex Is Surprisingly Complicated.
There is more to sex than body parts. This might come as a shock to some and others I imagine are nodding their heads in agreement. Sex is more emotional than people assume (and not just for the females). There is an energy (and anxiety for that first time) in the room that's charged by what we learned as kids, what we heard in the locker room as teens and even our own fantasies. In Allie and I's case that first night was so full of anxiety that tears came before we made it out of the reception hall. Growing up in Christian households we had varying conversations growing up. I had an older married brother and parents who were rather candid about sex. Allie was the first of the "kids" to get married and it was a "don't do it till your married, end of discussion" conversation about sex. We both brought that to the table. It was hard to overcome sex being a "sin" one minute and then after we signed the dotted line it was a sacrament. Saying this with love, grace and confidence we physically didn't have sex until after 6 months of marriage. Your assumptions will get you nowhere and can be very harmful. That first year of moving from having sex to making love is crucial. Proceed with endless grace, let the love between you cover any offenses and be tender to each other. Foster a kind atmosphere in the bedroom.
2. You Won't Always Be In Agreement Ideologically.
I'm going to start off by saying that it's definitely easier to do life with people you always agree with. Echo chambers are nice and very self affirming. Are they beneficial? I'd say no. Allie grew up Catholic and very conservative. I grew up Protestant and rather moderate. How we approach faith is very different from each other and even how we view others is different. This isn't to say that a certain view is better or worse but it is to say that healthy conflict arises. Things even as simple as how we cook green beans (pan fried is the only way) can be an ideological struggle. Embrace it! Things that seem like no brainers to you might be completely foreign to your spouse. When you get to the dinner table on that first Thanksgiving and you don't know the traditional prayer, it's going to be ok. It's an opportunity to learn and grow together! These slight differences in how the two of you do things isn't a hill to die on.
3. Bear Fruit In Your Repentance.
St. John the Baptist gave us one of the best pieces of advice we could have ever asked for in the Gospel of Matthew. John was baptizing people in the Jordan River and the religious elite came to be baptized just in case "wrath" was coming. After calling them all a brood of vipers he said "bear fruit in keeping with repentance" (Matt 3:8).
Repentance is one of the greatest things I have learned (and fail at) in my marriage so far. Love covers many offenses but, failing to change when it's needed is very draining. You both will disappoint each other I can promise that. You both will say and do things that are deeply hurtful. You both will also absolutely annoy each other at times. In all of these things whatever you do don't apologize and promise change and then not follow through. Your spouse will feel incredibly hurt and disrespected if you promise change and make no effort. Unfortunately, over time this cycle of false repentance will turn into resentment. Once you resent each other it takes more than saying sorry and making up to move forward. It might take years to change the hurt or worse it may never recover. I say this not to scare anyone but to give you an insight that I really had to learn. Allie has clinical anxiety and I was not kind or sensitive about it. I said some hurtful things that needed repentance and at first I would laugh it off. After some time I realized that I was truly hurting her and that my apologies had to transform from "avoiding wrath" to true life giving repentance. When we were able to foster that kind of space in our marriage everything changed for the better.
In three years of marriage I can't say I'm an expert but I do hope that these observations help you. Make sure to remember that the Kingdom of God is built in the hearts of people. Use your marriage to practice empathy and grace. Hold strong to what you promise each other. Make lots of love and grow together. Bear fruit in your repentance and when you disagree let love cover you both.