My husband and I are coming up on our 1 year wedding anniversary. Looking back on our first year of marriage, it has been amazing, woven with triumph over circumstances beyond our control and jelling together as a team.
A month before our wedding I had to have out of state emergency surgery, I was in my senior year of university, and my now husband tore his calf muscle a week before the wedding. Needless to say, it was chaotic.
After the wedding, we felt that things calmed down but that only lasted a few weeks. I graduated from university, had another major medical episode, and we lost our housing within a few months (Our Landlord decided to sell breaking our lease by 6 months).
I was learning to be a wife and a step-mom, my husband was experiencing work struggles, and my teenage step-son was going through his normal teenage issues with all the change and chaos around him. He was just getting settled into a new school when we had to move, so he had to change schools, making matters much worse for him. Needless to say, we got off to a great start with many opportunities to learn about each other under less than ideal circumstances.
Blood, sweat, and tears were abundant as we all did our very best to show each other love through the transition. We all deeply care about each other, which fueled our desire to navigate conflict well. When I step back and look at my partner and I – I am beyond proud of who we have become as individuals and as a couple. I look at who I was a year ago and am astounded at how much personal growth I experienced in this first year. We are both much better people and our son is getting the benefits of having a healthy predictable home. Here are a few things I learned.
When we are dating we put our best foot forward. We want to show the other person how amazing we are and are often on our best behavior. A few months into marriage I wondered why I was getting so frustrated with my husband. He is the most loving man that works very hard for our family. Why was he rubbing me the wrong way and what is up with these silly little arguments over nothing?
I realized that I had a different picture of him in my mind – basically, I was putting very unreasonable expectations on him. We handle adversity very differently and I thought he was more like me in that area. He didn’t lie to me or make himself into something he wasn’t… I did that all on my own. As I learned to embrace him for the truth of who he is I have fallen in more in love with him every day. Adjusting expectations is vital in a healthy relationship. We all change and evolve and our expectations need to follow suit.
As we experienced various pitfalls and frustrations it was very apparent that we communicate very differently and came in with opposite conflict management skills. I push for a quick verbal discussion and my partner needs time to think and be alone. Classic marriage conflict, right?
The hardest skill for me to learn was when to give room for his needs and when to make room for mine. I started by stuffing most of my needs and trying to handle them on my own and of course, that didn’t end well. It was around our 10th month of marriage that we figured out how to communicate in an argument where both sides had needs to be presented.
It was rough at first and pretty messy but with intentional practice and brainstorming, we have found a decent balance. I have learned to wait and give him the space he needs and he has learned that sometimes I just need to verbally purge everything. It is a messy business but if we are going to protect our connection it is a must.
REVISE – RESTRUCTURE – REPEAT
We are both planners. We love business strategies and have applied many business type models to the way we run our household. We would sit down and make a plan and a few month later find ourselves up in arms about how the agreement we came to isn’t working.
We have learned to recognize that as we change and evolve so do our plans. We’ve learned to be fluid and understanding that there are different rules when there is a lot of money and when there is no money. When one is needing to work a lot of overtime and when we have a relaxed schedule. We have given each other the right to say, “This is not working for me.” Sometimes that ends in a restructure and other times it validates the current one we have in place.
The thing I love the most about my partner is that we are a team. We approach each other looking at roles that need to be played to accomplish the tasks at hand. We trade off making dinner, cleaning, handling our son’s needs, and other household needs. I could write a 1,000-page article on everything that I learned. However, for now, the brief overview is what I have to offer you. If you want to hear more about how I approach managing chaos check out this article: http://unboundnorthwest.com/index.php/2017/03/02/managing-chaos/
I had always been told that being married and a mother will make you a better person. I am thankful for the opportunity to be both and it is so true!
Also published on Medium.