The Most Surprising Thing I Learned About Marriage The First Year
I've been married to Jeff for the past year and a half and the first year was really surprising to me- not because of anything that happened between us, mostly because of what I learned about myself.
If you'd asked me before we got married, I would have told you I was a great partner in our relationship and I really was for pre-married life. I've heard people say nothing feels different after you get married. I feel the complete opposite. Marriage totally changed the way I saw our relationship and the way I treat it. I'm not sure if it was because we wrote our own vows (which I thought would be hard but literally is the easiest thing I've ever done) or the act of standing up in front of everyone that you know making promises, but from the second those vows came out of my mouth, the way I viewed our relationship changed.
Everyone who gets married says vows and I've seen so many relationships fall apart. When we got married, I vowed to myself and to Jeff to wake up and live with intention in our marriage every day. Meaning: I never want to get out of the habit of living my vows every single day. I had a friend's dad tell me YEARS ago that marriage is a choice every single day. I thought it was kind of weird when he said it and now that I'm married, I understand what he meant. I thought he was saying that at some point you wake up feeling like "ok, I have to be nice to this person again, ugh", but he wasn't. What he was saying is, you wake up and choose your attitude every day. You get up and say, "when I make my choices today, I choose my marriage first in every choice I make."
If I'd written my vows at 23, they would look COMPLETELY different than they did at 30. By 30, you've had a little more time to see marriages fall apart and/or you've been in a relationship that fell apart and when those things happen, you start to re-define what is important to you in marriage. For us, a key theme in our relationship that was super present in our vows was partnership. Both of us had significant previous relationships without true partnership and it was something neither one of us wanted to experience again.
On our wedding day, I said that I would put our relationship first always. That's a pretty generic thing to say but that was me letting go of thinking what was best for me, and putting our relationship as the absolute number one thing. Again, if you had asked me 4 years ago, I would have told you without question that our relationship was #1. What I was really doing, which I think is totally appropriate for dating relationships, is looking out for me while being a huge cheerleader for him. Those are two completely different things.
What surprised me most our year of marriage? I'm not as selfless as I thought it was.
We didn't live together before we got engaged and the second we moved in together it was so exciting that I never even had to think about participating in the little things- like doing dishes, taking out the trash, etc. because I was on such a cloud, I was doing everything I could without thinking about it. If you've ever had a roommate you know that the first few months you try to mind your p's and q's and then you get tired and stop caring as much and mayyyybe that dish starts to sit in the sink for a couple of days. It happens.
So we got engaged, moved in together the next day and then got married a year and a half later. We get into our groove and routine and as it turns out, when you're in a relationship where you live together, a lot more things become group effort and there's nowhere to hide. I can think of two lightbulb moments I've had in the past year. And mind you, these are legit conversations I've had with myself.
The first one is so tiny you might laugh. Jeff asked me if I would mind running to the UPS store where we have our mailbox and grabbing the mail. My head thought "uggggggggggh I definitely don't want to" and then I had this little moment of "Callie, that is so dumb. He would go for you in 5 seconds" and I said "of course" to Jeff and went and got our mail. One "no" might not be a big deal, but a habit of "no's" doesn't make anyone on the receiving end of that feel good and I feel like the more you say no, the easier it comes out of your mouth. It's a bad habit to have when you're talking about helping your spouse and contributing to a partnership. Anyways, it's so simple, and when I got home he was so appreciative of me going to get that mail. Would he have been mad if I said no? Absolutely not...but it would have added something else to his to-do list? Yes, and that tiny little thing I said yes to took one more thing off his list and made him feel like he has a spouse that will help him.
The second one was after I had a really long, exhausting day. All I wanted to do was go home, get in pajamas, watch mindless TV and not talk to anyone. Jeff texted me on my way home to say that he'd had a horrible, super stressful day and he had a bunch of stuff to tell me when I got home. I took the drive home from work as my me time, and was happy and ready by the time I got home to talk through Jeff's day. To be honest, that attitude shift was a conscious choice. Do I act like the crabby brat I feel like, or do I put crabby brat aside to be the partner that I'd want at the end of that kind of day? BYE CRABBY BRAT.
Choosing US instead of ME isn't important only in the big decisions, it's important in how we speak to each other, how we react to each other and how we approach each other every day. Do I tell him to pause until tomorrow? Do I tell him I don't want to talk? Of course not! When you write that out or think it through, it sounds like such a DUH moment. DUH! Your partner needs you...but when you're in these moments I think it's easy to roll your eyes or bring bad mood Betty into the situation without stopping to think about it.
The first year of marriage took me by surprise: I'm more selfish than I thought I was. Not about everything and not all of the time, but I didn't realize before we got married that in promising (and actively trying to keep my promise) to be a good partner, I'd be exercising a brand new way of thinking about us vs. me.