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feature: sex & relationships
March 9th, 2012

Letter To My Newlywed Self

 
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Do you ever wish that you knew then what you know now? Ah — the beauty and magnificence of hindsight, especially in marriage. Mine has certainly been an adventure. My husband and I ended up doing all the things you aren’t supposed to do in the first year of marriage, including changing jobs, buying a house, and having a baby. Our biggest test to date was seeing our youngest daughter through cancer, but we did; together!

We are still the people we were on our wedding day, only a little wiser and a lot more understanding. In honor of our 10th anniversary on May 4, I’ve written a letter to my newlywed self in the hopes that it will keep me accountable to what worked for the 10 years to come.

Dear Tiger Lady,

You have it all right now and despite the wicked sunburn, you were pretty awesome on your wedding day. The honeymoon still ranks as the best vacation ever! Ten years has flown by and your very wise mother-in-law said recently, “Hindsight is the best kind of sight.” (Yeah, that sounds like her, huh?) This is the stuff I wish I’d known. You could write it all off because of your “bull-in-a-china-shop” reputation. While that works well in business, it needs tweaking for a successful life-long marriage. Whether you take it to heart now — or later, do me a favor, and keep this list handy.

1. Divorce is not an option
I know you didn’t get into this to get divorced, but the thought is going to cross your mind somewhere around year two. You are going to start thinking this would be easier, even with a baby, to do on our own. A strong woman like you doesn’t need a man, and the media and some friends will agree. But take it from me, the aftermath of divorce is not the pain you want. I’ve seen a lot of people go through it and it isn’t pretty, ever. Even when things in your marriage seem awful, they really aren’t that bad, especially compared to being alone. It’s hard to stay together, but it’s harder to separate. If you take the “D” word off the table, you also leave behind some reactionary behavior caused by fear. Without the fear of you walking out, you will find he is committed and ready for better communication. Stay in it. It’s worth it, I promise.

2. It won’t always be this way
In a few months (spoiler alert!), you get pregnant. And the 38 weeks till she is born seem like FOREVER. Then comes the baby stage and you will be a walking zombie with no sleep in sight. Then (another spoiler alert) she hits the “terrible twos,” which also seem to last forever. But the tide will eventually turn. It’s the same with being a wife. Marriage has its own terrible twos and it seems like the painful growth will never end. Things will get better, much better than you ever think possible because with your help, he becomes an exceptional leader. A small change in you makes a big difference with him; so listen more.

3. No pain, no gain
Around year four, with baby number two on the way, you will start asking yourself why you have to be the one to change. It’s a question you will ponder a lot but I’ll tell you this: Someone has to go first. Remember volleyball? If you didn’t want the other team to score, you had to dive for the ball. Sometimes you needed to be the one who sacrificed for the win. Marriage is hard, even painful sometimes, but if you want to win, sacrifice is what it takes. Being the first one to say sorry, or being the one willing to change has rewards. It will seem unfair to have to take “the high road,” but it gets easier with practice. You call yourself a Christian, so you gotta put your money where your mouth is, girl! God called us out of the single life but still expects us to work the land of marriage to make things grow. Work hard and be open to change.

4. A man cannot live without respect.
If there is one thing that makes the biggest difference in marriage, it is respect. You respect him now and you love him very much. But for the first few years, you are more concerned with being loved “the right way” rather than giving him the respect he needs. You will soon realize though, it’s not so much about getting your way as it is about unity. You will adopt this mantra with the kids soon (to get their help in cleaning their rooms): Team work makes the dream work! Apply it to your marriage through the medium of respect. The grand gesture is great, but daily affirmations of what he does well or letting him take the lead, create the desire in him to make you a priority. That formula leads to a unified, healthy marriage, which is way more sustainable than a perfect one.

Good times and bad times will come, so remember this is a marathon, not a sprint. Enjoy the good and find something funny about the bad. Don’t take things too seriously and pick the battles God says are important. The rest will get resolved. Fight fair, be nice, and cut yourself some slack. Yell less and hug more — with hubby and kids! Not everything will be easy and perfect, but nothing truly worth doing ever is.

You will see that you end up better than you started. I promise!

 
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The Author : Amy Vogel
Amy Vogel writes regularly on several blogs, including her own (http://jesusbling.blogspot.com) and also offers devotionals Monday - Friday (http://jesusblingdailydevos.blogspot.com). She contributes articles to several publications, including Response. Amy lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband and two daughters.
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Please note that the editorial staff reserves the right to not post comments it deems to be inappropriate and/or malicious in nature, as well as edit comments for length, clarity and fairness.
  • Evan

    Amy,

    This is a wonderful letter / article. As a man who is close to proposing to my wonderful girlfriend, this really touches both heart and soul. Anything we care about and want to preserve truly takes work, devotion, sacrifice, and respect.

  • margaret

    i love your letters and its all a sound advice. i recently found that my husband had a very special feeling for my sister and did not marry her cos he wanted someone to take care of him. And so here i am married after 21 years … and having this really anger and hatred for the way this marriage was based on. Oh mind you i love him. But i feel cheated and unloved. Of course him being good looking and me being so damn ugly, fat after 3 children and short does not help one bit. And my sis is good looking and smart and loved by all. Its hurting alot and dont know why what and how to feel different? any advice

  • Paula Best

    To Jill, My heart goes out to you. You should never feel bad about being single. Not everyone is called to marriage. And if it is something that you desire, then your husband may not be ready for you to find him yet. I can certainly relate to what Amy is saying about taking divorce off the table. It has made a huge difference in my own marriage. I think what Amy is referring to when she says “compared to being alone” is AFTER you are married, then being alone through a divorce is not going to be as good as you think it is. I would hate to put my children through that just because I was unwilling to give my marriage everything I have. Trust in God and He will give you everything you need. Whether that means a husband or not. I grew up Catholic, so I totally get the guilt thing. I don’t know why that is, but maybe you might want to consider finding a new church. Not a new faith, but a new place to worship where they love you as you are. That’s what I did and my faith has never been stronger. God bless you, Jill.

    Amy, love the letter to newlywed self! You sound so much like me, it’s almost scary. :)

  • Angie

    Dear Tiger Lady, having recently celebrated our 20th anniversary, with an huge list of first year “mile stones” (ha, I don’t mean that nesecessarily positively) ourselves, I commend you on this letter. I think you truly hit the nail on the head with the points you offer! It is obvious that you have matured during your first10 years together and have found great wisdom regarding the “secrets” of healthy marriages that last. Hopefully, that is what all couples would be doing, unfortunately, as you pointed out, society, friends, etc., tell us to just “end it,” during a rough patch instead of “learn from it,” “pray,” “you CAN DO THIS!!” before the lesson comes, or the wisdom is gained! I know one of your commenters was not happy about you, the wife, changing or doing anything to “please” your husband but, you can only change you! You cannot change him, nor should you try. The fastest way to upset a husband is to tell him how to act, besides, you have no control over him doing it. If we really are the Christians we say we are, let us show the love first, let us respect our husbands, be their cheerleader and a listening ear. Do you know how much a husband will WANT TO DO for a wife that treats him like that? He will die for her like in the scriptures!! Trust me, a wife, JUST BEING A GOOD WIFE, like she VOWED to do, will capture her man’s heart like a princess to her Prince Charming!!

    Great job Tiger Lady!! May your next ten years continue to be blessed by what you have learned these first ten and may you continue to mature and grow in grace and beauty and wisdom!!

    **please forgive my caps, I do not have italics on this iPad.

  • Jill

    I’m being sensitive, but it’s not helpful to write things like, “it’s better than being alone.” This is a great article and I know it’s not fair of me to even suggest that you meant something negative by that. Yet the Catholic Church is seemingly always making me feel badly about being single- of course unintentionally!- when I’d like to think my faith would be a bit more of a consolation.

  • Fonz

    This is a nice and insightful letter; however there are a few things I object to. While husbands are considered to be the leaders of a family, I don’t think your life should be all about pleasing HIM and sacrificing yourself just to adopt HIS philosophy. In your letter you make it sound like every difficult part of your marriage life is there because of something YOU did or didn’t do; that’s not a healthy mindset, to believe that your marriage can only work if you bend over backwards-that can leave your husband complacent, believing he can do whatever he wants and you, being the follower, will just go with it.

    You say yourself that “teamwork makes the dream work.” Well, a two-person team does not consist of a leader and a follower; the two constituents are equals. If you want your marriage to be sustainable, it has to be about mutual respect, not relinquishing yourself and your values to keep things on an even keel. Stability is important, but every member of a family deserves to be their own autonomous person, too.

    • BNY_NRS

      It’s interesting how we both read the same letter and got different meanings from it. I didn’t interpret that a woman must cater to her husband. There was no mention of adopting his philosophy, rather that you can’t expect him to cater to yours. She had to give up that mindset to make her marriage work. Kind of like giving up the ‘entitlement’ attitude.

      You also have to make sacrifices, but it’s given that he has to too. She has to support him, but that support is mutual, because he will support her too. You’re a team now, a unit, with different roles. Kind of like two pillars holding up a house, you need both of them to work together. She mentions later not understanding why she had to be in charge… is this not a leadership position too? She is also technically a leader. They both need to be for their children. I don’t believe there is a ‘dominant one’ who makes decisions 100% of the time. There are many factors to put in.

      Have you ever heard of servant leadership? To explain it in simple terms, it’s like being a leader by being a supporter. You support the people you lead, catering to their needs so that they can do their job (which is supporting you and your philosophy). I learned this in nursing school. Leadership should make a circle, not a vertical line with the dominant at the top.

  • AnitaH

    Great letter. Numbers 3 and 4 are great advice to any woman in dating and discerning marriage too. Here in America women have been taught to take the lead and focus on getting what we need first- only to find that way of thinking is to our own detriment in developing the relational skills needed for marriage. Only when we focus on unity and all parties involved can we truly grow and prosper. This is where women from family focused cultures and backgrounds have us beat. They understand how to put the needs of the many over their own.

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