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!