Yesterday my husband and I celebrated our three month anniversary of marriage, and as those three months have passed, I have learned much about the joys and struggles of this sacrament. Marriage is truly a sacrament of paradoxes: being married feels so natural and brings great interior peace, even though it is very different from the way I was living before, and comes with many challenges. During my teen years, I enjoyed reading a pleasant, old school prayer book called The Catholic Girl’s Guide, written by Fr. Lasance. In it, marriage is described as the third vocational path, preceded by the religious life and unmarried life. When describing marriage as a path to heaven, Fr. Lasance writes,
“The third road leads away to the left, into a hilly region; there are many pleasures and joys to be met with on that way, and also much toil and many sorrows; that is the married state.”
I feel like it is common to hear about “newly-wedded bliss.” What people often fail to mention is how quickly those hills appear, and how hard adjusting to this major change can be.
Marriage is Forever
I think one of the earliest struggles was accepting the idea that “this is it.” We were long-distance for the entirety of our engagement, and he would come down as many weekends as he could to visit. We were both on pretty restrictive diets and working hard, but when we were together it was like a mini-vacation. I would take the time off work, we would go out to eat, spend a little money on date nights, and have no responsibilities. Once he left, we both snapped back into reality and discipline, knowing we would have another luxurious break the next time he came.
Our honeymoon was like the climax of these visits. We indulged so much and spent money without a care. Then he brought me home to our apartment, which he had been living in alone for a couple months. He carried me over the threshold, I started to unpack and decorate, and that was it. We tried to keep up this vacation mindset longer than we should have, which only left us both feeling sick from the unhealthy food and stressed from the unwise spending. We had to accept the fact that being together does not always equal “vacation” anymore. We needed to learn to enjoy everyday things together again like we had while dating in college.
The other hard truth that comes immediately after the honeymoon ends and “real life” starts is that there is no longer a big event to look forward to, giving you motivation to push through and something to hold onto even on the worst days. Our long-distance dating/engagement didn’t help us prepare for this. We both lived for those weekend visits, and also for the wedding. If I didn’t want to workout, I would anyway to get ready for the wedding. If he wanted to spend more money on groceries for himself, he wouldn’t to save for the honeymoon. It was easier to make the right decisions for such a huge, wonderful reason. But now we’re just living a normal life together. Of course, there are so many milestones to anticipate, but none in the immediate future. This “living for the next event” lifestyle came to an abrupt end, and we had to learn to find the joy within those little things that we couldn’t do together before, instead of needing the big, exterior things to make us happy.
Living Together in Marriage
The longer we dated, the more aware we became of the many differences between men and women. But once you are actually living together, all of those differences feel like they’ve been multiplied by three– or more, depending on the day. When the two of you are constantly living in the same space, the little things about each other that annoy are inescapable. During a recent conversation with my husband, I asked him why he didn’t complain about some of these things when we were dating since I’ve been doing them for a while. He explained that since he only saw me on weekends, he didn’t want to ruin what little time we had by bickering about something small. Since it was only for a weekend, he decided he could deal with it in the short-term without making a fuss. But now that we’re living together and these things come up on a daily basis, it’s worth it to mention them.
We’ve had to learn how to adjust our schedules around each other, a challenge we’re both still facing. Some of the ways he chose to spend his free time as a bachelor he’s had to give up, and I am still trying to master the art of afternoon productivity, which is necessary since he works an afternoon/night shift. Grocery shopping can be a subject of frustration since I have a restrictive diet for health reasons and his only concern is keeping off weight. Sometimes he doesn’t understand why we can’t have more food in the house, and sometimes I don’t understand why he needs so much more. He doesn’t understand how I can be “too busy” during the day to do an emergency load of laundry, and I don’t understand why he can’t learn to tell me he needs something before he’s in his last pair. It’s the little things that add up so quickly, they can overwhelm us and make us forget how small they really are, and how insignificant compared to everything we’ve gained in each other.
Marriage is Only Part of It
The final thing that I personally underestimated was a number of other changes that come with marriage. It isn’t just about marrying Prince Charming and riding off into the sunset on a perpetual date (which we learned very quickly after returning from the honeymoon). It’s an entire lifestyle change. For me, it meant moving away from my beach hometown to a city in the mountains. Moving meant leaving behind the family I love to live with my husband instead, only seeing them occasionally. It also meant I had to give up control and working a structured job for the sake of being a housewife. I still work from home, but I’ve been working multiple jobs at a time for years, so to suddenly have nothing adding structure to my day, no place to go and feel productive and important, was and still is hard.
For him, it meant taking on the burden of supporting a family. It meant being a husband first instead of a son and seeing his family less also. It meant being asked to pay attention to details that he’d never even thought of, and feeling like every action is monitored.
A number of new responsibilities can be exhausting; there’s a calendar for everything. There’s a calendar for bills, a calendar for NFP charting, a calendar of his family’s important dates, a calendar of my family’s important dates, a work calendar for him, and a deadlines calendar for me. Free time is scare, free weekends are rare and precious gems, and it’s hard to feel like any of your time is truly yours anymore. Marriage is a huge life adjustment, especially when you marry young because you’re learning how to do “life” at the same time, together, while also learning how to be a spouse.
Marriage is Beautiful
In spite of all of the challenges and adjustments, marriage is a beautiful thing. Being long-distance meant we were perpetually saying goodbye, and now we fall asleep next to each other every night. Combining lives is hard, but it is also bringing the two of us closer. Learning more about each other means there are many new things to love. Married date nights are awesome, because we feel so secure and don’t feel rushed to fit everything in before we leave, instead, we drive home together when they’re finished. The best word to describe the beauty of married life is how comfortable it is. We know each other intimately and deeply, and we have to take care of each other for either of us to be happy. We have a lifetime to look forward to, and with each day, the adjustments get easier and we still remain.
There will always be hills in marriage, and the demands of life never stop. But the struggle for newly-wedded bliss is worth it, because through it all we love each other, and through the grace of the sacrament, we will continue to overcome these early months and rest in some beautiful valleys along the way, hand-in-hand, knowing we will always have each other.