There are many stories out there about do’s and don’ts for the first year or two of marriage. I have read many of them, but have yet to come across one that advises to just stay married. Seems kind of simple, but it’s true—in marriage for sure and likely in most major life decisions.
My first year of marriage started off pretty typical. My husband and I were finishing our last semester of undergraduate school. We were so planned about everything—dated for almost four years, get married on winter break; make sure the final semester is scheduled and “paid” for; graduate 6 months later and start really living life! We had so many dreams of married life and what it was going to be like. One little mistake changed all that for us and “just staying married” was all we could do.
I suppose that is a little dramatic, but it didn’t seem like it as it was happening. Our initial plans all worked out! Chris and I did get married and we did graduate college. The next phase was for him to begin graduate school part-time and for me to work full-time. The key word in that whole statement was “PART-TIME.” That’s what derailed us. Chris went for his entrance interview for his graduate program and was convinced by the professors that the program was a much better experience if completed on a full-time basis. BOOM. Suddenly, our life was not our own and we were no longer that newlywed couple I had dreamed about.
Chris got busy with his studies and working and his internship. And I didn’t. Suddenly, I was attending the “young married couple’s class” at church alone. I would cook a romantic dinner and draw a bubble bath to be told a paper was due. This idea of “living life with my best friend” was gone before it even began. Not that I didn’t have other friends; I did. And I loved being with them. But, most of them were single, doing single people stuff. And as I joined them, I realized I didn’t want to be married to someone too busy for me. I wanted to be single.
Thus ends our first year of marriage. With me telling Chris I am unhappy and don’t want to be married. I thought we were supposed to have at least a year of being inseparable, intimate and more connected than we ever will be again in our lives. Boy was I wrong. It was Chris who actually said, “Let’s just stay married and once this is over, we will do something different. This won’t happen again.” Hmmm … could I do that? Could I deny myself happiness on the chance that it MAY change? These are the thoughts that permeate so many people in our culture—can I deny my INSTANT happiness for something that MAY be better in the future? Instant gratification? Or something that takes some work and time? Such a difficult choice in a moment when happiness is no where to be found. If the hard work pays off, it is guaranteed to be immeasurably better than what the moment offers—but that is a big IF.
Denial of self is a practice not followed much these days. We live in an instant gratification society. Relationships take hard work sometimes. Especially when they derail! That’s when commitment to the commitment you made is vital. Stick to your original intentions. There was a reason you made them in the first place. This happened to me in our first year of marriage—it could happen to you in year seven or twenty-seven. There are few situations where it doesn’t pay off … ask me … almost twenty years later, I am the happiest and most content I have ever been living life with my best friend!
Photo (Flickr CC) by Moyan Brenn