One year ago, I married Mack in a horse pasture. I had to negotiate with 7 horses to let me use their field as a rustic, outdoor ceremony site. I spent the morning plucking spiders and grasshoppers from the tulle of my wedding dress, but I was too excited to care. Mack and his groomsmen donned Star Wars cuff links and side arms, because who am I to stifle their love of Star Wars and firepower? A giant Chinese gong hung from horse-nibbled beams of the barn so that guests could ring so we’d kiss. We served fruit and pancakes and bacon and muffins, all catered by friends and family, and it was delicious.
Nobody got heat stroke. The rain never fell. The mosquitoes didn’t bite.
It was perfect. Even though bugs crawled up my dress during our vows, even though the orange juice never made it to the reception, and even though the horses pooped on the trail where the guests had to walk, it was perfect.
And I’m not trying to brag. I’m really not. I’m just so thankful that God blessed us on our wedding day. When our wedding ended, our life started. The real, unfiltered, raw life that happens when two selfish people join together.
We’d been warned from others wiser than us. We’d prepared as best we could in pre-marital counseling. Now, one year later, I want to declare that marrying Mack RUINED my life. Marrying him changed everything, and I’ve learned a lot about myself and how marriage is about choosing love every day.
Here’s what being married 1 year has taught me:
#1. I’m Selfish. Like really selfish.
Marriage is a whole lot of sacrifice. And sacrificing is hard.
Have you ever tried it? Truly sacrificing your wants for another? It’s a two-way street, and it’s something we’ve both had to willingly learn to surrender to each other, almost daily. Sometimes it’s not so much sacrifice as it is compromise. But as a selfish person, compromise is hard, too. Meeting halfway still takes sacrifice. And sometimes as a wife, I’m called to put his needs above my own, which can be astoundingly hard BECAUSE I’VE BEEN SO USED TO BEING SINGLE AND INDEPENDENT FOR SO LONG. Nevertheless, it is an HONOR to submit to his authority, as I’m called to do by Jesus, no matter how much I fuss. I love that I get to do that!
I can’t really explain what happened to me, this once independent girl from California. I used to rule my world. I called the shots. I made choices and had to live with the consequences. Marriage changed all of that. Now we are committed to each other, and every decision I make affects him, and vice versa. It’s not just about ourselves any more. It’s about us.
There’s no room for selfishness anymore.
#2. Oneness doesn’t happen overnight.
Before we got married, we had a lot of boundaries, and those boundaries kept us from being a united front. Now, we’re learning how to be a real team–like how to make decisions together.
Part of this whole marriage thing is being on the same page. It’s about communicating and compromising. And that’s very hard to do, especially when we’ve lived our entire lives doing things differently. Like with money. He likes to save receipts in case we’re audited. I could care less–let them audit me and take me away in cuffs! He likes to save money by fixing our cars himself. I want to throw money at the local repair shop down the road. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve been frustrated at each other over these two things in the past year. Because we didn’t understand each other.
We’ve had to learn the WHY behind everything we do individually (like how fixing the car quickly and professionally so I know I won’t die driving down the road gives me SECURITY–or how knowing where every penny of our money goes and saving it all in one spot makes him feel PREPARED for the future).
Once we can get to the deeper issue behind seemingly irrational behaviors, life is a whole lot clearer. Frustrations subside and sympathy kicks in. He’s not always just being stubborn or set in his ways, and neither am I. We’ve grown up a certain way with certain expectations and patterns. I dare say we’ve learned more about ourselves than each other!
#3. Affection is more than just sex.
So many of my friends get married to have sex. So many of my friends see sex as this ultimate goal in life. So many of my friends finally get married, achieve that goal and then let it wither and fade.
I’ll never forget what my psychology professor told me when I was a freshman: “The biggest way to cause a wedge in marriage is by withholding sex from one another.” Growing up, I knew sex was important. I knew it was sacred. But I guess I had the wrong impression about sex, too. I thought it was the ultimate way to show your husband that you love him. Because that’s what we’re taught, as girls. We wield this Power of the Body. Men have gone to war for sex. Men think about sex like every 6 seconds, right? Sex is everything.
But it’s not e v e r y t h i n g. Showing my husband that I love him comes in many forms–but I think the greatest is when I speak to him in his love language. For Mack, that’s words of affirmation (or so I think, because he’s super complex). So when I compliment him or tell him how appreciative I am of something he’s done, his world lights up. When I listen to his thoughts and needs and then do my best to remember and implement them–that’s how I fill his love tank.
Sex is bonus awesomeness, a way to spiritually and physically bond.
#4. We need our space.
If I were around Mack every single second of the day, I would kill him. He would kill me.
We are still two individuals who have separate interests. For instance, mine is watching The Bachelor; his is watching live streams of Destiny on Twitch. It’s really just better if we don’t force each other to do everything together. We need our space, and that’s something I’ve had to learn is healthy.
You see, one of my strongest love languages is quality time. Sometimes that looks like me whining for him to come hang out with me. Come talk to me. Come share his EVERY THOUGHT with me. Snuggle. Giggle. Tell stories.
But for Mack, sometimes he just needs time to recharge. And that DOESN’T involve giggling with me on the couch (although he has admitted to loving those moments). For him, he recharges by playing video games. And while I’m all for video games, he needs his man-cave time. And I will survive during those times.
Besides, giving each other space allows me to nurture my friendships. It allows me to still be an individual, which is who he fell in love with anyway. I don’t want either of us to lose that.
#5. Love is a choice. Every day.
A marriage certificate doesn’t mean squat. Either of us could walk away from this at anytime. That’s why the fact that we CHOOSE to love each other despite our flaws, frustrations and fights is so beautiful.
One day on our commute home, we were arguing. I don’t remember what it was about–it was literally pointless in the grand scheme of life. And as I sat there in the quiet awkwardness that was frustration and a silent game of “who-can-ignore-the-other-person-longer,” I realized how much I loved him. I realized that I would not want to be sitting in a car fighting with any one else on the earth. Just him. And when he stubbornly put his hand on my knee (knowing that my love language is touch, thus reminding me of his love), I melted. The love rushed over me, and in that sense, I didn’t choose it. I felt it. But I could have chosen to ignore it–believe me, I’m fully capable of being THAT stubborn. I could have chosen to be angry at him for the rest of the week. The fight wasn’t over, but I didn’t have to let a fight stop me from loving him. I chose to hold his hand in that moment and love him through it.
I’m thankful for those moments when the love rushes over, because I’m not naive. It won’t always be like that. The love won’t always rush over.
That’s why it’s so important that I set up good habits now. If I want this marriage to thrive, I have to choose to love him even when I’m not feeling that rush of love wash over me. Wait, why am I saying “have to choose?” I want to choose! I want to choose to love him when I’m irritated at him. I want to choose to love him when he’s irritated at me. I know it doesn’t always come across the way I wish it would–a love so strong that it instantly resolves any conflict–but that’s not realistic anyway. Plus, I don’t think it’s healthy. Marriage can be bumpy, but as long as we don’t give up on each other, we’ll grow. As long as we choose to love each other even when we aren’t feeling those good vibrations, we’ll thrive.
Because God is faithful.
Marrying Mack ruined me because my old, single self is dead. That once selfish, stubborn single girl is now a selfish, stubborn married girl who has to sacrifice more than she ever thought she would, but who LOVES doing so more than she ever imagined. More than she ever thought she could.
Marrying him ruined--nay, wrecked!--what I thought love was. Whatever I thought was love before we were married was crap. It was silly. It was weak. It wasn’t tested (and I’m sure we haven’t even seen anything yet). Now I understand that love is a choice I get to make every day.
Marriage has shown me how love grows. How love IS patience. How love IS kindness. How love IS honoring, slow to anger, trusting and persevering. I CAN’T EVEN TRULY WRITE ABOUT LOVE BECAUSE THERE ARE JUST NO WORDS.
But I’ll try…
Love is watching your spouse fail, and fail miserably at something, and then watching your spouse choose to make a change. Love is recognizing that there’s a better way to show love toward your spouse, and then choosing to learn how to demonstrate that love for them. Love is choosing to communicate. Choosing to listen. Choosing to compromise. Choosing to speak up. Choosing to trust. Choosing to never give up. Love is seeking God first so that our marriage stands the test of time.
I want to choose Mack every day, in the days when I love him so much I want to burst, but also in the days when I want to pack him in a suitcase and ship him to Australia. I need to choose him every day so that our love can grow, because I never want it to stop growing. I want to create a pattern of choosing to love, so that even in bad times, I can persevere.
I want to show him that I’m in this, every day. I choose him. I choose us.
Gosh, there’s so many other wonderful, frustrating, painful, glorious things I’ve learned about being married to Mack. And I’ll share those as they come, when needed. But for now, just know that love is a choice. A privilege.
Be careful who you choose to love, then don’t ever stop choosing them.
Playing catch-up? Read the blog post that started our journey, “How Courting A Man Ruined Me.”