|Marla Taviano is a gifted communicator with a passion for writing and reaching young women with God’s truth. She has written four books for McGraw–Hill, America’s leading educational publisher. She and her husband, Gabe, have two preschool daughters.
WEDDING & mARRIAGE
Marriage: The First Year
By Marla Taviano
CBN.com If a man has recently married… for one year he is to be free to stay at home and bring happiness to the wife he has married.
As a college student, I spent three months teaching in Japan. I prepared as best I could but still experienced culture shock upon arrival. Japan was not America. Everything seemed different the money, the people, the food, everything. I knew a total of five words in Japanese. Living in Japan would be an adjustment.
Getting married is like moving to a foreign country. You will experience some culture shock. You and your husband won’t always speak the same language. Living in marriage will be an adjustment.
Your first year of married life might be one of the most difficult you’ll ever face. Take your time and allow yourself (and your husband) to adjust to your new “culture.” In time, the shock will wear off, and you’ll begin to feel at home. You’ll even forget what life was like in your “old country”!
That is great, you say, but I’m not moving overseas. I’m just getting married—what’s the big deal?
I’m glad you asked. Marriage is much more complex than we realize when we’re dating.
“Even though we knew each other since kindergarten,” my friend Patty says, “we didn’t really know each other until after we got married. It was an exciting, surprising, bumpy time.”
Those First Few Months
I asked women to describe how they felt during their first few months of wedded wifehood. The response was a wide spectrum of emotional adjectives—overwhelmed, scared, lonely, frustrated, content, inept, irritated, determined, confused, excited, disillusioned, happy, grateful, disappointed, trapped, angry, and maybe even self-righteous.
Some of the women I surveyed had glowing reports of their post-honeymoon lives. I believe them (for the most part), but I know that our memories tend to be selective—especially as time goes on.
When I asked women to go into detail about those first few months, the word “adjustment” came up a lot.
“There was that weird, tough adjustment period that you sometimes hear of.”
“Learning to live day in and day out with someone who was raised with different habits, morals, and rules—that was an adjustment.”
“There were lots of adjustments because we were opposite in personality.”
“The hardest adjustment for me has been staying up until 2:00 AM. My husband would rather sleep in than go to bed early.”
“It was a time of adjustment. Instead of just doing what I wanted when I wanted, there was now another person to consider.”
Did you catch the verse at the beginning of the chapter? Try reading it to your husband. “According to the Bible,” you tell him, “for one year, you’re supposed to devote every waking hour to my happiness.”
Brace yourself for a laugh and adjust to the fact that it’s not gonna happen.
Getting in the Groove
I don’t remember how long it took after my wedding for me to feel like I was really married and not just playing house. I’m sure it was many months, if not years. Even now, months away from turning 30, I don’t always feel grown-up enough to be a wife, let alone a mom.
It can take a while to get used to everything new in your life—new husband, new name, new driver’s license, new bank account, new Social Security card, new address, new phone number, new signature, new title—and that is just the beginning.
I visited my sister this summer, a couple weeks after her wedding. Her little apartment brought back memories of my own first home.
Sets of sheets—still in the package—stacked in her bedroom closet, mismatched furniture—Mom and Dad’s castoffs—in the living room, the freezer stocked with Totino’s “combination” party pizzas. A sparkling new coffeemaker, can opener, and toaster. A pile of wedding gifts to return, a stack of partially written thank-you notes, a spare bedroom decorated with a hodgepodge of everything that didn’t match the rest of the décor. Ahhh…the memories.
Our first apartment was a total throwback—straight out of the ‘70s—with dark wood-paneled walls in the living room, mustard yellow and olive green wallpaper in the kitchen, gray paneling in both bedrooms, brown shag carpet, and mustard-colored sink, toilet, tub, and linoleum. It was even lovelier than it sounds.
Our couches cost $50 for the pair—and looked it. Our kitchen table was a steal at $40—with four wobbly chairs thrown in the deal. Our bed and dresser were $100 together—and actually quite beautiful. Our end tables and lamps were $5 and $10—castoffs from a funeral home. And we each contributed some furniture from our parents’ homes.
I proudly displayed my new kitchen appliances. Even if I never once used my wok, my cappuccino maker, or my electric knife, just owning them made me feel like a real cook, a real wife.
Whether you moved straight from your parents’ home to the home you now share with your husband, or you’ve lived as a single gal for years and years, adjusting to being married takes time.
So if you wake up some days completely unable to wrap your mind around the fact that you are a married woman with your very own home and your very own husband, never fear. You’re quite normal.
You’re Not Alone
You are not alone. Aren’t those heartening words? We often think no one understands what we’re going through, but that is not true. No problem we face or sin we struggle with is unique.
I had been feeling discouraged—all alone—my first Christmas as a married woman. When a holiday newsletter arrived in the mail, God knew it was just what I needed to lift my spirits. My friend J.J. had gotten married in May, and I hadn’t seen her since. Reading between the lines of her letter, I felt as if I were at a support group for newlyweds and found a kindred spirit. The parallels in our lives seemed uncanny.
“It is exam time for Andy, so I have been delegated the honorable job of writing our very first Christmas letter.” Just change “Andy” to “Gabe,” and I could use this very sentence!
“Though small, our current residence is much larger than the shoebox-size apartment we lived in during the summer.” Gabe and I also lived in a barely-bigger-than-a-shoebox apartment.
“Married life has been wonderful. My varied schedule leaves Andy eating microwave meals frequently, but I try to keep the house as tidy as possible (much cleaner than his bachelor pad last year!).” I couldn’t have said it better myself.
“I turned 23 in November, so I’m starting to feel old.” And I had turned 23 in October and felt ancient.
“Finding a church we like has been tricky, but we have settled on one for a few months now and hope to become more involved.” Again, same.
I took this letter as a sign from God that He never meant for His children to face anything alone. In His grace, He brings people into our lives who are walking in our very shoes.
I love Romans 15:5-6. “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Praise God for the spirit of unity among newly married women.
No One Warned Me!
My friend Abigail gave birth to her first child two weeks ago. “How are you feeling?” I asked her last night on the phone.
“Better now,” she said. “But I felt awful the first few days after I got home. Why didn’t anyone tell me I would feel so awful?”
I smiled to myself and offered kind words of empathy.
Wouldn’t it be nice if someone could tell us how things are going to be each time we enter a new situation in life? Like marriage. “Why didn’t anyone tell me it was going to be like this?” you wonder.
If you’re reading this book before you get married, congratulations! You have your very own resource to tell you how marriage is going to be! Every marriage is different, yes, but you’d be surprised at how much we all share in common.
There’s truly nothing new under the sun. What you’re going through isn’t news to anyone. And chances are if it’s an I-just-got-married-and-I’m-clueless sort of thing, then thousands of women are experiencing the same thing as we speak.
Come laugh with me as you listen to some of my friends share what they wish someone had warned them about before they tied the knot.
“That men somehow cannot see the little whisker pieces they leave all over after they shave. Even when you show them, they’ll still swear they cleaned the sink.”
“How much my husband would remind me that ‘your body is not your own’ is a biblical statement (even if he uses it out of context).”
“That men are a lot like kids when it comes to cleaning up after themselves.”
“That there would be mornings when his breath would stink and the thought of kissing him would repulse me.”
“That it’s not always easy to cleave to my husband and make him a priority over my family. Sometimes I just want my mom!”
In hindsight, we could make a wish list of things we’d have wanted to know beforehand. Here are a few items my friends would have put on the list.
“I wish I would have better understood the way a man thinks sexually.”
“I wish someone would have told me about Metamucil. I couldn’t go to the bathroom our entire honeymoon. I was so nervous about doing something gross in front of my new husband.”
“I wish someone would have told us not to get a dog for at least a year after getting married. The dog was the source of many fights.”
“I wish I would have had someone else’s perspective of our relationship.”
One sweet lady commented, “No one told me anything. I wish you had written this book 20 years ago!”
I Should Have Listened
Rebecca, another friend of mine, also gave birth a while back. Unlike Abigail, she had been warned about something but had paid little heed. I visited her in the hospital the day after her baby was born, and she was disappointed that she still looked five months pregnant (as most new mothers do).
“I told you it would be like this,” I said kindly.
“I know,” she moaned, “but I thought I would be the exception to the rule!” As do all of us. And we rarely are.
I asked women to tell me something someone did warn them about but they didn’t believe until they got married.
“That the cute habits would become annoying habits.”
“That your time is not your own anymore.”
“That men don’t change.”
“That I would think to myself at some point, Why did I marry him? “
Why don’t we get more warnings from married women when we’re single? For one thing, they know we won’t believe them anyway. Most of us, in our engaged state, were so high in the clouds, we ignored anyone who said anything about marriage being a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. When I was engaged, stuff like that went in one ear and out the other.
“Maybe in your marriage,” I thought, “but not in mine.”
In my inexperienced mind, marriage was all about love, sex, and a boatload of wedding gifts.
Are You on the Same Page?
Ideally, before you’re married, you will have communicated about life’s bigger issues and where each of you stand. You’ll calmly discuss them and arrive at compromises you can both live with happily.
Gabe and I did a lousy job of working through several important issues before we got married. We had the same core spiritual and moral values, so we didn’t worry about much else. We should have.
For example, I came from a family of four children and always assumed I would have at least four—maybe five or six—kids. Gabe had one brother and liked that just fine. The issue never surfaced until our first baby was born.
After Olivia, we discussed how many more we’d add to our clan, and Gabe commented offhandedly that four was “a herd.” After Ava, he thought it was high time we called it quits. It took three years of tearful discussions and silent prayer to come to a consensus.
How many children do you and your husband want? When will you start, and how will you space them? Will you work or stay home with your kids?
Maybe you plan to be childless by choice. If this is the case, I urge you to prayerfully consider your decision not to have children (naturally or by adoption). Of course, this is a very personal decision, and couples may have very good reasons for not raising kids. But in today’s society, materialism and self-centeredness are acceptable reasons to remain childless. I disagree wholeheartedly.
And since no birth control is 100 percent effective 100 percent of the time, you must always be prepared for the chance that you might get pregnant. For Christians, abortion is no more an option than murdering our husbands.
There are exceptions, but if God gives you the ability to have children, I believe you should have them. Maybe not a truckload, but at least one or two.
What about pets? Do you envision a couple tiny dogs that will sleep in your bed? A great big dog that needs a backyard of his very own? Fish? Birds? Are you a cat lover? Or do you, like me, despise the entire feline species? (Heartless, I know.)
What about chores, vacations, holidays, meals, and money? How do each of you expect to handle these things? You will find a lot of helpful hints throughout this book concerning the merge of your family backgrounds and expectations, but you really need to discuss these issues with your almost-hubby before you head off to your honeymoon.
My friend Jodie recommends finding a workbook (like Preparing for Marriage) to help you work through these topics together during your engagement. She says it worked wonders for her and her husband.
Gabe and I should have picked up one of those handy little workbooks.
A Tough First Year
My friend Rachel has a good marriage but had a tough first year. She struggled with a new teaching job that was difficult. Her husband, Dave, was a youth pastor, and only after a full year did Rachel feel a part of his ministry. She left her family in another state and had no close friends nearby. She learned to lean on God—and on her husband.
“What stands out in my mind,” Rachel says, “is that Dave was faithful to me. He cried and prayed with me. It humbled me because he was being the strong one. He took purposeful steps to make me a part of his ministry, and people slowly started seeing us as a team. When I became dangerously ill with an inner ear infection and threw up repeatedly, Dave sat on the floor in the bathroom and held me.”
Rachel learned a lot about herself that year. She realized how much trust she always had in her family and the importance of transferring that trust to her husband. God helped her do just that.
I’m sure Rachel wouldn’t want to go back and relive her first year of marriage with all its challenges, but neither do I think she would trade it for the world.
“It was a hard year with the spiritual warfare and everything being new for me, but it was good for our marriage,” she says. “Even in my spiritual and physical struggles, Dave loved me. God protected me. Praise Him!”
If your first year of marriage has been tough, try to look at those trials in light of how they’ve helped you grow. Not easy to do. Very few of us welcome hardships with open arms—all in the name of character development. But if you are able to grow stronger in your faith and closer to Christ, then those tough times are ultimately a blessing.
Smoothin’ Those Rough Edges
In their book Happily Ever After, Toben and Joanne Heim use a great analogy. When we get married, they say, we’re like square paving stones. The goal of marriage is to make us round and smooth.
The first year knocks off all our corners, leaving rough edges. With each passing year, we smooth those edges out until we have the result we’d been hoping for.
What kinds of things break our corners off? Fights, unmet expectations, family differences, miscommunication, sex—just about everything we’re going to talk about in this book.
If you’re still in your first year of marriage and your stone is nothing but jagged, scratchy, painful edges—take heart! It takes time to make our marriages round and polished. Even after many years, pieces still chip off and need to be leveled out again. There’s no time like the present to break out that giant nail file and start smoothing some marital edges!
Adapted from From Blushing Bride to Wedded Wife by Marla Taviano, Copyright 2006. Published by Harvest House Publishers. Used with permission.
CBN IS HERE FOR YOU!
Are you seeking answers in life? Are you hurting?
Are you facing a difficult situation?
A caring friend will be there to pray with you in your time of need.