This week is special because Alan and I are celebrating 6 months of marriage! But, before I get into the bulk of this post, I want to thank everyone who has been so encouraging and supportive about last week’s post covering my weight loss journey. It’s been quite the adventure but so many people have reached out and I am all the more motivated to continue sharing with all of you!
On July 9, 2017, a hot summer Sunday, we committed to each other as husband and wife. We knew that we were committing to life together forever which would include many adventures and challenges. I can tell you now we’ve seen a lot of both of those already. We’ve experienced joy, struggles, grief, patience, anger, more patience, and pretty much any emotion you can think of. However, it’s been the absolute greatest, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
We actually haven’t posted many of our wedding pictures, but here’s a few we love!
Anyway, I knew I wanted to write about marriage this week, but I couldn’t decide if I wanted to take the “6 things I’ve learned in 6 months of marriage,” “6 reasons why marrying Alan was the best decision I’ve made,” or some other sort of “6 __ / 6 months of marriage” approach to the post. After consulting with my editor (Alan Joseph Smith) we decided to switch it up and take a different approach — “6 things that change in 6 months of marriage.” Hmmm. It’s not as easy to whip up a list of something like “6 desserts you could eat right now,” but the answer is dark chocolate, sea salt caramels, ice cream, cookie cake, more ice cream, and cheesecake if you’re wondering. The “6 changes” approach requires a lot more real and honest reflection, which is definitely more challenging. However, another reason why I started blogging was to reflect and challenge myself, so this seems like the perfect opportunity to start. So stick with me.
Note: These are changes that I’ve experienced in my first 6 months of marriage, but I understand many people could go through very different situations. Also, I will be the first to tell you that Alan and I don’t know it all and we don’t have it together, but we have learned so much already. Here are some of those things:
6 things that change in 6 months of marriage
- We’re on a new team. From our wedding day forward, I’m forever on a team, and it’s absolutely incredible. I have an automatic best friend to stick by me, laugh at my jokes (which are hilarious), listen to my worries, talk sense into me, and take turns driving on road trips. More than that, I have someone who will fight for me and with me, always. Our team (Team Smith) makes decisions, encourages, practices patience, forgives, and loves. It’s sometimes scary when I think about how Alan doesn’t have to be on my team, but I am humbled because he chooses our team everyday, and that is beautiful. Our team doesn’t always have it together, but we practice, we learn, we have fun, we trust, we serve, and we love.
- We start new traditions. This change has definitely been one of my favorites! Starting new traditions is super important because they create shared meaning and are usually based off of values, interests, or goals (I learned about this in a Developmental Psychology class my sophomore year of college and it has stuck with me!) For example, Alan and I’s most recently created tradition was what we did to celebrate Christmas. We celebrated “Feliz Navidad” style complete with Mexican food, a bottle of wine, Christmas songs, and opening gifts next to our REAL Christmas tree. We loved it. Related to traditions are routines and rituals. These are simple things we try to incorporate into our days and weeks because it helps us connect emotionally. We like having hot breakfasts on Sundays, doing yoga in the morning, and going on walks when its warm. I know that our traditions and routines will change over time, especially as we enter various seasons of life, but I think choosing how we go about our days together is all the more exciting.
- We share everything. It was obvious to me that when I got married I would share things, like a bathroom, food, car, bed, and any other space and item in our home. What I’ve learned is that you actually share everything, not just the things, but the experiences and feelings. What I mean is that I can no longer hide things from Alan. Before we were married, it was easy to just not tell him about things or hide certain parts of my day – sometimes it was because I forgot but other times I purposefully didn’t share. Once we were married, it was like “Welcome to Share Everything City! Population: 2.” Seriously. Alan has witnessed all of the ugly, selfish, and mean sides of me. He shares the consequences of my emotions and actions, even when I feel ashamed, angry, guilty, or defeated. It’s really hard to know that most of your feelings, thoughts, decisions, and actions impact another person. However, it’s been beautiful to share in patience, forgiveness, and grace. Stronger than the hard things, Alan also shares in all of the good, the joy, the victories, and all of the laughter. We are still figuring it out, but we’re learning to share everything as best as we can, because we’re on the same team.
- We experience sacrifice everyday. Sacrifice. This is something that I don’t always naturally want to do. Sacrifice is learning to give like I’m not going to get anything in return. I can’t just do certain things with the intention of trying get things in return. For example, I can’t make Alan breakfast with the idea in mind that he will make me dinner. Or I can’t clean up the house and expect him to fold the laundry. On a bigger scale, I can’t choose to put off school or job and think we will have his turn to do that down the road. It’s not like that and it sure is not 50/50. I grew up thinking marriage should be 50/50 because it seemed the most fair and the most practical. Marriage isn’t about fair or practical or keeping it even; as I recently heard our friend/minister Reed Dent say at a wedding, it’s about 100/? That means I must give 100% all of the time, not knowing what I will get in return. I must say that “I am bound and you are free” every single day. Marriage is WAY more than a consumer idea of love. I must freely give myself in love. I’ll be honest with you that this has been difficult and I have found myself thinking in terms of 50/50. I am selfish…so stinkin’ selfish. But I am also dedicated to learning, to prayer, and to grace. I pray the Lord would make me more like Him and that I would serve and love like Him.
- We’re learning to communicate when it’s hard. I studied Communication Disorders as an undergraduate so I thought I knew a thing or two about communicating successfully. I knew communication was SO important and I valued being able to talk about everything, ask questions, and make decisions together. Before we got married, Alan and I built our relationships off successful communication. We started our relationship long distance and had to rely on communication to make it work. But here’s the thing – communication only works well when it’s 2-sided; if it’s only coming from 1 side then it’s just one person talking. I’ve been good at that (talking) my whole life, but I’ve had to learn to communicate, even when it’s hard. That means that when Alan and I talk, I have to be honest when I speak, but also listen, especially when it’s hard. When Alan and I were going through marriage prep, the priest asked us about our plan to communicate when we had hard conversations and during times when we were upset or angry. We both had huge question marks over our head because we didn’t have any kind of plan for this (we thought we were already great communicators because we didn’t fight often). What we decided was that we needed to have our big, hard conversations NOT right after I get off work (because I’m too tired), not first thing in the morning (because Alan is too tired), but ideally right after dinner or on the weekend afternoon. When we choose to have a time to talk about things, we are given time to cool off and think about how we really feel. I am a dramatic and impulsive person so this really helps me be level-headed about what I’m saying and it helps me to not say things that I don’t mean. Marriage has resulted in hard conversations, but because Alan and I hold each other to a standard of not cursing, yelling, or blaming each other, we come out of the conversation with respect and appreciation for each other. May God continue to teach us to communicate.
- Our relationship with the Lord is strengthening. It is only by the grace and love of God that Alan and I are together. The Lord is so evident in our lives each and every day. He teaches, protects, forgives, and loves deeply. It is only by the outpouring of His love and spirit that we are able to love as He loves. There are times when I try to do it on my own, when I think “I can forgive him, I can serve him, or I got this” but I find myself back in a selfish, guilty, and low place because my motives and desires are usually not aligned with the Lord’s. I pray for Alan, for our marriage, for us every day. I pray He would teach us to be more like Him, to serve, and to love more. Our marriage is only good when it is focused on Jesus. We are thankful and humble as we must focus on Him the rest of our lives.
In the past 6 months we’ve moved into a new home, started our family of 2, built healthy lifestyles, finished our first semesters of graduate school, created a budget for 2 people from 1 income, adventured to the Smoky Mountains, Texas, and California, gone camping, hosted friends, laughed every day, learned more about each other, and have found ways to love each other even more than we did on our wedding day. It’s been the best.
But here’s the deal. We don’t have it together. We are trying. At least once a day Alan and I look at each other and say some sort of variation of “We’re making it!” or “We’re doing this thing!” We work hard and we will never ever give up. So here’s to 6 months of marriage, we hope and pray there we have many more together.
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