Hot Topic: The First Year of Marriage

On our first anniversary, Rin and I reflected on the previous 364 days and came to a shared conclusion: “That was TOUGH!”

We also made a pact that day. We decided from that point on we would always play on the same team.

That wasn’t always the case during our first year of marriage. Despite the vows made on our beautiful wedding day to grow together as one, we’d often reverted to those things in our past that were comfortable and comforting — friends, family, traditions — instead of taking advantage of the opportunity in front of us to join together and forge our own future.

So, it’s with the proverbial “Hard Knocks” education that I enter this discussion to address the top three things I learned during our first year of marriage (that I’m allowed to share). Here goes!

1. When you get married, family and friends are part of the package. Have you ever found an old box or trunk in the attic and wondered what’s inside? When you open it, it could reveal riches or rags. I’m happy to say that Rin came with a lot of riches. I won’t sugarcoat this and say it was always easy. In fact, it still has its challenges. But I’m happy to say that Rin’s family and most of her friends have welcomed me with open arms. One person I’ve really taken to is her Grandpa. He intimidated me at first — always wearing those cowboy boots and that big belt buckle, and he once said of me: “He’s just not used to manual labor.” During that first year, Rin would say things like: “My Grandpa would do it this way” or “Let’s call Grandpa and see how to fix it.” I’d cringe when I heard such things. But you know what? There is no denying the guy is Mr. Fix-it. He can build just about anything. He’s also the guy who sits at the table every morning and reads through his Bible. He’s always quick with a hug or a word of encouragement. He prays daily for each member of his growing family and loves each one unconditionally. I can say that, through marriage, God has given me another person to admire.

2. Christmas can last no less than a week. I’d say that differences in holiday and family traditions probably accounted for the bulk of our arguments that first year. Our first Christmas went like this: We spent Christmas Eve with my dad’s side of the family. On Christmas Day, we got up early and drove 40 minutes to see Rin’s family for two hours of breakfast and presents. Then we left there  and drove 40 minutes back to my mom’s house for four hours of presents and lunch. Then we got in the car and drove another 40 minutes back to Rin’s family (the same one we saw earlier that day) for dinner. Needless to say, this was extremely stressful. And I’ll be frank: Holidays that first year sucked! My traditions and her traditions simply weren’t meshing. And when you ask someone to change their traditions, there’s always strife. Now that I have the benefit of working for a University, which closes the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, we carve out a day to celebrate with each segment of the family. For those of you who do not work for a university, sorry….

3. Sharing a bed has its ups and downs. I won’t lie. As a future husband, this was the part I looked forward to the most — for obvious reasons. Yes, there was that. But there are a host of other things that tend to be more challenging. For instance, when you’re first married, you feel there is a requirement to cuddle until you both drift off to sleep. Rin would snuggle up to me and I’d cling to her as she faded into slumber. But then my stupid arm started to tingle. Then it went numb. Then came that needle sensation. I couldn’t move but I didn’t want to disturb her. And just as I was about to cry out in pain, she’d wake up and say “I’m not too comfortable. I’m going to roll over. Do you mind?” Me? No, not at all. Whatever you need, dear.

Sharing a bed also allows you to learn more about yourself. Are you selfish and a cover hog? Do you snore? Do you not have the most desirable morning breath? And you learn more about your spouse. You soon find out that your spouse likes to sleep with the sheet tucked in at the foot of the bed (Who does that???). You learn who likes to cover up at first and then fling off covers in the middle of the night. You learn who likes to tuck her feet under you to stay warm, and who likes to extract answers to deep questions from you when you talk in your sleep. You also learn that sometimes even a queen-sized bed isn’t “big enough for the both of you” and you end up sleeping in the guest room, on the sofa, or in the dog house.

The solution to all of this? Buy a king-sized bed. You each have your own side, yet it’s still fun to meet in the middle from time to time.

In conclusion…

For us, the first year of marriage was certainly interesting. I’m glad we’re on this side of it, but I’m so glad we went through it. In the end, we grew closer as a couple. Our faith was challenged and strengthened.

Here’s to many more!