Friday, February 25, 2011

learning to be [happily] married

Before marriage, Jon and I never lived together. We both lived in Chicago at one point, but he lived in Lincoln Park (Cubs territory) and I lived in Bridgeport (White Sox territory). When we first got engaged I was a junior in college. My parents all but begged us to wait until I graduated to get married. My mom's reasoning was that marriage is a huge transition and to get married while trying to finish undergrad would be particularly challenging... and she didn't want my studies to suffer from that. Not entirely unreasonable.

I knew that once we got married there would be struggles. I didn't know, though, how intense our struggles would be, especially in the very beginning.

The honeymoon was great, but literally the night we got home, I realized that "the honeymoon was over." We fought one of our most epic battles--I'm not even sure what about at this point. I just remember the overwhelming despair I felt during that fight: this is permanent. I can't just run to my parents' house when things like this happen. We have to calmly sit down and work through it. I hated that realization. I am notorious for running the second things get tough. Conflict affects me physically in some really awful ways (stomach aches to boot) so I have lived most of my life attempting to avoid it. The first three or four months of marriage were tough. Don't get me wrong, 95% of the time Jon and I got along great and learned how to work through things such as laundry and dishes, but 5% of the time it was a war zone. We both consistently felt like the other didn't care about our feelings when arguing. Eventually we finally found some middle ground and things got much better during our occasional tiffs, but we were still far from reasonable.

For about months five through seven of our marriage things were great. We managed to avoid conflict on the whole. I realized that I am the neat freak of the two of us so I should have more cleaning responsibilities because messes really don't bother Jon. He realized that he could help out in other areas that he may have neglected before. It worked well.

Then spring semester started and our lives erupted into chaos. The fighting was becoming a daily event and it was really just a continuation of the first fight we had. We couldn't come to a resolution or a compromise. We both felt belittled and like our voices weren't being heard. We sought counsel from the pastor who married us because we both respect and trust his advice. After meeting with him for a few hours, I felt a million times closer to Jon. We were able to air our grievances and be humbled by a totally impartial third-party who offered us a lot of wisdom. Great, right? Wrong. I felt like a failure. I felt like our marriage failed because we had to seek advice so early on. Jon reassured me that this was important and necessary given how stubborn we both are, and I know in my heart he was right. But for a few days I just felt horrible and ashamed. At the time I didn't want anyone to know we needed marital counseling less than a year into marriage.

However, as time has passed, I see how divine that intervention was. God really worked on our hearts and helped strengthen our marriage through that meeting. Now I can't even remember the last time we fought (or at least not an epic battle fight). We both consider each other's feelings much more now, especially during a disagreement. We are both more patient with one another and are less adamant about being right and "winning." And let's face it, in a huge MMA type match, no one really wins. We both walk away bruised and ashamed. So if I have to give any newlyweds advice it's to seek counsel if you can't resolve conflict on your own. It will save you a lot of heartache and there is no shame in asking for help.

And to both sets of our parents who encouraged us to wait: thank you. I'm not sure how I would have been able to finish school if we had to deal with some of the early issues we did.

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