The First Year
In October of 2014, I married the love of my life and I am so glad I did. I love being able to see her every day and having an excuse to treat her extra special. Her companionship brings me endless joy and she helps me be a better man.
I feel like there are so many ways people describe marriage. I’ve experienced how hard it can be for an engaged couple to know what to expect with the seemingly opposite views we see from those around us. Some people only talk about how great marriage is while others, whether in jest or because of frustration, belittle their spouse and their marriage. On top of this, American culture can’t seem to figure out what it expects a marriage to look like. While I may not be able to explain these contradictions, I would like to add my perspective.
Bekah and I met in college and were friends with each other for a couple years before we got married. I can’t claim any responsibility for how lucky I was. After all, it took a whole year for me to persuade her to go on a second date with me. We went through our ups and downs while dating but thankfully (and possibly through shear persistence), I was able to convince her that I was worth her time and trust. One of our biggest struggles while dating was a long term understanding of where our futures were leading. My wife desired to go serve in international missions and we both saw that God was calling her towards that ministry. However, her attempts to work with various missions organizations were unsuccessful. Conversely, I felt that God had equipped me with certain technical skills that were going to be used in the short term to support our involvement in ministries in the US. Over time, God showed us how our relationship was built to help us serve Him better and that He would take care of the long term plan.
In just a few months after graduating college, Bekah and I spent two weeks on a team teaching science in Eastern Europe, found full time jobs, moved away from home, got engaged, and prepared to merge our lives. We were now on our own, more than 11 hours away from either of our families. With so much going on, that summer often left me exhausted. But it also helped me appreciate some practical advantages of being married. I looked forward to only having to stock one pantry but more significantly to not having to say goodbye to each other at the end of the day. Being engaged was exciting but I was longing to deepen our relationship.
The Marriage Begins
Our wedding was a wonderful day. It was fantastic to share our lives with our extended family, but the day flew by. Our honeymoon was a welcome break after months of wedding planning. I was finally able to enjoy spending time with my new wife without stressing about what we needed to do. It was great being able to relax and spend my days with the woman I loved. It brought me endless joy seeing the thrill on her face when swimming with dolphins or releasing sea turtles into the ocean. I was able to make her happy and show her I loved her.
When we came home, we returned to the struggles of reality. Our families who came to the wedding had gone home, our jobs were in full swing, and we now had to manage our own home. The first few months of our marriage felt like there was always so much to do and so little time. I often felt over my head opening new financial accounts, changing Bekah’s last name, and setting up our home.
In the evenings and weekends we worked together to check tasks off our list. We’d go through paperwork or hang the many decorations we received as wedding gifts. Bekah was consistently there to help me avoid getting overwhelmed with all of the stress. No matter what we worked on or how exhausting it was, I was blessed to be able to spend time with my wife.
Our First Christmas
Around the holidays Bekah had some time off so we planned for her to travel to her parent’s house in southern California and a week later I would fly out to join her. When her grandmother passed away less than a week before her scheduled departure, we changed our plans to have Bekah leave earlier to go to the funeral. This was our longest time apart since getting married and I hated not being able to be there to comfort her. Skype calls were helpful but didn’t give us nearly enough time. It was tough going to bed by myself because I knew that she wanted me to be there with her.
That week of separation really showed me how deeply I had come to love her. When I finally arrived in sunny California I gave her a huge hug as soon as I exited the airport. It was a relief to be able to be with her again. After that time away, I didn’t want to leave her side.
That Christmas was exciting because we also held an alternate wedding reception for Bekah’s friends and family on the west coast. We dressed up the same as we had for the wedding and held a short mock ceremony. Her family had planned the whole event so I felt like I was off the hook that day. Getting to relive our wedding day without so much of the stress was a huge blessing that I really enjoyed. It was also great sharing our marriage with my wife’s friends on the west coast. Still, the best part of our first year was still yet to come.
Traveling to Liberia
Bekah and I had taken the opportunity at our wedding to raise support for an orphanage in the West African country of Liberia. Bekah had visited the orphanage on two occasions and loved the people there very dearly. While I fully supported her passion for her friends in need, I did not have the same personal connection with them. This key difference made it hard for me to actively support her desire to see them again. However, even while the ebola virus was still shutting down much of the country, we started trying to plan a trip to visit that orphanage.
Through the support of many people, Bekah, her parents, and I were able to travel to Liberia this past summer. I’ll spare most of the details (since I’ve written about that elsewhere) but being able to spend over a week with people like Remington, Ma and Pa Jonah, and the children at the orphanage was one of the best things that happened this year. I was able to get to know the people that Bekah had missed so badly. Many thanks to the people who supported us in this trip as it would not have been possible without you. As much as we tried to aid and encourage our Liberian friends, they have blessed us many times more.
The final chapter of our first year of marriage fulfilled a wish from before we were even engaged. My wife is an avid dog lover. While we dated, Bekah fostered dogs being trained to help children with disabilities. But she always wanted a dog of her own. Shortly after our wedding, Bekah and I fostered a golden-black lab mix. When that puppy failed out of the system we tried to adopt the puppy it but another family took her in permanently before we could.
Following that disappointment, I was hesitant to look for another dog because I did not want to add another responsibility to our still disorganized home. But after about 6 months, we began to look at dog shelters and browse petfinder.com. But the processes for most shelters was complex and lengthy. As our Liberian trip was coming up we knew we wouldn’t have time to train a dog before leaving.
But after our trip to Liberia, Bekah found a Golden Retriever who was up for adoption at a local shelter. The following Saturday we drove 40 minutes to the shelter and after watching nervously while another family nearly adopted her, we were able to leave with our beautiful Bailey. We have loved having Bailey with us. She is energetic, social, and protective. In order to relieve some of her energy, Bekah and I now take her on a walk most mornings which has been a great time together (though sometimes difficult to get up for).
The Lessons I’m Learning
I am coming to see how much relationships are about trust and communication. Communication is often hailed as an important skill for any couple. It is vitally important in building trust and bonding people together. However, I sometimes operate as if only mis -communication leads to distrust. But the reality is that a lack of quality communication leads to distrust. It isn’t enough to not say the wrong thing. I must make sure that I am constantly communicating well with my wife, especially when it is easy to miscommunicate.
To illustrate how if fall into this trap, let me first explain one of my tendencies. I can become very absorbed in tasks I work on. If I am focusing on the work I’m doing, I sometimes stop engaging Bekah. In my mind I am being the helpful husband but I fail to listen to what my wife desires. Furthermore, I don’t take the effort to communicate how I feel.
I have made a point not to raise my voice at Bekah. But as conflicts or frustrations have come, I’ve struggled with how to communicate my feelings in a constructive way. When Bekah felt hurt by something I had done (or not done) I would try to recognize my own failings but would not express my own pain in an attempt to help resolve the conflict. However, instead of bringing resolution, this usually lead to me shutting down and subsequently shutting my wife out.
The irony is that by trying to protect my wife from my feelings I made problems worse. In the end, we both would feel hurt and wouldn’t be able to unpack the reasons why. Furthermore, by not talking through our actions it left an open door for the devil to suggest other motives. Especially when my feelings aren’t constructive, I need to constantly maintain communication with Bekah. Through my many failures I’m learning that marriage is not just being supportive when you are at your best, but asking for support when your at your worst.
I never expected that marriage would make you feel so vulnerable. In the past I could mostly ignore what others thought of me. But I have come to really depend on my wife’s support. Her opinion affects me in a way that no other person could. The problem is Bekah and I are both flawed people. We mess up, do inconsiderate things, and react defensively. If I idolize my wife and make pleasing her my goal, I will be devastated when she acts human or when I let her down. However, if my trust is in God, things will probably still hurt, but my perspective will be more clear and I’ll be in a better place to serve as her husband. The way to best love her is to love God first.
It may sound cliche or simplistic, but it’s true. God helps us keep our priorities in order. He knows If I make my wife more important than Him, my relationship with her and my relationship with Him fall apart. I have had to learn this lesson repeatedly (even before we were dating) and apparently will have to learn again.
I am so grateful for my wife. Being married to her has been a great blessing. It has not necessarily made things easier, but I’d argue that it has made things better. I love being able to spend time with my beautiful bride. Her life brings me life. I’ve also loved seeing God work in her and through her. I’m so glad to be with and support a woman that God is using in incredible ways. Bekah, you are truly a gift from Him.
This post was at least partly inspired by my cousin’s anniversary posts. I encourage you to check out herblog.
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