Photo by Jessica Sofranko, Lover of Weddings
While on my honeymoon last week, I had a few experiences that marriage books can tell you about but not fully prepare you for until you experience it firsthand. There were three different experiences that stand out to me. All of them were things I knew from studying marriage, but I couldn’t prepare for them until I experienced them on my own.
The first experience I had was waking up next to my husband the day after our wedding and having it feel natural. I thought there would be this shocking, awkward period of adjustment, but there wasn’t. I was, after all, used to having my own bed and my own space. Instead, it was kind of like having a slumber party with my best friend except this party doesn’t end.
During the marriage ceremony, a bond was created between my husband and me. It’s a bond I can’t explain, but I felt closer to him in a way I didn’t expect. From the moment we said our vows, a closeness was created that was gifted to us by God. Something clicked, and we became able to love each other better.
There was a safety net that wasn’t there before. Walls came down, and we could freely be ourselves. For better or worse, we’re in it together. My husband says he’ll love me for a long time — that’s why the wedding ring is round. There is no end to the love we’ll share in this life.
My second experience was during our first raw moment of misunderstanding. There were feelings of embarrassment, inadequacy and regret of things said and left unsaid. We got into bed that night feeling unsettled and distanced. For the first time, I couldn’t run from what I was feeling. I couldn’t hide and face my emotions alone. I couldn’t hide from his emotions either or let him face them alone. I had my husband next to me, to catch me when I tried to turn over and hide.
In marriage, you don’t deal with feelings alone. Sometimes dating couples take little breaks during periods of frustration. One person can leave when they’re angry and come back later when they’ve calmed down. Then they either talk about it, or they don’t. In marriage, that doesn’t happen. You face your feelings with your spouse. I’m a private person, and I knew going into marriage that the way I handle sharing my emotions would change. On one hand, it’s a huge challenge. But on the other, it’s an even bigger blessing.
The third experience was talking about expectations and routines for daily life. I realized how important it is for a woman to be supportive when her husband tries to lead spiritually. I learned I had stomped on some of my husband’s earlier attempts in approaching God together. It was based on our different preferences for quiet time and worship, but it left him unsure of what to try next.
As women, we are called to encourage and support our husbands. We’re helpers. Sometimes I forget the way I can build up my husband is so different from the way others can, and I need to be mindful of that. As a wife, I can give him confidence to lead by trying out some of his ideas and methods that might be different from my preferences. At times, the biggest compliment I can give him is that he is leading well and list examples of why that’s true.
I guess I’m saying that while there are so many fruitful ways you can prepare yourself for marriage, you can’t prepare fully until you get there. We can prepare our mindsets and set up healthy patterns relationally and spiritually, but no one can fully anticipate what to expect until after marriage. And even then, it’s a lifelong journey with your spouse of figuring out how to do marriage well.