Navigating a Marriage | No.1
John and I have been married for just about three and a half months now. Word on the street is that the first year of marriage is the hardest and so far, that seems true– there is a whole new world to negotiate, a new life to build from scratch, and a new slew of decisions, compromises, and mistakes to be made. So, by way of introduction– here’s a space where we can slug out the issues (and that’s not a bad word) that come with marriage. We don’t know it all and we’re learning as we go– it’s scary and thrilling at once.
Obviously we’re happy. Marriage is grand. But there is this new level of intimacy that I’m trying to adjust to. The other day, it kind of hit me: John and I aren’t spending that much time together. Our schedules have been “off’ lately and when we are home at the same time, we weren’t really spending that time doing things together– I’m on my computer while he’s fiddling with the camera, or he’s watching TV while I’m in the other room on the phone. When I realized we hadn’t really “talked” or just hung out together with nothing electronic in between us, I panicked. What are we doing? Are we just turning into roommates? Why are we even married if we can’t even spend our free time together, just us?
It seemed like we couldn’t have a real conversation; if we weren’t talking about what time do you work, running (always running), why I hadn’t done the dishes, where my shoes were, did that check get deposited, what do you want for dinner, we weren’t talking. Someone was stressed while the other was relaxing. Someone was tired when the other was energized. Someone wanted to have sex while the other was ready for bed. Someone wanted to cook while the other was too hungry to wait. My first thoughts, of course, went along these lines: Is this how our marriage is going to be?
Panicked, I took to my social media community and sent out a plea to Twitter and Facebook– “What’s the point of being married when we never spend time together?”
I was surprised and pleased by the responses I received. Marriage is obviously a work in progress. It seems that marriage has different seasons and moods and phases– and this is just one. Most responders told me that you really do have to make time to spend together– this isn’t just a throwaway tip from women’s magazines. Marriage is comprised of romance AND real life and for the most part, real life takes up an overwhelming chunk. The romance component all depends on how much effort you put towards it. Scheduling in a date night– yes, that sounds cheesy, but once real life takes over, it’s required– is key. Setting up “no phone/no computer/no distraction” hours regularly is key. Sharing dinner or a dessert & coffee date nightly is key.
The best “advice” I got was about teamwork– of course, it should always go back to teamwork and communication with us. I was embarrassed to have forgotten that.
Our friend Rob, a recent newlywed himself, said, “The point of being married is to provide a support system for each other during times apart and build the foundation to spend the next 5-6 DECADES together.” Wow. Good point– a few weeks or even months of “off” schedules and energy levels is nothing compared to fifty or sixty years.
Meredith, one of the sweetest ladies I know and a steller Charlottesville photographer, posted an almost identical comment at the same time as Rob (great minds): “I would say the ‘point’ is to provide support to each other in the pursuit of your individual dreams and to work together towards common goals and a future life. Time apart, whether physical, emotional, or both, is something most couples face in their marriage at some point and in some way. I think the key is to remember that these times are seasons within the marriage over a lifetime and not the way that it will always be.”
And, of course, John and I had a long talk about this too. Unlike my quick-to-get-dramatic nature, John is steadfast and calm (“unexcitable” some might say). He hadn’t been worried about our chaotic scheduling, but agreed that we should make a better effort to do special or unexpected things with our time together rather than resort to zoning out in front of the TV side-by-side. And even though our schedules are still a bit off, we’re already falling back into sync just by communicating more openly about how we’re feeling and what we’re doing when we’re apart.
Needless to say, I’ve stopped thinking, “What’s the point of being married?” and started thinking, “What can I do to carve out time for us? What can I do to bring happiness into the time we share?”
images from our wedding rehearsal by Jen Fariello!