10 Things I’ve Learned My First Year (Part 1)

If you’ve followed this blog for very long, you know that I occasionally invite Molly, the website administrator, to write a guest post for the blog, and I’m so glad to have her back with us today! I know you’ll be blessed to hear her share some personal moments with us . . . here is my dear friend, Molly Hilbert ~

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It’s really hard to believe that this next Sunday, Matt and I will be celebrating our one year wedding anniversary. One year ago, when I walked down that aisle to meet my husband and say “I do,” I thought I was ready to be a wife. I thought I was prepared and, honestly, I thought I was going to make a pretty darn good wife for my new husband.

The morning after the wedding was surreal; waking up next to my new husband and realizing that this would be reality for the rest of our lives was a wonderful feeling. The honeymoon was wonderful, too; it was like a week-long vacation with my best friend. Moving into our new apartment together was pretty fun, as well (once everything finally got out of boxes, set up, and put together). It was when the day to day reality of marriage and “wife-hood” set in that I realized I was not ready for this. I was a young 22 year old bride, fresh out of college and with no idea what it meant to be an adult, let alone love and encourage this man who was now my husband(!!).

My desire to write this post is two-fold. One, social media makes it pretty easy to portray the best of one’s life and relationships. It would be easy to look at my Facebook page and think that I have the perfect, fairy tale marriage because the pictures that I post are smiling and posed and pretty darn cute if I do say so myself (I think my husband is pretty handsome!). I don’t post pictures of times when I’ve given him the silent treatment or of my ugly face when I’m cranky and grumpy because he doesn’t do something that I think that he should do. I have never posted a picture of my tears during those times when we got into some pretty heated arguments or of his sad eyes when I have said something out of anger and selfishness. Those things usually don’t make it to social media.

The second reason that I wanted to share this post with you all is because I have learned so much during this first year of marriage and have seen parts of myself that I never knew were there. I hope that this can be an encouragement to you in your own life and marriage (or future marriage!).

  1. I am a pretty selfish person.

Let’s just lay this on the table and get this out there right away. Before I was joined to this man in the union of marriage, I thought that I was pretty selfless. It is easy to show the best parts of yourself for the hours of the day that you are together when you are dating, but I discovered that when my time was no longer my own (it never really was in the first place) and that I had another person to love with my whole being, someone who lived in my apartment and slept in my bed, I was not very good at this whole “giving of myself” thing.

[box]“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4).[/box]

Ouch. This selfishness has been as simple as me complaining and pouting because he thought we shouldn’t go out for ice cream two nights in a row and I had been craving it (yes, that has actually happened multiple times) or as big as me not supporting him in a decision that he thought best for us because I didn’t think it was best for me. I never knew that I was so selfish until I was commanded to submit myself to another person (Ephesians 5:22).

I have discovered that there is joy in valuing another person above myself, even especially when it goes against every fiber of my sinful, selfish being.

  1. I can be really, really cranky.

As I mentioned, the honeymoon and initial moving in to our own first apartment together was a wonderful, fun thing. However, when reality set in that we had moved to a state where we didn’t know anyone, where neither of us had jobs, and we didn’t yet have a church family, I began to spiral into a deep depression that affected not just myself, but this man who was now my husband. Small things like a sink full of dishes or socks lying on the floor could set me off and put me in a cranky, angry mood. James is speaking right to me when he says to be “slow to speak and slow to get angry” (James 1:19). I am learning that it is worth it to take a breath and stay silent for a moment before lashing out and saying something that I will later regret; once it is said, it can never be taken back.

  1. “Always kiss your husband goodbye.” 

This was spoken to me by a dear older man at the hospital that I used to work at, who sat in a chair beside the hospital bed of his dying, unconscious wife. He shared stories with me of their sixty year marriage and the love and joy that they shared together. This was evident to me by the fact that each time I passed by that hospital room, I saw him sitting in his chair reading Psalms out loud to his wife, not knowing whether she could hear him or not. He never left her side. When I asked him what the secret to sixty years of marriage was, he spoke those words to me. “Always kiss your husband goodbye. And if you’re too angry to do that, at least give him a hug because you can’t hug and stay angry.”

I later learned that his wife had passed away, but until her dying breath he sat by her side and spoke words of truth straight from Scripture to her. This is love. I have found that a simple way to remind my husband of this love is a kiss goodbye before going our separate ways for the day. We are not entitled to another breath and we never know when our last one will be.

  1. My husband is my new family.

Leaving my family in Pennsylvania to move to Michigan with my new husband – where we had no family and didn’t know anyone – was one of the hardest things I have ever done. For most of this past first year of marriage, I suffered from a severe depression and anxiety that debilitated me, caused me to miss days of work, and made me physically ill. Through seeing a doctor, being placed on a higher dose of medication, and seeing a Christian counselor, the Lord has begun to deliver me from this suffering, though for reasons I trust He knows, I have not been completely healed yet. I have come to realize that part of this suffering has come from my not being able to let go of my former family to cling to my new husband.

[box]Genesis 2:24 says, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.”[/box]

I really did not understand this concept when I walked down the aisle or even in the first months of marriage (I still don’t understand it; even Paul says it is a mystery! Ephesians 5:31-32). However, I do know that my husband is now my family and this means letting go of my former family in the sense that my husband is now my provider, my man, my priority. There was a time in our early weeks of marriage that I got upset at Matt because he didn’t take out the trash right away (my dad always did that!). I expected him to pay all the bills, fill out all the insurance forms, and fix all the car problems because that’s what my dad did. My husband is not my father and I cannot place those pressures or expectations on him. He is a new husband just as I am a new wife!

There is truth to the adage, “Leave and cleave.” I had physically left my family, but I had not broken the emotional ties with them that caused strife and conflict in my relationship with my new husband. Matt is now my primary family and, Lord willing, we will create a family of our own someday.

  1. “Fill his love bucket.” 

One of my favorite things about working in a hospital is the conversations that I get to have with the patients and families who are there. This is another piece of advice that I learned from a woman lying in a hospital bed. She and her husband had been married for thirty years, so again I asked for the secret to years of marriage. She responded with those simple four words, “Fill his love bucket.” She went on to explain that as wives, we are to encourage and support our husbands.

One way to do that is to love them in ways that make them personally feel loved and supported. One way that Matt feels loved is when I cook his favorite foods for him (I guess a way to a man’s heart really is through his stomach!) or when I choose to go on a walk with him after dinner instead of cleaning up the kitchen right away (I tend to be a bit of a “clean freak”!). I think this is part of what Paul is talking about when he tells us to value others above ourselves.

Love is a choice, a daily laying down of oneself for the sake of another. It is being united to another in such a way that his joys become your own and his heartbreaks break your heart, too. It is choosing to love even when you don’t feel like it, even when it goes against every fiber of your prideful, selfish heart. It is loving as Jesus loves us (John 15:12), seeing all of our mess and junk and failures and still identifying with us.

What are some things that you have learned in your months and years of marriage that could be an encouragement to me and others?