Paul and I are celebrating 4 years of marriage in about a week. Bonkers! Time flies so fast.
When I think about each of the years individually that have led us to where we are currently at in our relationship, it’s almost hard to connect the dots. What I mean is that who we were 4 years ago to who we are now both as a couple and as individuals is so drastically different (praise God for that!) that it’s hard to see it as the same people in a lot of ways. I will speak for myself when I say that Hannah 4 years ago was a fresh college grad 21 year old who was (and still is) incredibly stubborn, had a lot of expectations for both marriage and life, and was unsure of what she wanted to do. This caused a lot of bitterness, feeling depressed, and just feeling overall joyless. We were living in a sparsely filled loft with about one whole penny to our name on a good day. We didn’t live together before marriage either, so let’s just say we had a lot of learning to do in every area in the midst of some of the most transitional years as early 20-somethings.
So how can I put this gently?… We were that newlywed couple who fought, and I mean A LOT.
Marriage was most shocking to me at first with the fact I had never felt comfortable enough with someone before to say how I actually felt. I remember thinking to myself, “Wow, I have never felt so angry before in my life.” I am overall a very passive person and I avoid confrontation at all cost… that is until Paul. I can joke about it now, but geez, people surely must have thought we had full on beatings in our apartment behind closed doors. I vividly remember weeping in an empty bathtub in my pajamas with the door locked, because it was the only place in our loft that had a door. I would love to know how many times our neighbors just listened through our paper thin walls to our fights. It was a spiritually, emotionally, and physically exhausting season of life, and above all else we knew this wasn’t what we wanted in marriage- fighting daily- but we didn’t know how not to. Big picture, it boiled down to not knowing how to give a little on both ends to meet in the middle. For me, I had a whole lot of expectations and circumstances I wanted control of but just couldn’t get the reins on. Does this sound familiar to any of you? I am here to say first and foremost that if you FEEL stuck in your marriage, like there will never be resolution to whatever that fight is that you have daily-weekly-monthly, I promise there is always an end. And then, there will surely be a new battle on the horizon to face, but there is always an end to them.
The feeling of being stuck is real, but it’s also 100% an attack from the enemy to make you believe there is no way out. The enemy says leaving is the only solution to when things get this hard, but that’s just a bunch of crap. Truth is, if you always leave when it gets hard, you’re always going to find what you are running from in every new attempt. You can either stay and duke it out over and over deeply rooted with one person you know loves you and wont leave, or have a whole bunch of wounds from every person you try to have the perfect relationship with. (pssst, it doesn’t exist) Faithfulness is found in staying rooted. (Paul preached on this last night, and I thought it was pretty darn good ;)) There is always resolution if and when you choose to stay and meet in the middle.
God is a God of restoration, and he hates when there is brokenness. Love is sacrifice- God sent Jesus to die on the cross. It’s compromise- Jesus left heaven for humanity in order to save us. And though I will not say Paul and I are experts by any means, I will say our marriage has changed drastically over the last 4 years and I believe that what we’ve learned can help you. If you’re a newlywed looking for a spark of hope, I hope our story encourages you and that these things we have done gives you the energy to move forward and fight FOR one another.
- Same Team: Almost always our fights went a lot like a boxing match. It was him in one corner and me in the other, and neither of us were willing to budge from our stance. We were listening to each other only for our next great comeback. It took about two years in, but when Paul and I started taking a step back and reminding each other, “Hey, I am on your team and want to figure this out with you”, it changed entirely how we attack a disagreement. We are no longer attacking one another, but rather the dispute that’s come up and is putting a wedge between us.
- Tone: Listen, I am the master of sass. I am really good at letting Paul know I am mad at him, and giving great verbal and physical cues that he is on my “bad list” right now. I hate to admit that, but I really can be like that. What I have learned is that tone is everything. How I tell Paul I am mad will either check him in or out of my concern, hurt, or frustrations. If you want your spouse to respect your emotions, you can’t beat them up in the process. Sure, we are human, but taming of the tongue is not only biblical but it’s the best plan. The Lord tells us to use our lips wisely, and that they can be sweet as honey. They can either put out or set fires, both from the same origin.
- Letting Go: I get it, if you’ve made your mind up about a certain way of doing things or why ‘x’ is not going to work, it’s really hard to let go. But, here’s the best and most freeing news ever, not everything needs to be called out. Not everything is as “sinful” as you think it is. Some stuff that gets under your skin might in fact just be annoying… As a spouse, you’re called to refine and make one another holier. How the dishes are placed or your hubby maybe always forgetting where he put his keys, these are not sins. Let go of always correcting one another. I love this line- Mercy triumphs over judgement. Stop judging where you spouse is at in their journey of x,y, and z. Extend grace upon grace, mercy for mercy. Forgive as we have been forgiven. Bottom line… you don’t deserve any of the forgiveness you’ve been extended from your creator, and we are called to mimic that love as believers.
- Pray For You First: When my prayer life is all about how other people can change to better convenience me, that’s the perfect set-up for a whole lot of disappointment. Someone recently said in a sermon I was listening to, “If your prayers all came true, would it change other people’s lives or just make things “easier” for you?” DANG- soak that in for a second… When I stopped praying for Paul to just stop doing ‘x’ or get better at ‘z’, and started asking God to remove silly worries and my need to control… DANG did my life become a lot more free. There is liberty in asking God to remove the planks from our own eyes first. He doesn’t say that in scripture (Matthew 7:5) just because God wants us to feel bad and focus on our own sins. He wants us to remove the plank from our own eyes first, because there is so much more life waiting for us when we do.
- Mentors: If you find yourself praying for your heart, letting go of silly worries and annoyances, and have attempted to work out a dispute together and just cannot seem to get on even ground, take it to trusted mentors. Some of the best conversations that have moved us forward in arguments that seemed to have no end in sight have happened over the table with a couple we trust and love. When you come to one another/mentors, the best way to find conflict resolution is to be humble and admit where you have failed in the process. Where have you hurt your spouse that you can admit to and ask for forgiveness in? What have you held onto that the grip can be loosened a bit on? Humility, y’all. It will save your marriage. Pride will destroy every good relationship you have in your life so fast. It will rot trust.
There are so many other things and little details I could write about I suppose, but these are the main actions I can say have personally changed the way I fight with Paul and how our marriage began to thrive over the course of 4 years. Instagram captures the “good stuff”, right? And, though we have a healthy marriage now and really are as mushy as Instagram shows we are, it is by no means perfect. We have to fight for one another daily, and we often say “Hey, I am on your team” when one of us says something sharp in response to circumstances. I have to shut my mouth to things that don’t actually matter, and then other times I totally fail at letting Paul be human. Marriage, relationships in general, are a constant pruning process. It’s a constant run trying to keep pace with one another side by side, but it’s worth the effort. It’s worth walking through the fire and trial.
All photos by Cottonwood Road Photography for The Cake by Hannah
My top is PERFECT for a casual date night for Valentines Day! It says “I am all yours” in french. 😉 You could pair this with some good denim, a pair of heels, and blazer for a bit more dressed up approach.