Last week I celebrated my third wedding anniversary. It was a wonderful day filled with love and fun. Eating pancakes, beaming appreciatively at each other, and, for the first time, watching a scary movie together made the whole day a saccharine affair. While cuddling in bed, I mentioned how it certainly didn’t feel like three years at all. In total, we’ve been together for 10, this year making it the 11th.
On days like that one, I can’t help getting sentimental. Nathan and I have been through so much together. We stayed together through high school, college, and beyond despite the odds or people telling us it wouldn’t last. It hasn’t been the easiest venture, but I wouldn’t change anything because being with Nathan has taught me so many things about not only myself but our marriage as a whole.
Marriage is not a magical cure-all
Growing up, Nathan and I went to Christian schools our entire lives. In school, we were taught that marriage was the thing to aspire to. I can recall sitting in chapels where a young and pretty woman told us to save our sexy revealing clothes for marriage. Then, and only then, could we give ourselves fully to the boys we loved. I kept hearing about marriage and how we would be able to know our spouses Biblically and God would then bless our union.
I aspired to marriage more than anything else because I thought it meant everything would be more or less perfect. How couldn’t it be? I’d finally have the green light to be alone with Nathan, we could have sex as many times as we wanted, and we’d finally be seen as legitimate in the eyes of the church and our families.
To a degree that all came true, but it didn’t come without a fair share of discovery. The first being: marriage isn’t nearly as magical as I thought it would be. Sure, I got to be alone with Nathan, but that also meant I did even when I didn’t want to be. When we were dating, he and I could separate, cool off, and come back together and make up. Now, when we have an issue, it has to be dealt with more or less immediately (preferably before bed). Angry sleep is no joke.
We had to start having realistic expectations about sex. I was told by some of the religious leaders from my upbringing that my sex life would be blessed because I waited until marriage like a good, Christian girl. That ended up being a lie. No one ever told us about the prerequisites to having sex, like 1) knowing what you like from self-discovery, 2) knowing what your partner likes, and 3) figuring out how to do it in the first place when you have absolutely no frame of reference. That was a tough lesson to learn, but we got through it in the end.
Courting romance is not the same as marital romance
Reading a lot of YA Romance growing up gave me a lot of dating ideas I wanted to follow and little moments I wanted Nathan and I to have. When we were dating, Nathan would surprise visit me at my house. Sometimes I wrote him love poems just because I loved him so much. We would go to the beach together and hold hands while walking under the pier.
Those moments were great, and I’ll cherish them forever. But romance, like the relationships they’re tied to, has to evolve. I used to think matrimonial romance was so boring. Everyone I’ve ever asked or read said just being at home with their spouse was enough. I still think that’s boring without a few dates in between, but after being stuck in traffic, dealing with coworkers all day, paying bills, running errands, and doing chores, it’s really nice to stay home and be with your spouse.
Not only that, both parties start to want different things. I don’t want Nathan to buy me something randomly. I want him to make me dinner or give me a kiss out of nowhere. He doesn’t necessarily want poems anymore. He’d rather me massage his shoulders or his back. Our displays of affection don’t have to be grand and public or expensive. They just have to be meaningful and somewhat frequent. That’s romantic enough for me.
All because you’re married/have been married doesn’t mean you know everything about relationships
Marriage is a whole other beast than a dating relationship if you don’t already live together. Within the first few months, you realize the advice you gave others and the advice they gave you may or may not apply. Each marriage is different, especially your own. My mother told me I’d have to cook for my husband and have sex with him lest he look for it elsewhere, and neither of those things are true.
In fact, most of the advice I was given doesn’t apply to my marriage at all. Nathan and I don’t pray together, send steamy texts to each other, and anything in Cosmo doesn’t work. That’s okay. They’re not meant for us. Just because my relationship works doesn’t mean it would work for anyone else. The only pieces of advice I can say for sure work for everyone is to be honest, communicate, and compromise. Even those words are vague. Everything else and everything in between is really all up to the couple.
Three years of marriage isn’t a lot in the grand scheme of things, which means I have so many lessons to learn. Life has so many possibilities that will affect our relationship. With those new opportunities come new challenges he and I will overcome together. I’m more than grateful for my husband and our relationship. Maybe three years from now I’ll have something different to say, and I can’t wait to see how much we’ve grown.
Three years down, three more to go.