Confession: Our first year of marriage has been hard.
Confession the second: So was our first year of dating.
I take comfort in this. It helps me realize that we’re people who need to settle into things. To clarify, it’s not so much the marriage that’s hard as it is the managing of expectations that spring up in the event of massive life changes.
So we got married last year. Hooray! But life is still hard, because it’s life.
We still stress about money. Actually, we stress more than we used to because student loans suddenly became real gaping holes in my income and not mysterious checks in my mailbox and because somehow people manage to save enough money to buy things like houses. How do they do that, by the way?
We still stress about health because now that we have insurance, we’re paying for that plus all the somehow still expensive medical bills that come from not going to the doctor for the last three years.
And then there’s the personal stuff. The emotional stuff. Let’s not talk about that stuff because it’s sad.
And also the mundane stuff, like errands and chores and let’s not talk about that stuff either because it’s boring.
You get the point, though. You get married and life is still hard. Lately, no, all the time, I’ll catch myself mid-worry and start to worry even more. Because this is our honeymoon phase. We’re supposed to be deliriously happy. I worry that I am wasting it.
Let’s take a step back, though. Why I am I letting the cultural narrative about what a relationship is supposed to look like inform my perception of my marriage? I didn’t get hit upside the head with a nesting instinct when we got married and I didn’t question the normalcy or happiness of our relationship because we didn’t hit up the home decorating stores on a post-honeymoon quest for throw pillows and lamps. I didn’t worry that we were doing it wrong when we didn’t get engaged and move in together after college, but instead moved to separate cities and then, a year later, into two separate studio apartments in the same city.
Because here’s the thing. Our first year of dating wasn’t easy, either. It was hard. We were forced to deal with the big things that make or break a couple. Family. Religion. Lifestyle. And every year after that first year was better than the last. We’re people who need to work through the hard things and then settle into our lives.
It’s okay not to be happy all the time. It’s okay if your first year of marriage is fraught with difficulty. In fact, it’s to be expected. We’re new to this. And life is hard.
I never worried about whether my relationship, or my life, looked a certain way before. Why start letting fuzzy one-size-fits-all expectations about relationships influence me now? We signed up for a marriage, not for the whole set of social codes and narratives that come wrapped up with any institution that is thousands of years old. Some of those narratives are crap (like the one about women doing anything in the kitchen and the other one that says it’s okay for men to neglect their children to earn a buck but not the other way around), and some of them just don’t fit our relationship (like the one about the first year of marriage being all furniture and roses). We’re writing our own narrative, thank you very much, and I have a feeling that this coming year will be better than the last.