Last week, Lauren put out a call for past Wedding Graduates to write Wedding Graduate Returns posts about what had happened since their wedding, and about how their wedding had played into their married life. Today we have the first of this (re-launched) series. You’ll remember Helen & Lindi from their epic kissing in the rain wedding. Now they are here to talk about how the first year of marriage was hard, and what it’s taught them about living their vows.
People talk about how the first year of marriage is the hardest… and I can only say, I hope so. After our spectacular wedding last year, we’ve had a bit of a tough go of it. Planning for the wedding was exciting and stressful and fun; the wedding itself was amazing. Our life since then has been amazing as well, but a lot of things have happened, and we’ve had to navigate through the rough patches together.
Right before our wedding, we had two massive, emotional, heartbreaking things happen with people we were close to. One was my bridesmaid who decided the week of our wedding that she couldn’t be there for us because of newly found religious conviction. Another was when we found out that a person we both cared about was nothing like who we thought he was. We’ve repaired our relationship with the first person, thankfully, but likely never will with the second, although we’ve recovered from the aftershocks of both.
Then there was Everything That Happened With Our Families. Surprisingly, this was not the in-law drama that many couples struggle with surrounding their wedding, though we had some of that, too. No, more specifically, this was when a veritable herd of relatives had life emergencies and moved in with us for varying stints of time. Although we have two bedrooms, our apartment is rather small, so having other people live with us (usually as a surprise with less than 24 hours notice) was an added stress.
A week after our wedding, Lindi’s 18-year-old half-sister, who we had never met, was kicked out of her house by her abusive stepfather. She needed help, and we helped her. She lived with us for about a month. A few months later, a cousin was having a hard time with her family, so she moved in with us for a few weeks while she sorted her life out. A relative was slated to go to rehab, but needed someone with her 24 hours a day until they had room for her, so she lived with us, too, and we took turns being with her while she went through the first stages of withdrawal. We had a massive flood in our city which left my little sister homeless for a month that stretched over finals week, so she moved in until her apartment was safe to live in again. We had a death in the family this summer, and six family members came to stay while we handled the funeral arrangements.
In the midst of all this, we navigated our first set of major holidays as a baby family, juggled school and work, built a photography business, wrote and defended our senior theses, graduated from college and undertook a job search in a very unfriendly job market in which we both have applied to dozens upon dozens of jobs and only one of us has been successful.
It’s been a stressful year, and the way we act toward each other has reflected this. I’m ashamed to say that because we are supposed to be each other’s biggest supporter, and sometimes we both suck at it. I tend to get irritable and snippy when I’m tired or sick, among other things. Lindi has a deep-seated fear of abandonment, among other things. It’s been a long, long year full of big things going wrong in our world, one after another, and the number of arguments we’ve had shows it.
I do feel lucky that the things that we argue about tend to be small things blown out of proportion, and while that is really, really stupid, I am grateful that we tend to be in the same place on “the big stuff”: how we deal with money, how we feel about family and future kidlets, what we want out of our life and so on. Those are, luckily, not what we usually fight about. No. You want to know the number one thing we fight about?
Of course, not doing dishes when it’s our turn (see also: letting the laundry pile up, how often we hang out with friends, Lindi leaving dots of toothpaste in the sink, Helen forgetting to rinse out her lunch dishes) is only what starts off our argument, and then we REALLY bicker about the way we’re treating each other. One of us will snap at the other. The other one will snap back. It gets blown way up, and even if one of us apologizes, the other one is usually not ready to just let the fight go. One of us might storm out of the house, or one of us might have a panic attack or end up crying in the bathtub. Later, when we’re hugging and apologizing, it usually seems really stupid in retrospect… but it always happens again, and usually it happens in exactly the same way.
Now, we’ve decided to take hold of this stupid fighting that we do and figure out how to fight better. Not how not to fight, although hopefully we’ll wind up doing less of it, but how to do it better. This is what we’re trying:
- No matter how we feel physically or emotionally, we will do our best not to take it out on our partner.
- If something annoys or upsets us, we will take a moment to think if it is important enough to start an argument about, or if we can let it go OR talk about it calmly later.
- If we do fight, we will both do our best to stop (at least mentally) in the middle of the argument and think, “Is this important enough to be hurting each other over?”
- We will never, ever run away. Taking a quiet moment = okay. Locking yourself in the bedroom and/or slamming the door on your way out of the house to take an angry walk/run/drive during which you will just exchange angry text messages anyway = not okay.
- We will never threaten abandonment or divorce, even in the heat of the moment, because it’s just hurtful and neither of us would ever really mean it.
Recently we were at a rehearsal dinner for two dear friends of ours, and during the toasting/speechifiying part of the evening, the mother of the bride said, “The most important piece of advice anyone can ever give you is that if you always remember that you love your partner more than you are mad at them, you will come out okay in the end.” And I think that’s true.
Here’s the thing: this is the lady I want to spend my life with, raise children with, go on adventures with, bake with, read with, grow old with, and yes, even fight with. Lucky for me, she feels the same way. She’s my person, and I’m hers. We always remember that we love each other more than we are mad at the moment, and I know for a fact that we’ll figure out this fighting business. We just have some work to do.
We wrote our own wedding vows, so we didn’t have the traditional line about “for better or for worse.” Instead, we promised to laugh with each other, cry with each other, grow with each other, and to be by the other’s side through all the days and night of our lives. We’re proving those vows true, every day. We have had a challenging year, certainly—full of big, hard things that were sad, scary and uncertain—but we have also had some wonderful things happen and done so many things together this year of which we are proud. We have been stressed and tired and have bickered about lots of silly little things and a few bigger ones, but we’re working on it. If the adage is true and this first year is the hardest, I think that it has been those difficult things that have proven our mettle, and if this year is a smaller version of the rest of our lives—with all its joys and challenges—then I think we’ll do pretty well.
Photos by: Friends