Today we have a post from one of APW’s longtime contributors. Sharon blogs over at Bride Sans Tulle and has been providing APW with wisdom for about as long as I can remember. (May I recommend checking out her grad post here, or this amazing bit on why love is a choice? Because, um, you will fall in love with her.) The thing I love most about getting to follow ladies like Sharon over the course of a few years is that I get to see how the trajectory of their relationships change, and it reminds me that marriage is a long process, one we get to shape and mold every day for years and years to come. So today Sharon gives us a little bit of insight into just one more step in her journey: moving cross country immediately after getting married.
—Maddie for Maternity Leave
My husband, Jason, and I got married on a Saturday. The following Wednesday, we were in our car and on the road for a cross-country move. True fact, people took bets during our reception as to which state our first married fight would occur in. (I hope those who wagered on Texas remembered to collect their winnings.) This is the part where, when I tell our story in person, I usually pause, take in dropped jaws and widened eyes, and say, wryly, “I know. We were totally nuts.”
Except that it didn’t really feel all that crazy at the time. Incredibly hard, yes. There’s nothing quite like the mindf*ck of going so quickly from being surrounded by all your loved ones at your wedding to sleeping on the floor of a strange apartment (because none of your shipped belongings have caught up yet) in a city where you literally know no one. Making new friends felt like an excruciatingly slow process at times, not aided by crying jags brought on at seeing Facebook pictures from “back home” of all the dinners, pool parties, birthdays, and scrumptious babies we were missing out on. And it was stranger than strange to step into navigating the beginnings of married life without anyone who’d known us when we were single around. Looking back, I’m a little glad that we didn’t realize how hard and lonely the process would be at the time. I’m honestly not sure we would have been brave enough to face it.
But I’m so glad we did, because moving so soon after our wedding also gave us something amazing: it gave us the gift of being able to play by our own rules when it came to our marriage. There were some people who, upon learning that we’d be living together for the first time after we got married, almost gleefully predicted what a difficult time we’d have of it because we hadn’t cohabitated beforehand. “You’re going to fight all the time!” they’d say. “He will have so many habits that will drive you crazy! The first year is the hardest because you’ll have to negotiate all the chores!” We took a lot of delight in proving these naysayers wrong and took to sharing a roof like ducks to water. Now over two years in, we’ve never argued about who’s doing the dishes or taking out the garbage or the myriad other household things that people told us we’d fight over. We don’t harbor simmering resentment over these things.
The thing is… we’re not saints by any stretch of the imagination. We didn’t manage to buck the predictions in this case because we’re super-patient or fantastically enlightened people. It definitely helped that we’d both lived with roommates in singlehood, that we have similar ideas of what constitutes messy or clean, that we were just so damn thrilled to finally get to live together… but really, I think we just both instinctively felt that we’d been given a free pass with our move. And on so much more than silly fights over chores, at that. Our marriage didn’t have to follow a set script or narrative. Our first year didn’t have to look like anyone else’s or be filled with spats and squabbles just because someone else said so. Wedding planning had felt so fraught and so public for me and, rightly or wrongly, I’d spent the months of our engagement constantly worried about the scrutiny and judgment of others. It was incredibly liberating to realize that we alone got to decide what our marriage would be. Nothing was fated for us. Even in the midst of the homesickness, underemployment, and financial pressures that surrounded our first year of marriage, we could be incredibly happy. And we were.
So yes, maybe we were a bit nuts to take on something as huge as a giant move right after we married. But when I think about it, I don’t feel crazy; I feel empowered. I think it was good for Jason and me to have such a large challenge to face together in our baby marriage, not least because it gives me confidence that we’ll be able to handle whatever the future throws at us as well. There are times when I start freaking out over the dominant cultural narratives that surround women, especially the ones about having children (you know, the ones that say your life ends when you have a baby, or you inevitably end up mothering both spouse and child, or, at the very least, you’ll never get out of those sweatpants again), but then I take a deep breath and remind myself… I don’t have to listen to them. A great marriage won’t be ours by chance or only if all the stars align correctly; we get to build it every day, together. And that? Feels pretty crazy in a really good way.
Photo from Sharon’s personal collection