Wedding Graduates Return: Helen & Lindi

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.

First Year of Marriage

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?

The dishes.

That’s right.

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:

  1. No matter how we feel physically or emotionally, we will do our best not to take it out on our partner.
  2. 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.
  3. 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?”
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

First Year of Marriage

Photos by: Friends

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  • Gillian

    Thank you for your post, and especially the last sentence. Our first year has unexpectedly been very difficult as well. It’s good to hear that we’re not alone and be reminded that it’s a good test of our mettle for years to come.

  • I think this is one of the most helpful wedding graduate posts ever. Obviously Helen and Lindi have had a really rough year (you guys are amazing for helping out family and friends the way you do), but I think their suggestions on how to deal during tough times can apply to any kind of fight. It’s all about treating your partner with respect and love, even when you’re upset.

    When my now-fiance and I were in a long distance relationship, we certainly went through rough times. But I’d realize that if we broke up, I’d never get to talk to him again. I found it easier to work through any situation with the knowledge that it was better than never getting to talk to him ever again.

    • “But I’d realize that if we broke up, I’d never get to talk to him again.”

      I think that’s a really powerful statement: that when it comes down to it, the choice really
      IS between making it work or losing the other person. Even if it isn’t that huge and serious with every tiny argument, it certainly is true in the big picture long-run.

      And thank you. <3

    • meg

      It’s because it’s not a wedding graduate post, silly. There wedding graduate post ran last year. It’s a Wedding Graduates RETURN. Yayyy!

      • North

        Wedding post-graduates? Wedding alumni?

      • Gah, right! A wedding graduate-graduate post? ;)

        • Aine

          wedding professor post?

          • meg

            My prayer for us is that we never become wedding professors. * Marriage* professors, maybe.

    • My sister’s best friend posted on her FB wall something like; True best friends are the ones you can never stay mad at for very long because you have important things to tell them. I like to think of my really good relationships (both the one with my husband and with friends) as falling into this category.

      We’ve had to learn to take breaks and to say to each other “I love you but I can’t talk right now because I’m hurting. I will let you know when I can talk.” Luckily it doesn’t happen often, but it’s been good for us to reassure each other with this, that we will talk, but we can’t talk yet without being defensive/offensive. Also, we just moved and have no couch, so even when he’s made at me he has to sleep next to me and we always end up cuddling in our sleep, which is reassuring as well.

      And wedding alumni ladies: wow, you went through so much! Here’s to a more relaxing second year. Thank you for your honesty!

  • Such an amazing post! I love the honesty behind it. I’m already so grateful for the reemergence of Wedding Graduates Return. It’s great to hear that other couples first year or few years of marriage aren’t entirely peachy keen… and not because I take pleasure in the pain of others but because it makes me feel less like a crazy person.

    Everyone says the first year or two of marriage is the hardest but no one ever talks about the gritty details of how hard it can be. I think even though we know to expect problems, we’re also expected to stay within a honeymoon period for a certain amount of time and that doesn’t always happen. It’s great to hear about the trials and tribulations of others because it gives me faith that there’s a way for all of us to sort things out.

  • “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”

    Oh lord, I hate angry texting. It’s the worst. And it never really seems to solve anything, anyways. Having been long-distance for five years, my husband and I were prone to doing this when we first got married… I think we were used to having to fight that way. We quickly realized that it’s a horrible way to communicate anything, and instituted a similar rule. Now we argue about dishes face to face–while I wouldn’t call it fun, it’s definitely better.

  • Thank you: after a rough morning of snippiness for no particular reason, this is a wonderful reminder of the important parts.

  • What a beautiful honest post. Sometimes it’s so hard to keep the anger about chores inside, even when I know that it’s not really about the chores, and if I was in a better mood whatever’s bothering me wouldn’t be bothering me.

    Is there honestly a couple in the world who doesn’t fight about laundry and dishes? They seem like such small chores and yet when you’ve had a bad day, or you’re feeling stressed out it’s like you come home and can’tevenmakeittothebedbecausethisperson’sclothesarealloverthefloor!! or you havetododishesagainbecausethisotherpersonwholivesheresomehowdoesn’tseemtonoticethateverysurfaceinthekitcheniscoveredindirtydishes!!! but then also is there anything more infuriating than when your spouse does the dishes but some of them are still dirty??? My husband and I lived together for 4 years before we got married, and we’ve always had *ahem* discussions about dishes and laundry, but never as frequently as in the last 2 months. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve considered switching our household to disposable plates and cutlery and just dropping off all the laundry at one of those by the lb places. I think I’m going to start suggesting to my engaged friends that they register for a year’s worth of paper plates and plastic forks and spoons instead of china.

    • And then we would probably argue about hurting the environment with all of our paper plates and plastic cutlery, hah.

      It’s never REALLY about the chores, though, as you say. I’m glad to hear we’re not the only people who bicker over them, however.

      • Caroline

        Oh we do too. The chores were actually the first thing we talked about in our first (amazing) counseling session. It didn’t exactly solve the fact that we split chores very inequitably (and not in thenstereotypical gender way. He does about 90% of the chores, which, I admit is not a good thing), however we learned to discuss them better and havenless resentment about it. We fight about dishes much less.

        • I thought chores fighting is so common because it is about negotiating space, don’t you think?

          • FawMo

            I think that chores are a day-by-day snapshot of how you feel treated in the relationship. I’ve been know to do the “(deeeeeeeeep sigh) fiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiine”. Um, yeah, not helpful.

            We’re getting better at:
            1) Saying “thank you”
            2) Injecting humor/playful teasing
            3) Calling each other out on our childish behaviour
            4) Gently reminding the other partner that we are a TEAM

            Everything is a work in progress. We’re both sleep-deprived currently and he now has a cold. This morning was challenging.

          • It’s totally about the space thing, and also a snapshot of how you feel treated! FAWMO, I couldn’t reply directly to your comment, but I love the point about using humor. Sometimes on days we’re bickering about a million little things, my husband or I will say “come on, let’s have a fight”. It helps ease the tension if we draw attention to what we’ve been doing, and then we can figure out a way to fix our bad moods by getting out of the house or whatever.

            I think one of the dangerous things about marriage is that you have this person around who is legally bound to stay with you, so it seems like you can take out your bad mood on them without any consequences (sort of similar to how we all do with our families when we’re little). But that’s such a bad habit to get into. I find I’m really having to make an effort not to take my husband for granted.

  • Nicole

    Thank you for this! The way you have described your marriage is exactly what my lady and I are striving for. When we moved in together, we found an apartment with a second bedroom for that precise reason: we wanted hospitality to be an integral part of our family life. Of course, our visitors have been more of the one-night or one-weekend variety, but I like to think that we would be as open with our home as you two have been. And even with that, we’ve had quite the cast of characters come through in the past year!

    Side note: the second bedroom has also come in handy once or twice when stupid-fights-about-chores have gotten out of hand. ha! kidding. mostly;)

  • Helen and Lindi, I am so grateful to know you both and to be on the receiving end of your wisdom as I journey through this time in my life a couple of years behind you. You are wonderful! xoxo

  • Such a good post, with very good advice. I tend to be the one who starts the fights in our marriage mainly because I let myself get tired and frustrated and don’t stop to think before I open my mouth. Luckily, I have an amazing husband who puts up with my craziness, but we do each have our moments, and marriage is about sharing and compromise and that includes dishes. I think taking the time to sit and commit to communication “rules” is a great idea… it’s not easy to change, but if you are both aware of the things you’ve agreed to try to change in terms of how you communicate, it makes it easier and puts you both back on the same team.

  • “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.” What a wise mother-of-the-bride! And I love your ground rules for fighting well. Thank you for sharing!

  • The first year can be tough, and I think it has a lot to do with our own self-adjustment to the idea of being married, to negotiating with ourselves and with our partner how our individual self fits in the relationship, which are the boundaries. Arguments about little things are the most common, from my experience and that of my friends, and it’s part of adjusting to the other person.
    When I was going through my own second year of marriage, I found this (from a book by Kathy Freston called :The One) and it has served me very well. I am sharing it with you in case you find it useful too:
    Good luck!

    • Also, when I was really ANGRY (with capital letters) I used to go look at our wedding pictures: It calmed me down and it reminded of all the good and lovely reasons that had brought us together,and it made it easier to talk.

      • I just got my wedding pictures! And they make me so happy. I love this idea of going back to them later as a reminder of how we started our marriage and why we’re together.

    • Yeah, I think it is totally about the adjusting to each other. It took a while for me to learn that for example, he needs his calm *and not a million stories* when he comes home. And when we fight, it is about small things, and because one of us (mostly me) is very tired and gets snappy. (Have to work on that). But we do have a rule, we have to calmly talk about it, and make up as fast as possible. I really am not fond of staying angry, actually even during the fight I am already hating myself for it… exatly like your rules 2 and 3:

      “2. 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.
      3. 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?”

    • Marcela: I love that! Thanks for sharing. :) I especially like rules #1 and #6.

      • Those are my favourite rules too, and the ones that changed my perspective for the better :)

  • Wahhooo!!! So stoked about this post and the re-launch. :) You guys rock my socks.

  • We are in the shore negotiation stage right now. Sometimes I freak out and think we have to figure all of everything out right now because it’ll set the whole tone of our marriage. And then I think about how we have a lifetime to work this out so it’s ok if it takes time. I’m so glad you guys came back! I love follow up posts!

  • Aine

    God bless you two for being there for so many people! Negotiating your own shared life is one thing (as someone still getting used to living in the same country with my husband) but opening your home like that? Is amazing. Of course you’ve had a hard year, you’ve gone above and beyond the “normal” baby-family changes.

    Here’s hoping you ladies have time to relax and just enjoy each other now.

    • meg

      Liz has talked about how this is part of the point of marriage. Our communities support us in creating a new family unit, so we can support members of our community in a way that we can’t always as a single person. As a joint economic/emotional unit, we’re better capable of being support to our community. And I love that definition of marriage. It’s been true of us. David and I have given money and floor space and emotional support to friends in a way that we couldn’t do if we were not a unit, and I love that.

      It’s how we pay back our community for the wedding, over time… or I think of it that way.

  • Oh man! I can totally relate to this. We fight almost exclusively about the dishes. I know that, for me at least, it’s a small form of taking control. So what got me over it? Deployment. My husband is a few months in to a year long tour in Afghanistan. I wouldn’t recommend it, but it has given me some much needed perspective. Yes, I still care aboutthe dishes, but at the same time, I could care less. My spouse is priority número uno.*

  • Moz

    I think you guys have been incredibly generous with your friends and relatives, I hope this is rewarded by an easier second year. Good luck with the job hunting and all the best to you both xx

  • Oh, I totally relate to your fighting style. It usually starts over something small and stupid, or just one person generally being in a bad mood and taking it out on the other one, and then it turns into a big thing about how we’re talking to/treating each other. Ugh.

    I like the specific ways you guys are trying to not do that anymore!

  • Carisa

    So I am slowly making my way through every APW post ever written, and a good chunk of the comments, but this is the first time I have been moved to comment (I have been at this since beginning of May y’all!). I send all the ones I like to my partner so we can discuss and I have to say thank you for this. This is what happens to us when life gets in the way of loving each other and it was so honest. All of the comments are also so smart and kind.