What follows isn’t the full story about our marriages. The following is specific to the things that are difficult, frustrating, or confusing about being a newlywed. If you’re not married and you’re reading this, I don’t want you for a second to believe that this is the end of the story on marriage. Please trust us that for every tricky, unfamiliar, hard to navigate thing about our marriages, there are 10 bazillion beautiful, incredible, amazing things about them.
Now… that said…
A few years back was one of the hardest weeks of Carl’s and my marriage.
I liked to believe that my husband and I were good fighters. We had a conflict, addressed it immediately, talked through it, figured out what went wrong, and decided together what we were going to do differently next time.
It was a well-oiled machine. Or so I thought.
Walking on Eggshells
But that week was different. That week we had been extra sensitive, extra insensitive, graceless, slow to forgive, nit-picky, and frustrated by pretty much everything.
We moved into a new house that week—battered from the craziness of the last several months, and totally sleep deprived. We were running on adrenaline and frequent trips to Starbucks. But as soon as the movers left, our family left, and as we stood in the middle of our living room surrounded by boxes, we started to fall apart.
A cocktail of exhaustion, and stress, and being annoyed that all of our earthly possessions were stirred up and put in boxes for us to excavate, we started to fight. They were little fights at first, both of us feeling inconvenienced by the turbulence in our life, and therefore each other. But they started to stack up.
We were unpacking our clothes and organizing our closet one night when Carl got frustrated that I hadn’t left more room for him to put his things. (Closets: The classic marital struggle.) But instead of patiently asking me for more space, he got frustrated. And instead of just apologizing and moving my things over a few inches, I got mad at his frustration. Before we knew it, we were both far more angry than the situation called for. But standing on a week of unresolved disagreements, neither of us wanted to back down.
We left the weekend feeling disconnected and walking on eggshells. We felt like ticking time bombs, waiting for whatever it was that was going to set us off next.
Marriage Can Be Really Hard
That was the first week we thought, “Marriage is actually really hard! Living with you is kind of hard if we’re going to be honest here.”
The worst part about it was that I didn’t want to tell anyone. I didn’t want to tell anyone that we were anything but totally happy 100% of the time. It’s scary to tell people you’re not doing well.
Somehow you can say, “I’m not doing well,” about yourself, about your health, about your job, about anything else in your life and nobody’s going to freak out.
But when it comes to your marriage if you say, “we’re not doing well,” it instantly sounds like you're on the brink of divorce.
So I sat in it. I didn’t want to tell my friends, or my mom, or any of the wonderful people I trust so much in my life, because I didn’t want them to worry. I didn’t want them to worry because I was kind of worried. Not about divorce, but about what changed to make us this bicker-y mess all of a sudden. I worried we wouldn’t be able to figure out how to change back.
One of my best friends called me mid-worry and asked me the question I dreaded, “How are you?”
“Are you sitting down?” I asked her dramatically. “Something’s going on, and I just need to have someone know.”
I proceeded to tell her that we’ve been bickering a lot. That we’ve been getting in fights and not being able to resolve them. We’ve been going to bed mad, going to bed disconnected, staying irritated for far longer than we ever have before.
“Do you think there’s something wrong with us?” I half whispered.
She paused, and then she laughed.
She laughed and then in almost the exact same words I’d used, repeated back to me what has been going on in their marriage. They’ve been fighting too.
“Steph, I think it’s just part of it,” she told me. “We’ve never done this before, our husbands have never done this before. Nobody has a manual for how to be married, and nobody is perfect. We’re all trying to figure this out day by day and sometimes mashing your life together with someone else’s is hard and incredibly frustrating. But this is so normal. Everyone with an opinion or even a pulse who’s ever gotten married has been through this. You are not alone.”
Those last words rang in my ears for the rest of the day.
“You are not alone,” I am not alone. Carl and I are not alone in what we we’re going through and what we we’re experiencing. We were not the only newlyweds to fight or disagree or butt heads about totally stupid things like how much space we take up in the closet.
As we hung up the phone, I felt like I could breathe for the first time in days.
Nobody's Marriage is Perfect
I am not for a second going to pretend to be a marriage expert. But, this is what I know to be true: Nobody’s marriage is as perfect as you think it is.
Everyone has struggles, frustrations, and battles they’re fighting. Everyone has things to work through, and things they haven’t worked through yet.
You are not alone.
That’s the kindest thing we can ever say to one another, and so that’s what I want us to tell each other today. In the comments, I’m going to ask you to share the thing about your marriage that you don’t have figured out, the thing you’re ashamed to admit because you feel like you’re the only couple who doesn’t have it all together.
Let’s be honest, and give each other the permission and the courage to do the same. Because honesty is like a stab to the heart of comparison and isolation, and I think we could all use that today.
I’ll get us started:
This is a compilation of confessions I've heard from my newly married friends, mine are included:
1. We don’t have sex as often as I think we should
2. I don’t want to have sex as often as I thought I would
3. We bicker about the stupidest things — how to clean dishes, where things go in the house, sometimes I feel like there’s nothing we won’t fight about.
4. When my husband is in a bad mood, it puts me in a really bad mood. I try not to let it affect me, but that’s something that’s been really hard about marriage so far: Our moods affect each other.
5. Our money is all in one account now, and I feel really weird spending it. I feel like I’m spending his money, or like I’m not allowed to spend money, or shouldn’t. Which is stupid because some of what’s in our account comes from my paychecks!
6. I keep score. Constantly. I keep track of how hard he’s working vs. how hard I’m working, what he’s done for the house or for our lives together, vs. what I’ve done for our house or lives together. Sometimes I even count how many times I’ve made dinner that week, and feel resentful when I feel like he isn’t doing as much. It’s exhausting. I know I shouldn’t do this.
7. Sometimes I really just don’t want to be around him. It’s not him, it’s the fact that I really like my alone time — much more than I ever realized. But I don’t want to offend him by telling him I need more space.
8. Marriage is harder than I thought it would be. I hate to say that, but it’s true. I was prepared for all of the fun parts of it, but it has a lot more real life to it than I ever realized.
9. Sometimes I worry that we’re not Christian enough. We're a Christian couple, but I look at other Christian couples and worry that we’re not doing what they’re doing. Are we reading the Bible together enough? Praying together enough? Are we supposed to be reading the Bible together?
10. People always say to keep dating after you’re married, but it’s really hard. We don’t have much money and we have even less time. At the end of the day, we just come home and pass out. And I worry our relationship is going to suffer because of a lack of romance.
11. The Bible tells me to submit to my husband, but I have no idea what that even means, let alone how to do that.
I’d love to hear your newlywed confessions in the comments below. None of us are perfect, and it’s time we all knew that. Are you ready to dive in?
(Feel free to change your name as you fill out the comment form. I’m the only one who will see your email address, and I won’t share it with anyone. I would just love for everyone to get to be honest without worrying about who will see it.)
And one last reminder for my sweet newlyweds:
You’re not broken, you’re not messed up, you’re not failing. You’ve entered into something strange, and beautiful and bigger than anything you’ve ever done before. You’ve decided to forever connect your life to the life of another person, and you’ve committed to love them forever, no matter what.
And on top of that, you are human, which means not an ounce of this will be perfect. But it will certainly be beautiful.
P.S. If you could use some advice or encouragement as you navigate newlywed life, check out this podcast episode!
P.P.S. If you're looking for even more advice on how to have a thriving marriage, here are a couple more episodes to check out:
Girls Night #53: How to Increase Intimacy and Romance in Your Marriage
Girls Night #12: A Married Gal's Guide to Great Sex