Marriage Difficulty Level: Beginner

I started following Micha Boyett’s blog after I discovered her series on St. Benedict. Her writing has a gentle, incisive graciousness which I find beautiful. This morning I opened my feed reader and found this post on “Marriage and the Easy  Yoke.” I love this bit toward the end:

I can’t pretend to know much about marriage. Eight years is only 2nd grade in the education of married life. We’re only just now learning cursive and multiplication. We have a long way to go. But what I’m learning is that … Only grace oils the bitter places so the machine can run, so you can smooth each other out.

Her post is in response to this one on Her.meneutics, and in light of these two other responses to it. Reading those after Micha’s post, I’m bothered by how easily the author of the first post assumes that marriage is easy (without any discussion of hardships she’s walked through to back this up) and we should stop worrying about how hard the first year is supposed to be, etc. Like the first response by Kristin Tennant notes, it’s a bad idea to assume that your story or experience in marriage is the true one and read your experiences into other people’s lives. That said, I feel a little more kinship with the author  (Grace) of the second response: who are you to tell me that a good marriage is an easy one?

Kevin and I haven’t had a particularly hard marriage so far, and we’re not very far in yet, so I shouldn’t speak too loudly. We have a lot of time ahead of us before we stop being babies and earn the title of “seasoned.” But that said, in just the last 17 months, we’ve faced unemployment x2, frustrating jobs, evening shift work hours, depression, a move, debt, not having a church home, serious family tensions, a car accident, and more. It’s been intense. Not impossible, but difficult. These external factors have in turn exacerbated various issues in our relationship with each other, and the strain has been really exhausting at times.

We were talking about this yesterday, reflecting on our Saturday bike ride and how, while we had a good time, there were moments of tension based on ongoing issues, and by the end of our ride we were very emotionally worn out. But a little patience with each other’s weariness helped a lot, and we ended up having a quiet evening together, just being together and not asking much of each other.

Kevin commented that, for us, loving each other doesn’t always look like happy feelings and tender romantic moments. We’re both broken people with issues that make us hard to love and be loved. Sometimes, all we have to offer is insecurity, or anxiousness, or frustration. Sometimes we’re just too raw to make much of an effort to do “sweet” and “thoughtful” things. But there’s no one else we’d rather do this marriage thing with. Kevin concluded, “we can worship God with whatever emotion we bring in the door. He accepts us as we are–we don’t need to always put on a mask of happiness in order to be in a relationship with him. And it’s the same way with each other: we should be patient with each other, of course. But we don’t need to only bring the correct and proper emotions to each other. We can bring whatever we are at the moment.”

It’s been true. There is grace to be patient with each other’s broken places, even if I’m not always as tender as I should be when he’s weak (or vice versa). Marriage is the hardest thing either of us has ever attempted, and I want to be careful not to make it sound like it’s been all that awful. It hasn’t–but it hasn’t been hearts and flowers and Disney moments, either. But we’re best friends and I know he is a good-hearted man trying to love me the best he knows how. And I think he knows the same of me.

I doubt that our experience is universal, but I think it’s a pretty common one, too. I am really thankful that I have a good man to work this marriage thing out with and who makes the rough spots worth it all.

If you’re a newlywed, just enjoy your first year. If it’s sweet, don’t borrow trouble by worrying about what-if-it-gets-hard? and just savor the season. If it’s really rough, don’t feel alone. Plunge into community and get counseling, and let yourself enjoy the glowy moments when they come.

5 thoughts on “Marriage Difficulty Level: Beginner

  1. so many things you wrote in this post ring true for us as well. Between the issues that cause tension, or the things that cause us both to crack up and roll on the floor with laughter, I wouldn’t want to be with anyone else besides the man who joined his life, heart, and body to me at the altar almost a year and a half ago. It’s so worth going through those rough spots when we can both look back and see how far God has brought us. It’s hard, but oh so good!

    great thoughts, Hannah! I always enjoy reading your posts. 🙂

  2. Mattie, I’m so happy to find you. Thanks for linking to me today. I love your thoughts and your husband’s wisdom about the goodness of being together even if neither of you feels particularly “sweet” or romantic. I’m grateful you are willing to write your experience. Peace to you guys!

  3. Thanks for your post! As always, one good point deserves another. The more I read great posts like this and try to make sense out of the world, the more I realize the benefits and drawbacks of dialectic philosophy – that the truth lies in the synthesis between two opposites. Here we have two opposites – The First Year of Marriage is Hard and The First Year of Marriage is Easy. By the statistics, John Gottman of the U of Washington tells, marriage seems to follow a “Rule of Thirds” – 1/3 of all married couples have “very few problems,” 1/3 have “a moderate amount of problems,” and 1/3 are highly conflictual and stressed marriages. Ms. Boyett is in one third, other writers are in other thirds. We can also shift in and out of these thirds. So, one post of course is not going to ring true to everyone’s experience. I think that your post did a good job of recognizing her article for its benefits, but also recognizing the other 66.7% of marriages. My synthesis – newly married life is hard. Stresses in life make marriage harder. But somehow also, marriage for me has made stresses in life a little bit easier. It looks like when I have had a crummy day at work and can’t even muster the will to make dinner, and then I snap a my husband out of frustration. Tension ensues, and then something great happens. Grace intrudes, he makes dinner and sits me down on the couch with a lemonade, and I apologize. And we a stronger because of it. That’s my hope for all marriages – not perfect, but made stronger by grace 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *