First Comes Love, Then Comes Marriage. Then Comes Living Together for the Very First Time.
Updated: Apr 5, 2019
“How’s married life treating you?” I love being asked this question. It reminds me how long we waited to be in this season, and how wonderful it is to be in the position to answer a question like that. My answer is usually very simple: married life is the best! The very best part of being married is that ‘goodbye’ finally means ‘I will see you later’. After 9 years of long drawn out goodbyes and scheduled dates the best part of my day is knowing that Drew is coming home to me. That I will be the first person he sees at the end of his work day, that we have an evening ahead of togetherness, and sharing over dinner, small talk over washing up, a comfortable silence as we complete mundane tasks in preparation for tomorrow, and intimate pillow talk. That goodnight doesn’t lead to a long drive home to separate beds, counting down the days to the next time. In a house as cosy (small) as ours it is seldom that we are not occupying the same space or within arms reach of the other.
When we were dating our biggest and most frequent arguments were based on us not spending enough time together. The looong season of waiting. It has made us value and appreciate the simple joy of not having to wait long, and not having to say goodbye… for long.
Marriage being ‘the best’ doesn’t mean ‘perfect’, or ‘always happy’ or ‘always easy’. Living together for the first time is always an adjustment, and we really tested this adjustment period living together for the first time only AFTER we were married. Drew and I had individually made the decision to stay pure for our future husband and future wife before we had even met. So as heart wrenching as it was to say to goodbye after every date, living together before marriage was not an option for us. Imagining our lives after marriage, the little home we would create, the traditions we would start, the time we would spend together was our comfort when the frustration of being apart overwhelmed us. For us looking back, our season of waiting was what makes our love story even sweeter. Although we had been together for 9 years already, we had no experience of ‘playing house’ until after we had returned from our honeymoon. With the combination of our long-term relationship, my profession, our commitment to always dating after marriage, Christ as our cornerstone for how to love in marriage and our pre-marriage counselling, we naively felt secure that we would find the transition to marriage overall - seamless. Instead there were several adjustment areas once we returned from honeymoon that honestly took us by surprise because there are some things you cannot anticipate unless you are living together. (For this reason, if you are waiting for marriage to live together, I would advise that you schedule some post-marriage sessions with your couple mentors, pastor, older married couple you trust etc, to realign your expectations with the reality).
This first year of marriage is your honeymoon period, it’s the period of so many ‘firsts’ as now husband and wife, in many ways it is the enactment of your fantasies of playing house and endless sleepovers with your best friend, coupled with the raw realities of toilet routines and pimple popping (that soon become couple activities), sickness and not always sexiness. All couples who move in together experience a period of adjustment and acclimatisation, but there is something about knowing we were married that made us extra intentional and extra aware that the way in which we choose to work through this adjustment period would define and set the foundation for the rest of our marriage. We were less than a month in and already having to actively live out our vow to CHOOSE to love, even when we didn’t feel loving.
In retrospect we probably didn’t need to unpack all 40 of my boxes in the 4 days post-honeymoon. Unpacking is not for the faint hearted. There is such power in physically unpacking your boxes, rearranging a home to accommodate two individuals, sharing a space, and a life, and how it so poignantly represents the uniting of two people as one. We totally underestimated this experience. Drew uncomfortably watched me unpack my 40 boxes into our cosy (small) one-bedroom apartment, with my overly optimistic assurance that I will find place for it all, when we barely had place to put our feet, a space that he had begun to make his own, now totally shared, we both needed some time to cool off, to recollect ourselves, find our bearings and once again actively live out our other vow - no matter what challenges might carry us apart, we would always find our way back to each other.
I joke that I exposed Drew to the worst of me when we were dating so that he knew what he was getting himself into. But in reality seeing each other’s bad habits, and daily pace on date night, is very different to living with these bad habits. Previously we could excuse these annoying idiosyncrasies and human nuances, by not wanting to spoil the sacredness of our time together, avoiding calling out the irritations that inevitably cause conflict. In marriage, post-honeymoon blues, realigning personal expectations about acceptable levels of tidiness, the frequency and timing of sex, whether the Use By date is a precautionary measure or life threatening data, longing for just 1 night of uninterrupted sleep, are real struggles folks!
Neither of us had ever slept with another person in our bed. We both love cuddling so its not falling asleep that is the problem, its staying asleep! Pre-marriage I would wake in the same position as I fell asleep, often cocooned in my duvet house, and once asleep very little disturbs my slumber. Drew on the other hand needs space to move and to cool down, to experience the freedom of lying on his sides, on his stomach, on his back at various intervals during the night. We dreamed of nights in each other’s arms, and mornings basking in the euphoria of each other’s presence… Instead for the first 3 months of marriage we woke up exhausted! Finding our sleeping rhythm, getting used to another body in the bed, balancing our body temperatures, and exhaustion-induced sleeping positions, took us time to adjust. Not every morning was basked in the euphoria of newlywed bliss, but every morning light was painted with doses of GRACE UPON GRACE. Ah Grace, yes, the one thing all husbands and wives should pray for daily doses of.
Marriage is transforming. And even when you expect that marriage will change you, change can still be surprising and unfamiliar. Marriage and living together for the first time require that Grace runs deep. I would like to say that Drew and I are similar in the ways that count but are very different in the things that could cost. What I mean by that is our virtues & values and God-given vision for our family is the same, and that’s ultimately what counts, but we have to guard against allowing our stark differences in personality, sleeping styles & coping styles to become points of contention as this would truly cost us our joy, and fulfillment as husband and wife. Drew and I both want our marriage to succeed, to be filled with joy and to grow. In all that is different about us, it is this shared goal in which we are intentional and dedicated.
There is a delicate balance to the transitioning that takes place in a new marriage. Both mystery and mess are part of the transition. We were so hard on ourselves to get it just right. My encouragement to you is to get it wrong. Mess up, make a mess, be messy with each other, and then in the darkest of times and the darkest of nights crawl back to one another with understanding in your hearts, a willingness to grow in grace, ready to nurture and build, and talk. Spend the first year of your marriage using honest words to wade through the mess, and the mystery. A marriage built on and wrapped in Grace is a marriage that lasts. Grace is meeting in the mess and offering sweet, unmerited favour and acknowledgment that you are both still figuring out this story called Marriage. Grace is a love that has nothing to do with us but everything to do with the one from whom it derived: God. Grace means that your mess and mistakes now serve a purpose in your home. Drew is the calm to my storm, the clean freak to my clutter, the reason in my emotions, the functional to my aesthetic, the time keeper to my tardiness, the budgeter to my spender, you could say I am the spice to his vanilla ;-) In our small house there is space for all of this.
Waiting for one another wasn't passive; it was active. I prepared, anticipated and prayed. When you have longed and hoped for your person to become your husband for such a long time, the joy in having your heart's desire doesn't soon diminish. Our lives are now intertwined. We read, play, laugh and drink coffee— together. Our marriage was a decision of our wills, with the willingness to love in the ordinary dailies of life and not just the grand events. We are only 5 months into our marriage, and it still stained with newness, but each night as we cuddle up close and add an extra night of uninterrupted sleep to our story, each morning that we embrace and dispel for our work day ahead, and each evening as I am filled with anticipation and joy as I await his arrival home to OUR sweet home, I am reminded of how we are both becoming more teachable, and more humbled, and our marriage is becoming more layered with an abundance of grace and love.
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