They say that the first year of marriage is the hardest. If you can make it past this benchmark, it’s all downhill from there. This statement might be true because we definitely had some issues during our first year.
It probably didn’t help that we only knew each other for about five minutes before we tied the knot. This is an exaggeration, but not really. We were engaged for about six months.
After the honeymoon was over, we quickly discovered that we are both first-born children, which means we both think we are right even when one of us is wrong.
Because we’d only known each other for a short period of time, there were so many things that we didn’t realize about each other. These quickly manifested themselves as stumbling blocks, that we both tripped over frequently. Simple things that many couples often do together, were challenges for us.
We had the same stereotypical scenarios that everyone faces.
Deciding which way the toilet paper is supposed to hang.
Over the top is the correct way of course.
Or the right way to squeeze toothpaste out of the tube.
Always from the bottom up, leaving no drop of toothpaste behind.
Let us not forget the infamous husband vs. wife argument, in which both of us would say,
“Well, that may be the way YOUR family does it, but MY family does it this way…”
Making the Bed
The first time we made our bed, everything was going fine until it came to the sheets. My wife started tucking the sheets under the mattress. I stared in disbelief and asked, “Are you not doing hospital corners!?!” She replied, “What are those?”
Having been in the military, of course, I knew the proper way to tuck in the sheets so that that you could bounce a quarter off of them. As I proceeded to show her the right way to make a bed, she said go for it.
It was then that I noticed that the top sheet was on the wrong way. My mother taught me to have the decorative side down. That way, when you turned down the sheets, you could see the decoration instead of it being hidden. She watched, and let me do my thing.
I still make the bed to this day.
This may be where the phrase, lay in the bed you made, came from.
During our first trip to the grocery store, it seemed like every item that we needed became a discussion. Which spaghetti sauce was the right kind or which items you can buy generic and which ones you never substitute? We had to come to an agreement on every item that we put into the cart.
Then when we got up to the checkout lane, something strange happened. My wife just started putting random stuff up there. Now, having bagged groceries before, I knew that there was an order to how everything was supposed to go down the line. So, I took over organizing the items.
Once again, she stepped back and let me.
It seemed like a trend was developing here…
The first time my wife did the laundry, I recoiled in horror when my clothes had wrinkles. Didn’t she know that some of the items needed to be taken out of the dryer after five minutes and then hung up to dry, so they would be wrinkle free?
Looked like I was going to have to show her how to do that as well. When it comes to which clothes need to be placed in the dryer and which clothes need to be hung out to dry, my wife stated that I am, “Way too frickin’ picky.”
Guess whose job it is to do our laundry?
Actually, I just do ours. She does the laundry for our three daughters. I can’t tell whose clothes are whose in those piles.
Don’t get me wrong, my wife does so much! More than I could possibly list. But, if I had an issue with the way she did something, it quickly became my new job.
My wife is smart.
Trying to listen to and understand each other in the first year takes some serious intentionality. If a new couple has this part figured out, the rest is smooth sailing. We are not perfect but we have a pretty good handle on this now. Not so much at first.
Here are some methods that I tried out in the beginning…
We won’t talk about the time I got so frustrated, I walked over to the (EMPTY) car seat, that was sitting near the door, kicked it and broke my toe. I don’t even remember the circumstances but, man was that dumb. Hindsight is 20/20.
The Silent Treatment
On one occasion, in which I can’t recall what I did wrong, my wife refused to talk to me. She avoided conversation altogether and would walk away from me when I approached her.
Not sure how to go about rectifying the situation, I had the great idea of playing a song on the stereo. It was the Sound of Silence by Simon and Garfunkel. It was so ridiculous that she couldn’t help but laugh and it seemed to break the ice.
If this doesn’t work for you, I apologize in advance. Desperate times call for desperate measures.
It was a lot less painful than the car seat incident.
Just Get Out
While driving in the car, probably after a grocery trip, we got into a heated discussion about something. In my frustration and being done with the conversation, I stopped the car in the middle of the road, got out and started walking away. My wife, equally as done with the conversation, switched seats and drove home to our apartment.
I kept walking, headed in the direction of the apartment complex. The distance was further than I expected, but I finally got close enough to the apartment to actually see it. It was here that I stumbled across a creek, with no way to get across.
I turned around and walked back the way I came. Murphy’s Law, it started to rain.
When I made it back to where I got out of the car, my wife pulled up. I was gone so long, that she started to worry and came back to find me. Thank goodness!
Eventually, I wondered if the problems we were having, had something to do with me. There was no way that it was my wife, for she is perfect in every way. It seemed as if there had to be a better way to go about this marriage thing.
I heard Dave Ramsey say, “If you want to be smart, you do what smart people do.” So I thought, if I want to stay married I should do what successfully married people do.
The best place for me to get that information was from books. So, I began to read marriage books. I began to realize, that what we experienced was typical and smarter people than me had it all figured out.
I didn’t think we needed any counseling, but maybe a guidebook or a game plan.
Like I mentioned before, we are far from perfect, (Facebook is a liar) but I feel like researching the experts took us to a different level. If you want to start somewhere, reading a book is a great place.
Out of all of the marriage books I’ve read, here are my top three recommendations:
Love and Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs
This book talks about the difference between a woman needing to feel loved and a man needing to feel respected. It is an eye-opener in how different we are from each other and how to sort through that. It also discusses the “crazy cycle” which you need to hear about.
These are actually two books, but they go together. They are loosely based on the previous book, but the authors used polled research from real people to get answers that are game changers. I suggest each couple read both of them.
I have been recommending these books, non-stop since I first picked them up years ago. But after you read them, please resist the urge to say, “Remember what it said in the book?” You are going to want to, but it doesn’t go over well. Speaking for a friend.
Confessions of A Terrible Husband by Nick Pavlidis
Lessons learned from a lumpy couch. Nick is very transparent on his marital shortcomings and what he did to make the necessary changes to turn things around for himself, his wife and his children. It is a funny book and a quick read. And Nick is a great guy.
What challenges did you face in the first year of marriage? Share in the comments below.
Visit David at DilemmaMike.com