Surviving the first year of marriage
The 12 months following your wedding day should be a wonderfully exciting time, but only if you have the right expectations of what marriage is, says Anna Bailey.
There are so many scaremongering stories (many of them, sadly, true) about the ‘first year of marriage being the hardest’ and the statistics revealing the phenomenal divorce rate amongst newly-weds is worrying.
It is coming up to a year now since I married my husband James.
Thankfully our experience (so far!), though has had its minor ups and downs, has not involved relationship-threatening trials, but I wonder whether this has more to do with our expectations of what marriage is?
On our wedding day, at the exhilarating moment when my brother walked me down the aisle, these lyrics from a Matt Maher song echoed throughout the church:
"This is the great unknown
Love is a long and narrow road
Come chase this heart of stone
I need a future not my own"
During our wedding preparation sessions, our parish priest warned us against having a tit-for-tat marriage, against an attitude where spouses are in competition with each other: “You’ve had this, so I must be allowed to have that.”
Instead, he challenged us to have a relationship that gives way to the other and does not count the cost. This ‘giving way’ to the other is not easy, but it was never meant to be.
Jesus, the perfect lover, shows us the ultimate ‘giving way’ through His death on the Cross. Love is sometimes painful, especially when you are learning what it means to ‘give way’ to the other.
Whether you’re giving way to more than half the quilt, your finances, your time alone, the family Christmas you have known for over 30 years (the list of potential sacrifices is endless!), these moments of ‘giving way’ are worth it for a marriage where you begin to experience the fullness of life, freedom and faithfulness that God intended for loving relationships.
A shared horizon
C.S. Lewis describes marriage as two friends standing shoulder-to-shoulder and staring at a common horizon.
James is not a baptised Christian, so prior to getting married we had to discuss what horizon we were facing as we stood shoulder-to-shoulder. I believe that marriage is the vehicle that will make me holy, preparing me for heaven. James entered marriage knowing that his mission is to try to love me “…as Christ loved the church…” (Ephesians 5:25), giving up his life for me.
We are still learning. Sometimes we succeed and sometimes through our weakness, sin and frailty we fail.
“To heal the wounds of sin, man and woman need the help of the grace that God in his infinite mercy never refuses them. Without his help man and woman cannot achieve the union of their lives for which God created them ‘in the beginning.’” (Catechism of the Catholic Church #1608)
So at the beginning of our marriage, we are learning to be gentle with one another. We are learning to forgive. We are learning to give way to the other. And we are learning what it means to be heading towards a future not our own, but a future that belongs to the Lord.
"This world is not my home
I still have miles and miles to go
Come break this heart of stone
I need a future not my own” (Matt Maher).