Rainbows and Butterflies

It’s an ebb and flow kind of thing.  Marriage has its highs and lows.  It isn’t all butterflies and rainbows; in fact, sometimes, there are no butterflies and rainbows at all.

My first year of marriage was absolute hell.  I was expecting a honeymoon period.  You know that period of time all counselors and well intentioned friends talk about when you first realize that there are real problems in your marriage.  They say things like, “sounds like the honeymoon is over” and “welcome to the real world.”  I remember learning in my Marriage and Family Therapy class that the honeymoon period can last up to two years for some couples, which led my into complete denial of the fact that not even two weeks into my marriage, my husband and I would be having a screaming, throwing things, threatening to leave fight.  Now in all fairness, my teacher described his first year of marriage as pure hell as well, but for some reason that didn’t resonate with me the same way the two year blissful honeymoon period did.  Call me naive if you will, I choose to believe I’m just a girl who had a fairy tale dream that obviously wasn’t reality.

My husband and I spent our first year of marriage saying things like, “this may have been a mistake, but we made a commitment, so we better figure out a way to make it work.”  Shoes were thrown and walls were punched.  So many incredibly hurtful words were slung without hesitation or care for the long term impact they would have.  We became experts in regards to anger, bitterness and selfishness.  We knew that divorce wasn’t a real option for either of us so we often wondered if we were resigning to live our lives miserable.

That year, many friends and acquaintances got married.  I remember being sick with envy when they would talk about how amazing married life was.  Apparently they were still experiencing their honeymoon period and I secretly wished all of my pain and disappointment on them.  I couldn’t wait to hear them come crying to me down the road about how bad things had gotten and in my eternal optimism (which I do not actually contain), I HOPED with every fiber of my being that things would be better for my husband  and I by then.  I often told my husband that we just had to get through this really difficult period and then we would have a stronger and fulfilling marriage, but inside I was terrified that things would always stay the same.

Pink’s song Please Don’t Leave Me was played often in my heart that year.

I don’t know if I can yell any louder
How many times have I kicked you outta here?
Or said something insulting?

I can be so mean when I wanna be
I am capable of really anything
I can cut you into pieces
But my heart is… broken

Please don’t leave me
Please don’t leave me
I always say how I don’t need you
But it’s always gonna come right back to this
Please don’t leave me

How did I become so obnoxious?
What is it with you that makes me act like this?
I’ve never been this nasty

Can’t you tell that this is all just a contest?
The one that wins will be the one that hits the hardest
But baby I don’t mean it
I mean it, I promise

Please don’t leave me
Please don’t leave me
I always say how I don’t need you
But it’s always gonna come right back to this
Please don’t leave me

I forgot to say out loud how beautiful you really are to me
I can’t be without, you’re my perfect little punching bag
And I need you, I’m sorry.
Please, please don’t leave me

Baby, please don’t leave me
Please don’t leave me
I always say how I don’t need you
But it’s always gonna come right back to this
Please don’t leave me
Please don’t leave me
I always say how I don’t need you
But it’s always gonna come right back to this

Please, please don’t leave me
Please, please don’t leave me

Year one was absolute hell.  Year two was a roller coaster.

My husband and I started to find a groove during our second year of marriage.  While we still argued and said and did unhealthy and hurtful things to one another in the heat of anger, we had learned how to communicate calmly once things had settled down.  We went through periods of really good times and periods of really terrible times, but things were definitely looking up in my book.  Selfishness had began to fade, but was still ever present.  It was the roller coaster ride of my life and it reminded me of a quote from the movie Parenthood.

Grandma: You know, when I was nineteen, Grandpa took me on a roller coaster.

Gil: Oh?

Grandma: Up, down, up, down. Oh, what a ride!

Gil: What a great story.

Grandma: I always wanted to go again. You know, it was just so interesting to me that a ride could make me so frightened, so scared, so sick, so excited, and so thrilled all together! Some didn’t like it. They went on the merry-go-round. That just goes around. Nothing. I like the roller coaster. You get more out of it.

I was hopeful, but still seething from the prior year.  Hurtful things had been said and forgiven, but certainly not forgotten.  All I knew was that marriage was not supposed to be this hard.  No one had ever told me that marriage could be so devastating.  My parents exemplified a strong, healthy and loving marriage all throughout my years at home and I thought that every marriage was just as easy as theirs (that their marriage was easy was an assumption and most likely a very wrong assumption).  Despite my hope for a better future, I didn’t understand why things were so bad.  I just wanted to have a happy and healthy marriage.

Being married to a pastor only made things worse.  It made all of our struggles and unhappiness stay EXTREMELY private and added guilt that should not have been there.  Only our counselor knew what was really happening with us (and I would venture to say that we were not completely honest with him).  We felt alone.  We felt that if we made ourselves vulnerable by telling the truth, we would be criticized and even worse, my husband would lose his job.  We felt guilty that we didn’t know what we were doing and that we couldn’t make our marriage work.  Even though it shouldn’t be this way, there is this code of silence among so many in ministry.  Vulnerability is feared above all else.

Year one was absolute hell.  Year two was a roller coaster.  Year three was amazing.

Our third year of marriage started out surrounded by people who loved and cared for us.  I was finally being honest with myself and with a trusted confidant and I believe my husband was finally being honest with himself as well.  Early into our third year of marriage, we found out that I was pregnant and we moved to a new state where my husband had accepted a new ministry position (talk about a new beginning).  This was the year of love, fun and surprises for us.

Being pregnant really forced my husband and I to grow up.  We knew that in just a few short months our lives would dramatically change and we wanted desperately to make the most of our last bit of time just the two of us.  We finally truthfully enjoyed being around each other and learned the true meaning of selflessness.  Our intimacy grew astronomically as we began to take an interest someone other than ourselves.

We started cuddling again.  You know how when you first start dating someone and there is something so incredibly satisfying about sitting on the couch all cuddled up next to each other for hours?  We had that back and it was amazing.  Communication ran ramped in our home and loving gestures were freely handed out.  It wasn’t about what I could get out of the marriage.  It was about what I could provide for my husband.

I tell you this story, my friends, for no other reason but to encourage.  I will attend the wedding of a dear friend tomorrow and while there will be well wishes and happy thoughts directed at her, I hope and pray that she has some idea of reality.  Not every marriage is the same.  Not every first year is pure hell.  I know that my marriage will not remain the same.  It is ever changing, ever evolving for better or for worse.  I once heard someone say (in a movie?  tv show?  who knows) that marriage is hard and that there are both good and bad times.  The person explained that there was a three year time period in which he and his wife hardly could stand each other, but they were committed to one another and made it work and are better for it.  That is how it has to be.  We, as married people, have to know that it can always be better.  Even when we are experiencing the best years of our lives together, know that there is still work to be done.  Marriage is difficult and it takes a lot of work.  You have to be willing to grow as an individual and as a couple.  You have to be willing to experience the difficult so that you can truly taste the sweet.

If you are a newlywed and are experiencing the difficult, please know that it does get better.  You CAN make things different.  You CAN have a fulfilling and loving marriage.  It takes vulnerability and trust and strength you didn’t know you had.  It takes hard work, but it is so worth it.  Don’t give up.  Don’t feel like there is something wrong with you because you just got married and are incredibly miserable.  It happens, my friend.  It happens.

If you haven’t yet experienced a rough couple of years, brace yourself.  I believe it is inevitable.  You cannot spend a lifetime with someone and never experience anything difficult.  Know that marriage goes is waves of good and bad.  Know that the size of the waves are different for everyone and that everyone reacts to each wave differently.

Be encouraged, though.  Marriage is a good thing.  It is the most incredible gift and experience.  To love and be loved.  It may be messy, but it is the most worthwhile mess in the world.

I leave you today with a recommendation for one of my FAVORITE movies about marriage.  The Story of Us.  If you can get your hands on it, WATCH IT!!!


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