What could a young newlywed possibly have learned in her first six months of marriage — that giddy time when everything feels “new” and exciting — that is worth sharing with a wide audience? More than you think.
I taught high school for nine years. I was a single adult for over a decade. So six months seems like a drop in the bucket in comparison. But when I reflect on how my life has changed since my husband, Kristian, and I declared our consent before the Lord, our family and our friends, it feels as if those six months miraculously expanded to include several years’ worth of transformation, healing, growth and joy.
The biggest change for us has been our pregnancy, which wasn’t unexpected in the sense that we were hoping to have a child as soon as possible. But literally nothing can prepare you for how transformative pregnancy is for the body, soul, mind and marriage.
Some of our non-Catholic friends and family were incredulous when we told them we were hoping to get pregnant right away. “Don’t you want to have some time together first?” they asked.
And I get it. Part of me wishes I hadn’t felt awful for three of the six months we’ve been married. Part of me wishes Kristian and I had been able to take a camping trip with all of the awesome gear we got as wedding gifts before I had to use the bathroom every five minutes. Part of me wishes we could have had years to take advantage of Kristian’s flight benefits (he works for Delta), travel the world together, and all that jazz.
But that’s not the best part of me. I know that, at the end of the day, my life and our marriage is not about me — or us. It’s about being living witnesses of the love of a God who continually pours Himself out to us. I also know that so many of my dear friends and family members would have loved to have children right away, but had to suffer through years of fertility struggles and in some cases are still struggling.
I don’t know why we received this gift right away, but I know it is a gift. And when I look back on the past six months, mild morning sickness and weight gain notwithstanding, I wouldn’t change a thing.
The first trimester, when I was sick and tired 90 percent of the time, was such a time of growth in our relationship. Staying in more and socializing less gave us an opportunity to spend quiet evenings together that we won’t have again until our kid(s) are grown and out of the house. Knowing our family is growing has given us more perspective on things such as finances, home ownership, and more. And watching Kristian snap into protective daddy mode has been a total joy. I always knew he had a servant’s heart, but since we became pregnant I’ve been blown away by his selflessness and daily sacrifices.
True, we haven’t entered into the post-honeymoon period yet, but I think the lessons we’re learning now will serve us well as we enter the universally challenging years of parenting little ones. I know the past six months have inspired greater trust in and admiration for the man I married, and I can only imagine how much more I will fall in love with him as I watch him grow into his fatherhood.
Sometimes I wonder what kinds of suffering life will bring our way, what struggles we will have in the future that will test our love, as gold is tested in fire, and what the periods of “dryness” in our marriage will look like. And then I hear the Holy Spirit whisper to my heart a gentle reminder to enjoy this time. Once again, I have to surrender my fears and anxieties to the Lord, because otherwise Satan so easily steals my joy.
Quite a few people have asked if marriage is everything I hoped it would be. The answer is, as always, “Yes … and no.”
Yes, it is wonderful and freeing and so much fun to live life with your husband day in and day out. But I didn’t expect how healing and challenging and purifying it would be — even though many of my married friends told me it would be.
Kristian has taught me to rest in his love, to receive love even when I feel unworthy of it, to stop interrupting and to listen before responding, to pay attention to the ebb and flow of his emotional state and learn the cues for when he’s hungry or tired and just needs a break. He’s also taught me to be more spontaneous, romantic and joyful. I didn’t savor life quite as much as I do now, and that is in large part thanks to my husband.
So there you have it. I am at peace. Even in the midst of all of the uncertainties of pregnancy and the growth of our little family, I am at peace. And that is a miracle. Deo gratias.
Note: It is true there is freedom in entering into your vocation; Kristian and I have both experienced that. It’s paradoxically liberating to know I am bound to my husband for the rest of our lives. But I am convinced I wouldn’t be able to experience this freedom to the depth that I have if I hadn’t gone to therapy (and truth be told, I’m still going) and spiritual direction before I ever met Kristian. And yes, therapy really is important, folks. Don’t put it off.
Christina Dehan Jaloway is a freelance writer, speaker, and former high school theology teacher based in Texas. She is an editor at Spoken Bride, a Catholic website for brides and newlyweds, and blogs at The Evangelista.