My husband and I have dreams of a tiny house. We binge eat sharp cheddar cheese and green tea into all hours of the night while watching strange tiny house building shows and making plans to squash all four of our children in one tiny loft with our not-tiny dog.
When we get downtrodden about our actual ability to fit our family into a tiny house, we reminisce about our first year of marriage. That year, we lived in the tiniest apartment known to man. The bedroom and kitchen and living room all melded into one. My husband used the walk-in closet to study advanced Hebrew and escape his beautiful but nagging wife. ;)
That first year was special, memorable, exciting, and mostly . . . it was hard. Since that first year, I have heard from countless couples the same thing—good and hard, wonderful and a struggle, a time for joy, a time for learning, and a time to batten down the hatches.
Why is the first year so hard?
As always, we can turn to Scripture for the answer.
Genesis 2:24 tells us right off the bat, at marriage numero uno, what the first year is made of: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”
Ah, the good old leave and cleave. It really is a thing.
A primary reason marriage in the first year is especially challenging is because the discovering and developing of the leaving and cleaving is so new. There were once two separate people, who are now one. One in heart, one in mind, one in spirit, one flesh. The combining of this oneness, in a world steeped with opinions and expectations and sin, is anything but easy. Take heart, dear newlyweds, many have gone before you, and while it’s not easy, it’s most certainly worth it. Marriage never quite makes it to “easy” at any point, but as my mama always said, “Nothing in life that’s worth it is ever easy.”
Combining two families . . . there are two of you and so there are two families of origin. Two different ways of doing the dishes, two different ways of paying bills, two different ways of sleeping, two different ways of communicating when you’re upset. The way you were raised will affect your marriage today. Leaving your family of origin means developing your own way of doing things together. This may rub some people wrong, but it’s necessary and, according to Genesis 2, it’s godly. He desires for you to love your family, to respect your family, but create your own.
Combining two personalities . . . surprise! You didn’t marry yourself. ;) This is good and bad news. The good news is that every day will be an adventure. And most likely, you married the complement to your own personality. Where you are harsh, they are gentle; where you are impatient, they are patient; where you are weak, they are strong. The bad news is that this makes communication and decision making just that, adventurous. Take time to discover who your spouse is and celebrate every little nuance. When something comes up in their personality that is very different from yourself, take a deep breath and thank God for creating and forming them into the man or woman they are. Over time, even though you think you could never love your spouse more than you do on this day, you will. You’ll get to see and know so much more of them than you ever thought possible. You will discover them, they will discover you, and you will cleave into one flesh that fits together just the way God planned.
Combining two wills . . . ah, this is where the “hold fast” comes into play. We are sinful people. We have lots of ideas and plans and hopes and dreams. You may have one vantage point of your life and your spouse may have another. Forgiveness will certainly be necessary on a daily basis. Speak forgiveness and mercy over your spouse when their old Adam rises up. In doing so, you speak Christ intimately to them, in a way that no one else can on this earth. And in doing that, you both speak Christ to the hurting world around you. There will be hard things that come up. You will butt heads. In the first year, it’s just so obvious because it’s all so new. Honor each other. Stick together like white on rice. Hold fast. Cling to each other in the difficult things. Pursue each other closely in all of it.
Combining two is not easy, hence the title of this article, “Why the first year of marriage is so stinkin’ hard.” But it does happen in the mystery of God, slowly and over time (Ephesians 5:32). He is at work, dear couples. He is growing you and tending to your precious marriage. Hold fast, friends.