Welcome to the ‘Confessions of a Newlywed’ blog series! If you are new to the blog, welcome! This series queues off The Other Virgin Diaries series, spawned by the post I Waited Until My Wedding Night to Lose My Virginity. In these posts I will be sharing how I prepared for marriage, how I was NOT prepared for marriage, and what I’ve learned along the way as full time career woman and wife of one year. These posts are a ‘me to you’ story of my experiences. Read my favorite marriage blogs for advice from veteran wives: Time Warp Wife, Unveiled Wife, and Women Living Well.
Sometimes, marriage advice is depressing.
Before I got married, I asked a lot of questions. I wanted to know what to expect; I wanted to prepare and plan and make the transition as easy as possible. As I asked my questions, however, I wasn’t always pleased with the answers. Some were downright discouraging.
Does this have to be true for ME? I wondered. Matter of fact – it didn’t! Below are four things I was told as an engaged woman that were proven false in my first year of marriage.
1. You can’t plan sex – it’s supposed to be spontaneous.
I’ve sat at many a lingerie shower listening to wives declare the utter impossibility of planning sex.
“It has to be spontaneous!” They exclaimed.
But the strategist that I am, I had to wonder: why do I read so many posts and comments by women, a few years down the road, who think intimacy is a duty and a bore? I didn’t want that happen.
I’d heard the phrase, “Sex begins at breakfast”, meaning your attitude throughout the day, and how you treat your spouse, has great influence on what happens later that night. And it’s definitely true! But because I found this true – and because I knew women take longer to ‘warm up’ to the idea – planning when to have sex seemed like a very logical solution to the ‘problem’ of unwilling wives.
So we plan it. Sometimes we even mark it on the calendar. This yields the following benefits:
- I am emotionally, mentally, and physically prepared. When we plan intimacy, I have anywhere from all day to all week (if he is traveling) to look forward to that plan. I won’t be caught off guard emotionally or mentally; in other words, I have all day to prepare my ‘mood’ and no reason to not be in one.
- I schedule my day’s duties with the plan in mind. By planning, I make sure my household and work duties are complete by the time we plan to retire. Since stress and distraction are the enemies of intimacy, good planning removes those factors and improves the experience.
- I am able to focus fully on my husband without worrying about what didn’t get done. A plan quells my tendency to bustle to and fro, working on things that don’t need immediate attention. By planning everything, we have time to relax together – which should be the whole point of having a plan!
- It’s fun! It’s like creating a reward system for ourselves: we get to look forward to what we have planned, rather than deciding spur-of-the-moment, in the middle of washing dishes or doing homework, what we want to do (though that happens on occasion as well). It doesn’t demean the experience – it makes it better!
This doesn’t mean there aren’t spontaneous moments. But planning – which we do for everything from meals, to our schedule, to cleaning the house – gives us a sense of freedom and accomplishment. We know that we can enjoy the company of one another without the burden of our daily responsibilities.
Note: By ‘unwilling’, I do not indicate these women are being forced to have sex; I mean women who are reluctant to be intimate with their husbands on a regular basis, for a variety of reasons. This article provides some great resources for wives who struggle with this problem.
2. You will (or should) want to spend every free moment with your spouse.
I felt like a bad person.
The woman seemed to spend every waking hour with her husband; I couldn’t understand it. And what I REALLY couldn’t understand is why I felt guilty about it. Am I supposed to want that? I wondered nervously. After all, who could I ask about this? I could see the other wives looking at me, shock and horror in their eyes as I admitted – I don’t actually want to be with my new husband 24/7.
Don’t get me wrong: I love Mr. M dearly. I tell him everything and love to spend time with him, and I certainly don’t look down on women who spend more time with their spouse than I do.
But I have other friends, too. You know – the ones I had before I was married. And frankly, I need them in my life.
While it is biblical to keep your closest confidences and dearest dreams between you and your spouse – for the sake of faithfulness and unity – it is not wrong to want time apart. Here’s why:
- I need a new perspective. Spending time with my girlfriends (and mentors), telling each other ideas, struggles, and latest news, allows me to get out of my self and appreciate the lives they are living. Their input is instrumental as I navigate the challenges of life. I need their godly influence. And they, in turn, need me.
- I need rest and reconnection. Being with my girlfriends allows me to be a woman among women. While my husband knows me well (and understands me perfectly), time with godly women helps me remember who I am as a PERSON – not just as a wife. And as they encourage me in my walk with God as a woman, I become a better partner to my husband.
- He needs time with the men in his life. This goes both ways: a man needs time with his friends, too. Young husbands need to see examples of what to do by being with men who are doing marriage the right way. They also need time with the friends they had before marriage – the guys who stood up with them at the altar. It gives perspective, just as it does for me as a wife.
- We appreciate each other more when we spend time apart. Spending time apart cultivates a deeper appreciation for one another: after all, ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’. I don’t mean taking separate vacations and living separate lives. I mean taking an evening or a lunch, or maybe a weekend once in a while to reconnect with the people who supported you prior to marriage. You’ll need that community no matter what stage of life you are in.
3. You’ll give up those standards of cleanliness/organization after a few months – they’re unrealistic.
There is a saying, “Great moms have sticky floors, dirty ovens, and happy kids.”
I hate that saying.
Ever since I was young and I first saw that phrase hanging on someone’s blog, I’ve had that nagging voice in the back of my head telling me, “That will be you someday. You can’t have a clean house AND happy kids. No one does.”
But my mom did. Our farmhouse had five bedrooms, three bathrooms, and six kids crawling through it every single day. Was it perfect? No, and probably not up to mom’s personal standards. But she taught us to mop floors by hand, vacuum the baseboards, dust the shelves, wash the windows and steward what belonged to us as a family. We were happy, and our house was clean.
When I got married, that nagging voice told me I was wrong to want a clean house: one that was vacuumed, dusted, picked up, maintained, decorated, and basically a haven of rest for me and my work-weary husband. I felt like I was wrong to want such a thing; like it was a shallow desire.
But as I evaluated my motives, I realized this desire wasn’t shallow at all. I had specific reasons for wanting a clean house:
- Cleanliness reduced my stress level, so I could enjoy time with my husband more.
- Cleanliness maintained the quality of things I had been given by God and family.
- Cleanliness meant I was never running pell-mell trying to clean up a messy house when people stopped by.
- Cleanliness required discipline and organization that benefits the rest of my life.
So I determined to make my standards for the house realistic. And in so doing, I proved that despite my 40-60 hour work week, volunteer work, and blog writing, I could have clean floors, a clean oven, and a happy husband.
Mr. M and I split the work. I asked for help. I scheduled when I would do laundry, clean the bathroom, and wash the sheets. I would do a quick dusting job before watching a movie, vacuum while the washing machine thumped away, and iron while Mr. M watched a TV show. Most importantly, I constantly clean as I go. For long-term tasks – like scrubbing grout or cleaning the oven – I would leave one day a month to deep clean.
I did it for me, and by making that choice, I blessed my marriage. I didn’t come home from work to MORE work; I came home to a haven, where I could relax and enjoy a respite from the day. So for other young wives out there, this IS possible – if you want to make it happen. It won’t always be perfect (a fact I learned to accept), but it doesn’t have to be a pig pen, either (especially prior to kids). I found more marital happiness with a clean floor and oven than I would have if I’d abandoned both.
4. You’re wearing rose-colored glasses the whole first year.
Not if you don’t want to.
I never thought my husband was perfect, and BELIEVE ME, he knew I wasn’t either. We entered marriage with a good view of the other’s flaws and failings. We fought often, but with each fight we gained a better knowledge of the other person’s needs. Other couples won’t have this same story; that’s okay. But there are ways to enter marriage with a logical, realistic view of what that relationship will require. Here is what we did while dating that accomplished just that result:
- We took a financial class together. We weren’t even engaged, but we decided to take Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace course so we could learn to handle our individual accounts better, but also to see if we had the same standards of living. During that class, we decided we wouldn’t have cable if we got married. We plotted our sample budgets (talked about in the post, 5 Habits I Formed When I Was Single) and decided what we were willing to live without to make ends meet.
- We cooked, cleaned, and babysat together. ‘Doing life’ this way helped me see Mr. M’s quirks, habits, and strengths. I learned what irritated him. He learned how I liked things cleaned. When watching children together, I saw how he played with them yet gently corrected them when they needed guidance. And in these mundane duties, we saw what irritated each other.
- We were open about what made us angry. I remember our first argument: the one where my then-boyfriend told me I was being incredibly selfish. Some people would recoil in prideful disgust at the very thought of a man correcting his girlfriend. I say: thanks, babe. I knew what I needed to change; he knew my weaknesses. And in marriage, we are still just as honest with each other – even when it hurts.
There’s a difference between wearing rose-colored glasses of ignorance and inexperience, and willfully choosing to love someone in spite of his or her flaws. I know my husband’s flaws; he knows mine. But we CHOOSE to think the best of each other because God requires us to love and respect.
It’s a learning curve every day, but each day is a new opportunity to paint a real love as rosily as you choose to make it.
Look, there are a lot of negative voices about marriage in this world: voices of bitterness, regret, and anger from broken and hurting people. But it is not unsympathetic to ignore the voices that discourage you. If you believe in something that will benefit your marriage, make it happen! Talk it over with God and with your spouse, list some pros and cons (we have a white board for that express purpose!) and go for it – naysayers aside.
I’ve found, as a young wife, many couples dish out marriage advice as if it is universal truth – when in reality, much of it is preference and experimentation (outside of God’s standards for marriage). While it is good to listen and take it all in stride, remember that YOUR marriage is not THEIR marriage. Don’t let the negative experiences of other people dictate the expectations for your marriage. Instead, depend on God’s standards for marriage (love and respect), common sense, and trial and error to find what works for you – in addition to advice from couples who have set an example of godliness in their union.
Outside of the universal guidelines God has set out in Scripture, so much of marriage is learning how the other person ticks; that’s what this bride has discovered! Everyone is different, so every marriage is different. So don’t get discouraged from your hopes and plans until you try them for yourself. If you want a clean house – don’t give up on it! If you want to plan your intimacy – do it! If you want to go on a date each week – make it happen! Just because it failed someone else doesn’t mean that will be true for you.
From one newlywed to another ~
In the Confessions series: