Disclaimer: I don't want to be a massive party-pooper. The start of a marriage is beautiful. Getting to really know each other and building trust is a wonderful process, where often we unlock parts of ourselves we never knew existed. The raw, unconditional love I receive from my husband is powerful and empowering beyond belief, and my best memories of us together are always full of warmth, laughter and happiness.
Getting married is a really big deal. It's a massive deal whether you've known your to-be-spouse your entire life, or you've never met them before; or whether you've lived with them, or you've lived countries apart. We're often led to believe that the beginning of married life is blissful. A lot of us prepare ourselves for walks into the sunset and candle-lit dinners, all while feeling unconditionally loved and all our imperfections being ignored. Traditionally, this has been termed "the honeymoon period" and different accounts of this mythical time period reveal it to be of different lengths: some say it's 6 months, others say 1 year and some even claim it lasts up to 2 years. The reality is, it doesn't actually exist, even if you do go on a honeymoon, i.e. a short break to a nicer place shortly after the wedding with just the two of you. In fact, the beginning of your marriage is full of challenges and difficulties, while still being beautiful, fun, romantic and exciting. In short: it's not easy.
We get married, in the most part, because fundamentally we want to build a life of happiness with this person. We all know this means facing good and bad times together, and we even know it means accepting each other's bad habits, morning unpleasant breath and smelly socks. We understand that it means taking our two separate lives and somehow creating one. This is actually harder than it sounds, because we often chose to marry the person, and not his/her life. Let me explain: I chose my spouse mainly because I fell head over heels, in love with him. How could I not? He's smart, funny, caring, sensitive, God-conscious, beautiful, and I thought he'd make a great father one day. I chose to be with him. I looked forward to hiking adventures, long drives and even longer conversations. Even though I accept and know these things help make up who he is, I didn't fundamentally *choose* to marry his job, his other responsibilities or his studies. But somehow, I did. And in turn, he married my commitments, relationships, and goals. So suddenly making one life together becomes more than about managing your preferences like what you each want for dinner, or agreeing on how to make the best cup of tea. It becomes about merging your lives, and at the same time, trying to be "married". This is where we often find we have gaps in our expectations, communication and understanding.
These gaps are natural, and the most important thing to realise is that it will take time, patience and energy to fill them. You don't just lose your routine, friends, commitments or hobbies when you get married. We don't start from the beginning; rather we take these things and fit them around someone else's life, while still focusing on the relationship between the two of you. We want to become support to one another, offering refuge, warmth and strength in a tumultuous world. It's a mammoth task and one that goes hugely underrated.
Things to look out for, but not be alarmed by during this period include: bickering, over-thinking, agitation, hurt, and feelings of disappointment, isolation and confusion. A lot of newly married people experience these negative feelings, and think there must be something drastically wrong because this is "supposed to be the honeymoon period." My friends, I want you to know that you are not alone.
Becoming a husband or a wife doesn't just happen when you say, "I do", "Yes, I agree" or sign the dotted line. It is a role based on love, loyalty, trust, responsibility and care, and takes longer to get the hang of than we are ever led to believe. You will invest a massive amount of energy in how you can change each other to find happiness. The reality is, you both will change, sometimes as a part of life and all its demands, and sometimes because the growth of your relationship will want you to be different (read: better) people.
The real key is to find happiness and contentment in your present moment, and to realise your partner by your side is what is making your moment that bit sweeter. That despite all the bickering and differences, that you will eventually overcome, your life is better because they're with you for the long-run. Remember the bad things won't last forever, and that the beginning of this journey, as hard as it sometimes feels, is full of roses and sunshine too, and is more than worth it.