Four years ago this month, I married the love of my life. It was a perfect and beautiful day, not to mention a perfect wedding date: 9-10-11. I was beyond excited to move into our first apartment together and to learn so much more about this wonderful new husband of mine as we lived side by side for the first time.
What I didn’t expect, though, was how many things no one had told me about marriage and how much being married would teach me about myself.
Everyone expects marriage to take you to a whole new level with your knowledge of your spouse, but I didn’t realize I’d end up at a whole new level with how well I knew myself too.
And honestly, the things I learned about myself weren’t always good things. Conducting my daily life in such close proximity to another human being put a magnifying glass on a few things about me that I hardly even realized before, things that were often uncomfortable:
- My quirks—Having someone watch your every move means they’re going to occasionally point out some things about you that you never knew before—sometimes, things you don’t necessarily want or need to know. For one, I talk too much in social situations when I’m uncomfortable, something I hadn’t noticed till my husband brought it up. I’d say that’s a helpful quirk to know about. On the other hand, some quirks just are what they are. One day my husband and I were eating dinner and he started laughing. “Do you realize you stick your tongue out every time you take a sip out of a glass?” I’ve felt weird about it ever since.
- My insecurities—I’ll admit I’ve never been a super-secure person, but marriage made me hyperaware of all my insecurities. Why? Because for the first time, my insecurities affected a lot more than just me—they affected the man I shared my life with. Whether it was related to body image or wanting people to like me or my fear of being average or my tendency to feel guilty about not being good enough, marriage made me confront insecurities that I had done little to fix up until then.
- My approach toward money—Like I confessed in a story I wrote about our debt repayment (which, praise God, won us $2,000 toward paying off that debt), sharing all my money with someone for the first time and having to agree upon financial decisions wasn’t always simple or easy. Before then, I never had to have a conversation with someone if I wanted to save, spend, or invest; I just did what I wanted to do. Talking things through with Kyle, having to state my opinions, and dealing with the stress of realizing on our one-year wedding anniversary that we were not taking our finances nearly seriously enough brought to the forefront exactly how I felt about money. It took me rebuilding my approach to money in a healthier way for us to be able to become debt-free (minus our house) by age 24, but it would never have happened otherwise.
- The things I value—Along the lines of #3, having a husband (which, it turns out, is quite different than just sharing a room with your sister or an apartment with a college roommate) made me realize what it was that was really important to me. A lot of those values weren’t bad by any means, but one caused some tension pretty often. Kyle and I butt heads very infrequently, but when we did disagree in the first couple years, it was usually because of my strong tendency to place a high value on productivity. Kyle works hard, but then has no problem doing enjoyable activities outside of work hours even with plenty of to-dos on his list. I, on the other hand, didn’t even like watching TV because I felt it was a waste of time. Which brings me to #5 . . .
- My tendency to love others according to what feels best to me—I remember clearly a lightbulb conversation in our marriage when I realized that I was loving Kyle according to my love language, not his. “Acts of service” is my top love language, so while Kyle was “wasting time” watching TV one day in the basement, I was slaving away baking some healthy muffins for him to show him I cared about him. What a failure that was for a woman married to a man whose primary love language is “quality time.” My desire to show him love in a way that made me feel good about myself was actually getting in the way of what he really wanted—me snuggled up next to him on the couch while watching TV, something that makes him feel (much to my confusion) happy and loved.
I thank God for what marriage has taught me and how he’s used marriage to shine a spotlight on some areas of my life that aren’t always so pretty. After just four years of marriage, I’m sure I have a lot more to learn about myself as time goes on. I look forward to it. I think I’ve grown up and matured a lot from all that knowledge. And thankfully, I have a patient husband who loves me unconditionally despite the fact that I’m flawed.
You know what else marriage magnified for me? What unconditional love looks like. Thanks to Kyle, I’m reminded each day of how God feels about me and how much he loves me even when I screw up. And that, my friends, is a beautiful thing.