The cliche is that your first year of marriage is the hardest.
For Eric and I, our first year was hard, but not in the sense of our relationship. That seemed to be the easy part – and could have been intentional from the Lord since we went through so much with jobs and finances and decisions. We were definitely in the “honeymoon” stage of our relationship for the entire first year.
Then, week one of year two hit, and all of a sudden we were in the middle of a storm. We fought against this odd disconnect between us for several weeks. We were constantly frustrated at each other – usually for little things that never seemed to bother us before. Like my irritation at the crunching sound when he ate un-popped kernels at the bottom of his popcorn bowl, which then caused me to . Silly, right?
Marriage is like paddling a canoe. When you encounter storms, one of you can’t paddle alone to get through it. If a canoe is paddled only on one side, it will start to spin. And spinning in the midst of crashing waves and pelting rain never made anyone feel better.
We fasted and prayed (even though praying together was awkward and never what we wanted to do). It would be better for a day, then come right back. I wanted so badly to make things better, but at the same time my pride convinced me that Eric was the one who needed to apologize. That month and a half – from our one-year anniversary until mid-December – was harder on our relationship than our whole first year combined.
We are not out of the clear. I don’t think any marriage is ever 100% “safe.” The God-ordained goal of marriage is to reflect His relationship with His bride, the Church – and we have an enemy who wants to destroy anything having to do with God’s glory. But the fact that we will have storms to face – together – is part of the adventure of marriage.
Paddling is a canoe is about teamwork. You have to paddle together, on opposite sides, to keep the canoe straight. You have be in unison. Both travelers need to do their part to steer and speed the canoe. Otherwise, it’s easy to become bitter at someone for being lazy, and one will wear himself out before the other.
Unity is one of the greatest needs when encountering storms. If only one spouse is willing to lay down personal pride and work through it, then they will not succeed together. Eric and I both had to decide to fight this storm, to admit faults and to choose vulnerability. Oftentimes, I have noticed that the problem starts in my flesh – I am choosing to hold on to hurt because he said something I know he didn’t mean. Or I am annoyed that he didn’t do something. I think, though, that the Enemy knows how to use these little ticks and turn them into fuel for the fire – Eric running late in the morning turns into “He is always running late. He knows that being on time is a big deal to me, but he chooses to ignore that. He probably does it on purpose. I can’t believe he doesn’t care about my feelings or about our reputation. People will never rely on us.”
All of a sudden, a missed alarm turns into a husband who is out to destroy our reputation! Yeah right, Satan.
Whether it starts out with your flesh or is direct spiritual attack, you have to expect storms when it comes to relationships – whether you are married or single. It means 1) that you are human (therefore, imperfect) and 2) that you are doing something the enemy hates. Which, in my mind, is affirmation for my marriage.
Not that I want to taunt Satan to “bring it.” But, at the same time, I have a husband who has proven he wants to fight for us, and I have a God who is on my side.
We will just keep on paddling together, choosing to live by faith and not in fear of what might be coming ahead of us.