trying is how we grow up

i observe things in different ways than most people. i took a class during my first semester in college that was basically the equivalent of a creative writing course. the simple fact that i have a blog that i write things on should key you in to the fact that i kind of sort of like to write. one of the first assignments we had in that class was to take thirty minutes andgo to anywhere on campus, observe something, and then write about it.

when we came back to class, the professor asked us what we wrote about. most of the people in the class, being typical freshmen, tried to get overly artistic and wrote about the leaves on the trees or some cheesy nonsense like that. i went to a parking lot right next to the main road and watched cars drive by for 15 minutes. then i wrote about how i wondered what was going on in those cars. what was each driver thinking? where were they going? i talked about how i felt like i was the center of the universe and my world mattered the most but each person in each car had no clue who i was and were actually living in their own world.

i got an a.

that class is one of the things that made me realize that i don’t look at life like most people. i see and interpret situations differently. sometimes that’s good. others it’s bad. sometimes it’s just awkward.

earlier this week i had a quick conversation with a friend of mine. he didn’t realize that i hadn’t even been married a year yet and said i was still a newlywed. this got us talking about how long it was before you’re not considered a newlywed. a few different people chimed in but the general consensus was that you’re still a newlywed for your first 3-5 years. that’s not the point of this story though.

that conversation, and the fact that i’m closing in on my first anniversary with nicole, have had me thinking and reflecting on our first year of marriage. there have been a lot of memories and thoughts that have flooded back from the past year. as i tried to summarize the first year of marriage in my head, i was able to boil it down to two thoughts. the first thought was pretty typical but the second one sort of surprised me:

the first year of marriage is the most fun, most challenging, most loving, and most growing year of your life.

the first year of marriage is the most lonely year of your life.

wait. what? that doesn’t make sense.

the first thought makes sense. it’s what you thought i’d say. the second one has you thinking that i’m dumb, depressed, or about to start whining. i promise you, i’m none of those three (although i do all three of those very well).

when you first get back from the honeymoon, everyone asks you how it was, makes awkward sex jokes, and then leaves you alone for the most part. they want you to get settled in and learn to operate as a married couple. and they know you’re probably enjoying the sex part of the deal as well. in reality, it’s important for them to pull away for these first couple of months. there are so many new things that you’re learning and new priorities that you have that make it important to relearn your priorities.

after a few months you want to get back to normal. you want to start hanging out with your friends again. you want to start going out again. you basically put a note on your forehead that says, “hey, we can hang out again.” and then you start hanging out with friends, going here and there. sometimes you hang out as a couple, other times you go here while she goes there. it’s all great. for a little bit.

after a few weeks of this you start to realize that you haven’t hung out too much together with just the two of you and realize you have to start saying no to some things. that’s another good principle to learn: it’s okay to say no.

so you start saying no to the opportunities to go do things. at first it’s just a couple of no’s and everyone understands. “you’re married now. that’s cool. maybe next time.” awesome. they understand.

around month six or so, an interesting thing happens. your friends that you had to turn down a few times start doing things and don’t think to ask if you’re interested. you’ve had to cancel so many times that they simply assume you’re busy and don’t ask. it’s normal. i’ve done it. you’ve done it. it’s easy to do. before you know it, you begin hearing stories from your friends and they sound awesome and you begin to realize you had no idea that thing was going on and would’ve loved to be a part of it. then it hits you:

you’re not single anymore.

you have other priorities.

you’re in a different place in life than your friends.

no one told you about this part in premarital counseling.

i may be the only person on the planet that’s processed this idea as much as i have. i don’t think it’s a problem so much as i think it’s awkward. i’m still the same person as i was this time last year but at the same time, i’m nowhere near the same person as i was this time last year. i enjoy the same things, but i enjoy things completely different. i love my friends, but i love my wife more.

how did no one mention this?

how did this fall through the cracks?

we talked about expectations, marital roles, sex, finances, how marriage makes you more like jesus, and many other things, but we never talked about how lonely that first year will be when it hits you that you’re in a different place in life than your friends are.

so much emphasis is put on premarital counseling and getting ready for marriage but not much is put into the counseling and leading once the marriage actually begins. it’s like society says, “we’re going to prepare you for marriage as best we can and then once you say ‘i do,’ we’re going to drop you on an island for a year. see you next year. have fun you crazy kids. good luck. use protection.”

i have a solution:

if you are past being a newlywed, invest in a newlywed. if you’ve been married for more than 3-5 years, take a couple that hasn’t and put them under your wing. from the time we are kids until the time we get married, there is some sort of ministry in the church designed specifically for us. once we get married, we suddenly don’t fit in with any group. and here’s the thing: we’re not supposed to. it’s supposed to be awkward. it’s supposed to be hard. it’s supposed to take work.

but we could use someone who’s been through it to be there to coach us a little bit.

i’ve got a lot of single friends right now. many are in relationships, many are not. some are closer to being married than others are. it’s my hope that by the time those friends say those magical words and start the greatest year of their life that my marriage is to a place where nicole and i can invest in those marriages.

the thing about life is that we’re not made to go through it alone. we’re not made to take the things that we learn and hold onto them. we’re meant to give it all away and help others into a better life.

if you’re past being a newlywed: who can you invest in? what couple do you know that you could invite over for dinner occasionally? what couple would be happy to babysit your kids while you go on a date? (yes, there are perks to this whole investing in others thing.)

if you’re a newlywed: keep going. it gets better. it gets less awkward. it’s totally worth the loneliness and missed opportunities to make memories with your spouse and fall in love with them more.

if you’re not married yet: get in touch with me when you get there. i’d love to tell you a few things to expect.

say your prayers and take your vitamins.

have a nice day.

-jonathan

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