August 22, 2013

thoughts of a young old-married-lady...

When Jay and I were engaged, I felt it was very important for us to do some pre-marital counseling. I remember telling a coworker about it one evening, and he gave me this weird look. He asked me if my fiance and I were having problems, and I told him that the counseling was less about current issues and more about things we may run into in the future. I was confused by his confusion over the whole thing, because where I grew up it was the norm to seek out out some sort of pre-marital counseling before tying the knot. It was a very normal concept to me, but seeing it through his eyes was, well, eye-opening.

"So…why would you want to go to counseling? You're basically saying that you can't figure things out by yourself."

"That's exactly what I'm saying."

"Why would you want to get married when you're already basically admitting that you can't work out your own problems?"

"That's…not what I'm saying."

Then we had a bit of a stare-down that resulted in both of us feeling like the other was totally naive and ridiculous. (Suffice to say, it was a long night at work.)

Jay and I ended up going to only one session of counseling, mostly because our own pastor didn't provide services of that nature and I had little to no money to spend, outside what I was already putting into the wedding. As a favor to us, my friend referred us to her father-in-law, who happened to be a pastor. It seemed like the perfect situation, and I was eager to go to our appointment.

"So, Kerri?" the pastor asked toward the beginning of our meeting, looking at me with great interest. "Can you come up with anything about Jay that you find frustrating? Or things you don't like?"

"Nope," I said, looking at Jay with a gaze of true love and devotion (and maybe a little madness). "Actually, he's like the perfect guy. I love everything about him!"

The pastor had no words. He looked at me with more than a little concern, which soon turned to slight suspicion as I held my ground like a stubborn teenager, wanting to come across as someone who will be a perfect wife and who loves her fiance so much she sees no flaws. I truly thought that was the "right" answer. And I was expecting Jay to follow suit, only to hear him respond to the same question with the following,

"Eh, well, she can be kind of negative. She worries a lot about things. That's kind of frustrating."

I sat there thinking, Oh, my gosh! Jay doesn't love me! He thinks I'm an old battle-axe. Our marriage is already in SHAMBLES! But I smiled like I wasn't completely offended.

We went through a few other basic things at that meeting, but nothing life-altering. After that night, we ended up not returning for one reason or another. I always wonder what the pastor was thinking after we left his office that evening. He probably thought we were way too young, didn't know each other well enough, were in no way ready to commit to spending the rest of our lives with the other. Part of me wants to go back now and be all like, "Hey, are you ready for my list of things about Jay that annoy me? You're going to want to sit down, sir. Let's do this thing."

(I know Jay's list would be several pages, too. I in no way claim any sort of wifely perfection!)

In some ways, I do regret not doing a more thorough bit of pre-marital counseling before we were married, both for the obvious RED FLAGS at our first meeting, and also because we were very young (I was 20 when Jay proposed, Jay was 23) and had a rather short engagement (14 months). We also didn't live with each other before we were married, which is something almost nonexistent in this day and age.

Still, we've made it this far. It's not that we knew how to figure out everything on our own, and these seven (and a half!) years have not been without struggle. There are moments I feel Jay doesn't even know me at all—but then there are those moments we feel so perfectly in sync with each other. There are days I get frustrated and over-tired and completely lose it over something big or little—but then there are days that Jay surprises me by how grounded and calm and wonderful he is.

I've mentioned before how important it has been for me to learn that the ups and downs are always going to be there. That was (and still is) one of the biggest lessons to learn. In getting married so young, we've essentially grown up together. It seems almost amazing that through it all, we've been able to also grow together.

Marriage is a tricky thing. I learn more every day. And I'm just grateful that we are surrounded by many relationships that show us just how much you can still love someone, decade after decade. That love is less about feeling and more about doing. That it's okay to not be perfect, because nobody is, but it is possible to stay with someone despite the imperfections.

And I can only hope—despite my periodic negativity and constant worry—that my husband doesn't actually think I'm an old battle-axe. (But maybe you'll have to ask him about that one.)

14 comments :

  1. It's always so nice to read blog posts about marriage. I'm infinitely curious about others relationships and people's thoughts on marriage, especially in the early years. I'm recently engaged and I enjoy hearing the positives about being married, I feel getting married before 30 these days people surrounding me always make marriage sound so negative! Thanks for sharing :)

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  2. This post just makes me smile. Andy and I have been together since I was 19 and he was 20, and almost a decade later, we're fully committed to a life together. As you said, we've grown up AND grown together, and it's a very cool thing to look back on and realize that we're nearing a time when we'll have spent just as many years together as we did before knowing each other. (Cool and freaky at the same time, hahaha.) There's so much wisdom in your words here -- about how love is as much about doing as it is about feeling, about how sometimes you feel like you don't know each other at all but then other times you feel like the other person knows you better than you know yourself.

    I don't believe that everyone needs to be in a lifelong monogamous relationship -- but for those of us who DO want that, relationships like yours and Jay's make it seem possible. And wonderful. :)

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  3. I love this so much! I definitely encourage anyone I know who is engaged to do at least one or two counseling sessions before the wedding because it did WONDERS for my marriage. I didn't live with Joe before we got married, either, and I was 24 but probably still felt like a 20-year-old a lot of the time.

    "That love is less about feeling and more about doing." -- YEP. That is one thing I have had to remind myself of repeatedly throughout my four years of marriage thus far. Not because I don't FEEL it, but because sometimes I just expect it to magically become like clockwork. No effort, no outward demonstration of love, just trucking along because we've made it x number of years and therefore we're never going to have serious issues. (HA.)

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  4. I love your honesty. We did one long premarriage counseling session. It was ok. We had hearts in our eyes and just wanted to get through it to get married.

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  5. We're not married yet, but we've been together nearly six years and will be married soon, but I love so much of this. Any long term relationship is a ton of work. Love is not that crazy butterfly feeling at the start of a relationship, it's the actions and efforts everyday --- a choice, not a feeling. I think that's the most important thing to remember. I love this. And you! Miss you!

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  6. We didn't do any counseling beforehand, but we did have some struggles that proved to us that we could work through some big issues. Thanks for reminding everyone that it's not all hearts and rainbows all the time, but it is actually work and that's normal! {and so worth it!}

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  7. I'm getting married in 3 weeks (!!!) and love this post because it's so important to remember that after the wedding you have to keep working at it and remember to show your love every day. We've been together for nine years and so, just like you two, we have grown up together and grown together. I love that sentiment, this is a beautiful post, I've been following your posts for years now (ever since I went on a random google search in 2009 for something pertaining to Taylor Hanson) and I've read every single one of your posts since then (and even the ones before). Sorry for never commenting, but you've have been such a great inspiration in so many ways. Thought I would finally say it! :)

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  8. The counseling thing just makes me laugh because with us there was no question that we would be in therapy from the beginning. My husband had been seeing a counselor for nearly 10 years on his own for anxiety issues and before we even got engaged there was some full-family counseling as he dealt with alcohol dependence recovery, and so when we got engaged there was some intense counseling with a licensed therapist. I was 26 and he was 29 so we weren't exactly young, and I feel like we went into this marriage with our eyes open. Our first two years had a lot of bumps because of him needing two hip replacements and me dealing with infertility so I hope we've put the rough stuff behind us at least for a little while! I think all that we've been through already helped us to settle into marriage quickly and overall it's been pretty easy for us despite the external difficulties. It's interesting how our experience getting together is so different than yours & Jay's, but yet I feel like now we are so similar. :)

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  9. "That love is less about feeling and more about doing." Can you write a book about that for people? Please? People need to acknowledge this.

    Also, the lady over here who had a 4 month engagement nearly choked when you said you had a SHORT 14 month engagement. Perspective is fun. LOL.

    So Seth and I went to a one day marriage counseling class, followed a week later by a couple-and-pastor meeting. All I remember is taking some sort of where-does-your-agreement-of-each-statement-fall-on-this-scale questionnaire. Then his and my answers were cross examined to find potential issues. These were talked about with pastor at subsequent meeting. Then we took personality tests and those were cross referenced so our personalities together in a relationship were analyzed and we learned insightful ways to respond to each other in different situations. And we learned things like every critique should be offset by 5 to 9 positives. And so on and so forth. I wouldn't say it was necessary perhaps, but I am glad we did it. I should go find those papers...

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  10. "That love is less about feeling and more about doing. "

    So much this. All of this.

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  11. I liked reading about your marriage a little bit, and some of the back story. I have never been married yet, but if I do, that's interesting about going to a marriage counselor first. Some may think that it's because you guys have problems, which you mentioned in your post, but I think it's a good idea. At least for one session. I think it's a responsible thing to do, since marriage is serious, and you need to really make sure you're compatible! But even if you don't decide to do that, I'm sure marriage has it's ups and downs as you say! I'm glad that you and Jay are getting through it good! And wow, you were 20 when he proposed?! Wow. I couldn't imagine being married, and I'm 28! Glad I'm not in the era of old maids or spinsters!

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  13. "It seems almost amazing that through it all, we've been able to also grow together."

    I love your honesty! I love that line because marriage has taught me how important it is to be supportive of one another's dreams. I guess if I were to use a tree analogy (you know how I love my analogies), I would say that I think we fall in love with another person's roots and then get to be surprised over the years by all their beautifully growing branches. Cheesy, I know, but you get the idea.

    Also, happy birthday, lady! ; )

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  14. Ah marriage. So wonderful and infuriating all at once.

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