According to tradition, you are supposed to give paper gifts on the first wedding anniversary and leather on the third. I like to think that similarly, in the third year, the marriage becomes more durable, forgiving, and well-worn, in all the best ways.
On our first anniversary, we planned a complicated bed-and-breakfast weekend getaway to celebrate. On our third this week, we both decided to keep to our ordinary schedule, meeting with our church group in the evening and wrapping up the night with beer, ice cream, and a movie on the couch.
The last 12 months have seen our lives change in dramatic ways. We’ve welcomed a baby, upended our job situations and forged new friendships as we’ve taken a more active role in our church and community. Here’s what we learned this year:
- Our marriage doesn’t have to look like anybody else’s.
After our daughter was born in August, I got an incredible job offer that would allow me to continue working in a field I loved, work from home so I could see the baby throughout the day, and support our little family. My husband and I always assumed we would be very traditional when we had kids, with him working and me staying home. But now he’s a stay-at-home dad who takes perfect care of our baby, does most of the housecleaning, and helps keep us both sane.
I spent much of this year worrying that he would grow frustrated with his role and the tension would drive a wedge in our relationship. I still tend to stay quiet when talking with other moms who assume that my life looks like theirs. I’m afraid they’ll think I’m a bad mom and wife for working and letting my husband be the homemaker. But my husband has seemed to thrive in his role and he tells me all the time that he’s happy with our arrangement. Our marriage has continued to grow with this non-traditional set-up. So I’m choosing to enjoy this season and our family without comparison. It works for us and our home is filled with love.
- If possible, worry less about money.
I had horrible health insurance during my pregnancy and got a few huge bills for what should have been routine and covered care. On top of that, we had a tax form error that resulted in another big unexpected bill. I cried myself to sleep a few nights as I battles hormones and anxiety and the fear that we wouldn’t be able to make ends meet.
There’s no way around it: money problems feel like a really big deal, especially when you’re worried about losing a job or trying to pay off school debt. But as I wept my anxious tears, my mom encouraged me that money worries were small potatoes compared to the health, safety and wholeness of our family–the big things that can never be replaced. We were fortunate in that we had a little in the bank for emergencies, and the stress of those big bills seems like a distant memory. Obviously, money can affect a lot, and if home or job is at stake it’s hard not to be afraid. But these days I’m trying to have more perspective and be less fearful about unexpected bumps in the road.
- A baby doesn’t have to change everything.
Even though my husband and I were excited to welcome our daughter, we had read and heard plenty to make us believe that we were in for a sexless, sleepless marriage as we spent all our energy taking care of a newborn. And yes, we definitely lost a lot of sleep as the baby woke for feedings every three hours for the first few months.
But at every stage of development, we’ve been surprised at how much we have left over for each other–whether it’s a walk together with the baby jogger, a date night with the help of a babysitter, or just wine and Netflix after she goes to bed.
Some babies are higher maintenance, and that’s okay. Some seasons it seems that survival is the only goal. Still, I’ve been encouraged to find that our marriage still feels special. We love laughing and playing with our baby together, but still have some left over for just us–even if we have to cut out a few activities or move our schedules around to take advantage of that time.
The more time we spend marriage, the more we realize what we don’t know and what we still have to learn. But I find as time passes we’re fighting less and trusting more. And we’re still excited to see what the next year together might bring.
Photo Credit: Flickr/ohsohappytogether