Thursday, June 16, 2011

Things I've learned my first year of marriage

1st Year Anniversary
Saturday, June 18th will mark the One (1) year marriage anniversary for Cheryl and I.  Though many thought Jesus would come back or pigs would fly before I ever got married, it did finally happen.  Cheryl has been a childhood friend whom I grew up with, graduated High school with, and we shared many mutual friends. She was also my sister's best friend.  After High School our lives went different directions, probably as far different as you can be.  A couple years ago, our paths crossed again, of all places on Facebook.  After we renewed our friendship and catching up on our lives and even visiting over dinner with my sister and her family, eventually Cheryl asked me out on date and shared her feelings with me, that were mutual and I came back to WV for a date and we started dating.  I was still living in Indiana at the time, so we did the long distance thing for a few months before I decided to move back to WV.  We dated for 6 more months and were married on Friday, June 18, 2010 in a small ceremony with family in the front yard of her parents house.

I would like to say that our first year of marriage was easy, filled with fairytales, rainbows, and bliss, but it wasn't if I was being honest.  We love each other deeply, we are glad we are married, and people make fun of us for expressing our love on facebook so much, but with any relationship, especially the first year is learning to live with someone new, getting to know each others habits, personalites, quirks, strengths & weaknesses, and everything else in between takes adjusting.   Our first year of marriage not only brought those challenges and blessings, but also the mix of a 37 year old bachelor never married, a person coming out of a abusive married and nasty divorce,  two children(one with mental illness), and also dealing with the recent death of Cheryl's dad about 6-7weeks before our wedding, and some family issues. Can you say it, reality TV?
I'm an analytical person, so I like to evalute, analyze, and look at things (sometimes too much), but I think it's healthy for all couples married or not to regulalry communicate and evaluate their relationship, what's working,what's not?  What can I do better?  what am I doing right? What am I doing wrong? what do I need to change?  What successes are we having, what failures?  What issues are contributing to our troubles or making our marriage healthy?  These type of questions should be asked and communicated in the relationship as well as, personal self-evaluation and constructive criticism from your partner.

After coming out of a unhealthy and nasty relationship I wasn't for sure I wanted to be in another, and Cheryl after being in her long abusive, negative, unhelathy marriage, wasn't for sure she wanted to ever get married again, probably let alone date.  But, we believe it was no mistake that God brought us together and crossed our paths.    I am sure Cheryl has her own list of things she's learning or has learned from being togehter,  because each of us view things different and based on our life experiences, personalities, and relationship with God view or see the world and people and things differently.  But, these are the things I've learned my first  year of marriage (and yes I had Cheryl approve this before posting it for the world to see, I'm not totally stupid.) Anyway, this list isn't in any type of order, but hopefully it can help others, so here goes things I've learned my first year of marriage.

1.  Moving beside your In-Laws not a great idea starting out your marriage.  While this may work for some, it also can cause conflict and with our circumstances was a bad idea. as Forest Gump says, "that's all i got to say about that."
2. Blended families take a lot of work.  Cheryl has 2 children and one who has Asperger's Syndrome(high functioning Autism) and other issues.  Both have issues do the experiences that have face with being children of divorce, especially a nasty one, and dealing with unstable family members.  It has been rough on them.  Having a new step-dad come in the picture is also complicating. It has been an adjustment for all of us, we are still working on.
3.  Talk about things before they happen.   Cheryl and I sat down before getting married and decided what my role would be as a parent and how we wanted to run our home and raise children.  Whether you have no kids yet or both bring in kids from a previous marriage, its' important to decide how you are going to do things before you are faced with them, even then, it still wasn't and isn't easy. Have to be supportive and consistent.
4. Center on God.  No relationship is going to have balance if both people aren't seeking to put God at the center of their lives and especially in their marriage.  Cheryl and I both love God and want to please Him and have him in our marriage, but there are times we both fail as individuals and in our marriage. We are trying to learn to put God first in our personal lives, so we will be the best partner for each other.  It's a struggle because there are many distractions.
5. Learn to Apologize. Sorry doesn't always cut it, sometimes we like to say sorry or we say it so much it loses it's meaning, but I find when you live with someone every day and depend on each other, you at times misunderstand each other's feelings, intentions, or motives.  We end up offending, hurting feelings, or frustrating each other unintentional and you have to learn to apologize often.
6. I'm not the only one.  At least for me being single for so long, i was the only one I had to worry about or be concerned about. Now I have a wife and 2 kids to think about.  It's easy for me to be impatient or get angry easy waiting on them to get ready or them to slow me down, because I am so used to only me.  I'm having to learn that more people  require more patience and more time to do things.
7.Both have Baggage.  Even though I haven't been married/divorced and Cheryl has, we still both bring in baggage to the relationship, just different. The older you are, the more baggage you can accumalate if you don't deal with it.  Even though I was single I still dated and had failed relationships and still have my own "set in my ways" type mentality, though I always strive to not become that way, we still do.  Also, having to deal with an ex-spouse is stressful and also depending on circumstances bringing in past abuses and problems, can complicate new relationships.
8. Ex-spouses stink.  I told Cheryl she might win the award for the worst Ex-husband ever.  He's a treat. I've met many an ex-spouse whether it was people I dated or during my years of ministry to students and people, but no matter how you cut it, dealing with an ex-spouse, especially one that is uncooperative and when dealing with children and custody issues is difficult.  It's a constant reminder of the past, and regret you have, and it's constant interference in your current marriage, whether you want it to or not, especially if you have an ex-who is difficult.  If  you are reading this and have an ex or are an ex and you have custody and children together, don't be a jerk. It's no longer about you, it's about the  kids.  Cooperate, do what is best for the kids. Our kids are used and manipulated and used as pawns and for personal selfish reasons.  Makes me mad and sad and nothing I can do about it.   But, marrying someone who is divorced and has kids is sometimes part of the deal. 
9. Don't get sucked in. It's easy for me to get sucked in to the trappings of dealing with Cheryl's ex-spouse.  Which only causes trouble in your current marriage. As difficult as it is, you have to stay out of it, unless it is a safety issue for them.  Sometimes you need to step it and sometimes, I've had to help Cheryl make a decision, but overall it's best to try and let your current spouse handle their ex spouse.
10. Get rid of Distractions.  For some it's a job, for others it's friends, some it's hobbies, or whatever.  We can have people or things in our lives that come between you and your spouse.  A negative friend or relative who is unhappy in their marriage so they constantly interfere or give you bad advice on your marriage.  Spending too much time at your job, or your hobby. I'm having to learn to prioritize and have balance in my time so that my wife and kids get their fair share of me. 
11. Communication, Compromise, Change.  3 C's easy to remember hard to do.  You have to communicate, over communicate if you have to, regardless of your personality.  I've got to compromise on some of my ideas, wants, opinions, and feelings. And I've got to be willing to change the way I handle things, think about things, and even deal with things.
12. I've got a lot to learn.  My whole life I've tried to prepare myself for marriage.  Learn to not do things the way my parents or others have did, but in the end, I know less than I thought. I've got a lot to learn in how to be a good husband, good father, and good partner.
13. Your spouse is your best friend.  I have been lots of friends and lots of  male friends, but your spouse should be your best friend.
14. Same Team.  A healthy marriage is where both realize they are on the same team. You support, endorse, and have each others best interest in mind.  It's easier to say than do, I'm still trying to learn it.
15. I affect others.  My moods, my word, my ways, etc...effect my wife and my step-kids.  I tell it like it is, I don't hold back, and I can be blunt, stubborn, hard-headed, and "as matter of fact", most times that's a good thing, but sometimes. I have to learn to be sensitive, understand anothers feelings, or consider how they feel or view me and my behavior, attitude or actions.

I am sure there are other things I've learn and so much to learn, this marriage is a journey and each day should be an adventure to learn.  I probably say I'm sorry as much as I love you, but I'm learning and hope to always be learning how to be the best spouse I can be.  I want to grow closer to my wife day by day, year by year, and enjoy the time the Lord has given us together and spend the rest of my life with my bride Cheryl.  I want to be just as happy on my wedding day a year ago as I will be if I live another 30,40, or 50 years.  I also want to love her kids as my own and be the best dad I can be.  Above all I want to honor God!

I love you Cheryl, thank you for loving  me, accepting me, tolerating me, and putting up with me. I pray my experiences and mistakes can help others in their relationships both now and in the future!  I hope to learn alot more this next year!  I leave you with the words of I Corinthians 13 that is our model for how we should love each other, especially in marriage.

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails.


Girree Hunt Notter said...

Jason, I'm so proud of you. I cried when I read your article. All you said is true. Living all of it is the hard part and it requires daily WORKING on a marriage. This is an insightful, well written article. I love you both and may God bless you. Be forgiving and merciful. Everyday is a new start. ALWAYS concentrate on the good in your mate, not the negative (that helps in any relationship). None of us is perfect. This is an article that should be published in a magazine after some editing...Girree

Jason Thomas said...

Thanks Girree, I appreciate it, I got lots more to learn, the rest of my life. And I appreciate the kind words, and yes editing, haha, coming from a good English teacher, I always proof read and still miss my mistakes. I type like a think and the WV comes out in me.