In a way it seems like yesterday that I wrote my first blog post titled: “Why I Decided To Get Engaged at 19”. That was over a year ago and as of this month, my wife and I have been married for half a year! During that time countless people have asked us what it is like to be married. We thought it would be fun to answer the question on a broader scale.
Most marriage books and articles come from wise, experienced people who have been married for decades. We thought it would be cool to share our perspective as newlyweds (not to mention being 21 and 20). Maybe we’ll read this in 20 years (when we are a little more wise and experienced) and laugh at ourselves.
I sat down with my wife (and myself…am I allowed to interview myself?) and talked about marriage.
What is the most surprising and unexpected aspect of marriage?
Her: The ease of someone being so involved in my personal life. I guess before we got married I thought it would be hard for Jonathan to be so involved and present in every part of my life. I share almost everything with him, either by intentionally seeking to do so, or by him just being a part of my day-to-day life. It’s so much easier and refreshing than I thought it might be. Vulnerability. That is a better way to say it. The level of vulnerability I have with Jonathan is easy.
Him: The biggest thing I think is just how normal it is. When I was a teenager I always thought of marriage as this big, crazy, life changing, “other” thing reserved for older people. Yes marriage is a huge commitment, crazy at times and life changing…but its also very normal. And I like that. It’s not that daunting or weird. Its living life with my best friend. It is amazingly regular. I wasn’t expecting that.
What is the most difficult part of being married?
Her: I think not getting to have my way when I want it. Not necessarily in decisions, but more so in the way that we live. For example, how our bedroom looks and the activities we do. Even the way we go grocery shopping. So I think the hardest part is that I can’t control Jonathan. And that is sometimes difficult because he is so involved in the practicalities of life. And I want to control him sometimes so that my way happens. I know that sounds weird. Overall, it is hard to let go of patterns that I have developed over my whole life. Learning new ways isn’t easy.
Him: Probably the need to plan and schedule everything. It is a lot more difficult to just get up and go do something spontaneous or say yes to hanging out with someone. I always need to check with her first so we’re on the same page. I’m a pretty structured person anyway, but it is still difficult sometimes. I always need to tell her my plan for the day. And also change my first priorities and desires in order to cater to her schedule. Definitely something to get used to.
What is your favourite part of being married?
Her: Jonathan. My favourite part of being married is my husband. If I wasn’t married to him I wouldn’t want to be married. And getting to learn who Jonathan is and getting to discover him in a way that is life-giving to both of us is nice. I don’t know how to explain it. Just that I am married to Jonathan. My favourite part of marriage is that I’m married to him.
Him: Companionship. Through my highs and lows, accomplishments and failures she is there. She comforts me, applauds me, rebukes me, challenges me, encourages me and loves me through it all. And I get to do the same for her. She’s my best friend and it is really fun to live with her and go through everything in life together. She’s my companion through it all and I love that! It is funny though, because my most difficult and favourite aspects of marriage are linked…her being around all the time is the best but also a big, somewhat difficult adjustment.
How old are you? Did you ever think you would be married so young?
Her: I am 21 years old. When I was a young teenager I thought about getting married young. And I was only fairly opposed to the idea in my late teens. But oddly enough lots of people told me that they thought I would get married young. So the idea wasn’t a foreign one to me. And I have lots of friends who got married young which I think makes the idea even less foreign and very normal.
Him: I am currently 20 years old. No, not really. I was never against it, but I didn’t think it would happen. The youngest married couple I knew was probably in their mid-20’s so I never had an example of a really young married couple. It’s funny though, because in grade 12 I had a social science class called “Families in Canada” in which I did my final project on the reasons why people get married young and the consequences of this decision. So I had a bit of an idea of what I was getting into.
Do you secretly wish you would have waited a little longer?
Her: [Head shake] Maybe waited a little less? [Chuckle]
Him: Not at all! I’m so glad that we made this choice. It hasn’t always been easy, but it has been oh so worthwhile. I sometimes reflect on how 20 years of life has made marriage a difficult adjustment, so I can’t imagine how much more difficult it would be if we got married in our late 20’s or 30’s. I’m very grateful for how it’s all worked out.
What does it mean to be married in your opinion?
Her: This is a doozy of a question. I think the first thing I recognise in this question is that marriage isn’t the “ultimate relationship” so to speak, but that once entered into it is very significant. Very significant. Why? Because to be married means to become “one” with another human being (which is weird and wonderful all at the same time). Which I guess means a whole bunch of vulnerability and with that a whole bunch of very practical, long-term, unconditional love. I don’t think I have fully begun to live this out yet, but I entirely look forward to it.
Him: Books have been written about that question. I think in a nut shell marriage is about unconditional love and service. Putting each other first. It is a gift from God. A representation of how Jesus loves his people. Sacrificial love.
What is sex like?
Her: Sex is a lot more emotional than I originally anticipated, even though I was told this multiple times. It’s also a lot of fun. I think I have realised that sex is only good because of having sex with Jonathan. He is my reference for sex (does that make sense? I don’t know).
Him: To get my full thoughts you’d have to read another post I wrote called “Five Things I’ve Learned About Sex“. But to summarise, sex is incredible! It is beautiful, and a large (but also small) part of marriage. I’m learning that sex should be a selfless act. It can be a lot more complicated than I used to think. I’m so pleased that Rebekah and I get to grow together sexually for the next many decades.
What’s it like being married to someone from a different country?
Her: It is an enriching experience. In many ways I am forced to broaden my scope of thinking. Because we come from different cultures we have different natural reactions to a wide range of things (as does every marriage, though I feel it goes deeper with cultural differences). And so I am continually challenged by loving him in that I need to learn to love another culture also. I believe this is only ever a good thing. And sometimes it brings tension. Sometimes it brings humour. But I think overall it helps us to learn to love each other deeply.
Him: When we were dating this used to really worry me. It’s turned out to be an enriching and wonderful experience. Rebekah and I both come from cultures that have been heavily influenced by the English culture, and we both speak english as our first language. So these similarities have made some things easier. But it can’t be ignored that we come from very different cultures and have had very different upbringings! She grew up in a very diverse culture and her first words were in Zulu (an African tribal language). I didn’t have any friendships with anyone from a non-Anglo-Canadian background until I was much older. Having monkeys and snakes in her home was a reality. Seeing zebra’s (pronounced ZEBBra not ZEEBra), ostriches, and hippos is somewhat normal for her. So our cultural and familial backgrounds are quite different. I’ve learned to embrace and cherish this. As a South African she has so many perspectives, skills, attitudes, values, stories and a history that I can learn from! And hopefully as a Canadian I can broaden her perspective and teach her things as well.
Marriage often looks like this: who is going to do the dishes?
How do you balance your social life with being married?
Her: At the moment, not too well, [laughs]. I love quality time, which Jonathan knew before we got married but I am sure he is now much much more aware of this! That being said, when I say not well, I mean that I am learning how to have quality time with him as well as with other people whilst still being healthy. I probably say yes to too many social events, but I am learning how to balance life and realising I have a lot less of my “own free time.”
Him: This can be tough. I firstly need to recognize that my relationship with Rebekah is my most important human relationship. Hopefully my time reflects that. That being said we hang out with people a lot and are really happy to have a good community around us. We have a good group of 20 something married couples around us that we get to grow up with. I really detest the whole “ball and chain” idea of marriage. Obviously I don’t have as much time, but I still love to hang out with my single friends and have a social life in that respect.
How has it been living together?
Her: Living together has been wonderful. I think especially after having had a long distance relationship, not saying good-bye is a whole heap of fun. It’s also just so much more convenient. So much more convenient! I think I have realised that a lot of our tension comes from our differences in how we ought to clean and keep the house etc. but it’s good and tough at the same time. I’m learning to be patient and also learning that I need to not take advantage of how much Jonathan loves to do things for me. I guess learning to love practically. But really it’s mostly just fun.
Him: Really fun. Challenging but fun. I’m learning to do a lot more cleaning and cater towards things that are important to her. I’m growing in a few cooking skills. Obviously there can be a lot of tension that arises from the little things that are involved with living together, but it has been great to work through those. You definitely learn new things about each other!