That's right, Braden and I are about to wrap up our first year of marriage. To say it has been a challenging year would be an understatement. I don't think I can claim it as my hardest year, but it's right behind the year that I lost my mother. Now, I know the top things I learned in our first year of marriage might differ slightly from some since I was diagnosed with cancer 3 months in, but regardless I still think most can relate to the journey we've had. So let's get started...
1) Make sure you mean your vows! Whether it's a few months or years in you will be held to those vows. Make sure you are prepared to live them out without exception. While we said our own vows at our wedding, it goes without saying that you are with your partner in sickness and health. Braden was well aware that was part of the deal when marrying me, as I did with him. Yet, in reality we didn't think this was something we would have to live up to. I mean, of course once we hit a certain age, but not when we're still in our 20/30's. There we stood almost exactly 3 months to the day living out that vow. For the longest time I carried around a good amount of guilt about Braden not signing up for this life. That this should be my burden and not his. People, including Braden, told me constantly how I shouldn't feel that way. Those statements never took away that weight, but with time I have seen how strong our love truly is and that it was made for this journey. I can attest to the fact neither of us wanted cancer to be a part of our journey, but we both are better because of it.
2) Calm down. I am the queen at freaking the you know what out! My emotions get the best of me and they escalate quickly bringing the tone of my voice along with them. I thank God daily that He blessed me with a husband that knows how to control this lovely attribute of mine. He is so good at keeping his cool in those moments instead of adding fuel to the fire by getting worked up as well. Instead, his demeanor makes me realize I'm being maybe being a little dramatic. Given time we can reach a point where we are calm and can rationally talk through things.
3) Communication is everything! Braden and I learned early on that we don't communicate the same way. It has taken calming down and really talking things through to reach an understanding in our frequent miscommunication. However, as the year has progressed we have been able to communicate easier. He has realized that I verbalize to make sense of things, while I have learned Braden doesn't like to communicate unless forced or enough has built up where it comes spewing out. This is usually why I ask Braden 20 times, "Are you okay?" or "What's wrong?" before I believe his response. Poor guy, but I'm just looking out for those possible built up emotions. Now we are far from perfect, but being patient with one another has gone a long ways!
4) Don't Forget the Patience. God wasn't kidding when He said love is patient! Holy crap, let me tell you I struggle with patience. As I have shared on here, it's a constant lesson God will be teaching me until the day I die. Marriage brought a whole new level to learning patience. Braden has learned to have patience when I am getting ready. He knows the moment he starts pacing back and forth that my anxiety kicks in. When that happens we are both are worse off. On the other hand, I have learned that 90 percent of the time I can't force Braden to communicate and that things won't go the way I dream them up in my mind. Braden isn't going to pick up on the fact that there are open drawers and doors in the kitchen and maybe he should push just a little harder when closing the cabinets. By the way, self closing cabinets in our current home have been a true marriage booster. Despite how many cupboards are open when I walk into the kitchen at the end of the day I know Braden has to put up with me just as much. For that I love him even more!
5) You will rely on your spouse for more than you ever expected. In our first months, I counted on Braden to take out the trash while he relied on me to make the bed. However, that quickly became me relying on Braden to be my nurse and administer 3 shots a day to my abdomen, to drive me to countless doctor appointments and take care of me when I was too weak to even move. I know our first year was extreme, but regardless a time will come when you have to let your spouse be your support whether that is physically, financially and/or emotionally. When you're stubborn and think you can do it all, like I tend to, this lesson is a hard one to learn. More often than not, I have found myself feeling guilty for all that Braden has taken on. Honestly, it's still something I struggle with, but with constant love from him I am quickly reminded this is a part of marriage. There could be a time in the future when certain roles are reversed.
6) Love yourself more! Braden is a constant reminder for me to love myself more. I am a pro at tearing myself a part. That might be by pointing out all the flaws on my body or feeling like I could improve certain things about my character. No matter what it may be, Braden sees a completely different person. He thinks I am beautiful in ways I didn't know possible. He's the first to tell me I am being too hard on myself, but yet call me out respectfully if needed. Basically he's become my no bull bestie. He doesn't want to hear my crap and will tell me how it is. All in a way I respect and respond well to...most of the time! :)
7) Constantly be learning about your partner. Still to this day I am learning ways that Braden works. I am constantly pursuing my husband. Improving the ways I interact with him and love him. There are so many tools out there that have lead to a deeper understanding of the ways in which he works. Some of my favorite have been the 5 Languages of Love, Enneagram and Fierce Marriage. I constantly want to, and will be, learning more because my job as Braden's wife is never done. The moment I become complacent with where we are is the day I have lost sight of my priorities.
8) Grow with your partner. We have learned that we both have ways we want to improve ourselves. That may look like meditating more, chasing after certain career callings, live in certain places, pick up certain workout routines, avoid alcohol for a month (Braden hated me for that idea), or just simply pray more. Big or small we grow together in the same direction by either supporting one another, or joining in on the endeavor. Regardless of the journey we are in it together!
Braden has been the man I dreamed of and prayed for. I know most women say this, but it is the truth. If you know me well, you know I have been on lots of dates. Hey, maybe you're one of my lucky victims! I can say that God placed each relationship, or lack of, in my life to prepare me to truly appreciate Braden. He is a man of God that has been my biggest supporter these past few years. My life has changed drastically and he has been right by my side making me feel like I can conquer anything. I can't wait to spend MANY more years with him!