A few days ago marked the six-month anniversary of marriage to my husband Justin. I wanted to take a moment and reflect on this new relationship and how it has changed me.
It’s a mind-bending experience to realize how differently from me Justin thinks and functions. Yes, I knew that before we got married, and yes, everyone told me it would be so. I knew it before marriage in theory, but in day-to-day life it’s still a surprise to me. For example, I feel invigorated and satisfied by accomplishing tasks, while he feels invigorated and satisfied by interacting with people. I feel relaxed and reassured by structure, while he often feels confined by structure. I am comforted by touch and affirmations of love, while he is comforted by praise and encouragement.
It’s a transformational experience to embrace how he is and try what works for him. When I do, I feel emotionally blind. I have no idea how what I’m doing will come across, or if it’s even sensical. For example, when he feels down, my natural tendency is to offer suggestions, pick up the slack, do helpful things, and say, “I will love you no matter what.” But actually, what these efforts do is generally make him feel like I don’t believe and trust him to take care of things, that I’m trying to take over because I think I can do things more effectively, and that I don’t like or admire him in that moment. What he needs (and what feels totally strange to me) is to praise him in that moment for the things he does well and that I appreciate, to stay positive and cheerful, and instead of trying to make small what he is going through (in order to make it seem manageable), to actually verbalize how much he is doing and how well he is handling it.
One huge thing for me has been learning what Justin values in me and wants in a wife and how that differs from the qualities that I think are important or that were useful to me when single. When I am able to put my own ego aside and display patience and forgiveness and respect, he (almost magically it seems sometimes) grows into and displays confidence and leadership and affection. When I can fulfill what he needs, he is free to become more fully who he is and who God wants him to be. It’s no coincidence I would say that these qualities are both what God designed and what I most yearn for in my heart.
When I do put aside my natural inclinations and instead put on my wifely garment, I’m surprised by the fact that I don’t feel resentful. I’m not letting out what is natural to me and actually doing and saying the opposite, but it doesn’t ultimately feel wrong; it feels right. (Although it does feel uncomfortable in the moment of decision, and I do feel nervous in trying something so new.) I think in the end it fulfills me though because I am stepping closer to God’s potential for me. Oppositely, when I do give in to that lightning-quick and mindless natural response, charging ahead in what’s easy for me and what I naively think will calm and validate me, I end up feeling frustrated and snively, even if I get my way. This is especially difficult because my natural responses are not always necessarily sinful. Sometimes they’re just not helpful or uplifting for Justin.
When I am able to discover and respond in the right way (still rare), the result is brilliant. Knowing that I make life easier and better for him, that I can be a true blessing to him, feels wonderful. Sometimes he lets out a breath of relief, like a huge weight has been taken off his shoulders. Sometimes he dances around. Sometimes he looks at me and smiles.
“The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life.” –Proverbs 31:11-12