Our First Year of Marriage…
I don’t tell many people about our newlywed years. It’s not that I’m embarrassed. I’m not sure what it is really. It’s probably fear, fear that people won’t understand or maybe a fear that people will feel hurt by our story. Yeah. I think it’s that last one. We want our lives to encourage and never discourage, to bless and never harm. But lately I’ve been realizing that our story is important to tell. Along with other newlywed stories, ours is a testimony of His grace alone.
Our first apartment was a one bedroom/one bath upstairs space with ugly dark brown carpet and a tiny galley kitchen. Moving in wasn’t hard because everything the two of us owned could be put in the back of Phil’s pick-up truck.
Phil left for work every day at 4:00 pm and returned home at 3:00 am. I greeted him at the door at 3:00 am as though it were late afternoon. “Hey Honey, how was your day?” We’d sit and eat together in the middle of the night. We’d laugh. And then we would find solace in each other’s arms. Every day. And that ugly little apartment? Well, we both thought it was lovely. We had waited…both of us…until the day we got married. Phil always said the parking lot of that factory where he worked had his tire marks emblazoned near the front exit.
We both agreed I wouldn’t work as long as he was working nights. Because of his odd hours, if I had a day job, we’d never see each other. And we couldn’t bear that thought, the thought of not seeing each other, of not being together. Phil made $9.49 an hour and it was sufficient for everything we needed because we needed so little.
Truthfully, we lived in our own little world. We were involved in our small church and with our families, but most of our time was just spent together. And it was wonderful. Ridiculously over-the-top wonderful. And maybe that’s the thing most people don’t understand about the first year of marriage…that it has the potential to be wonderful.
We’re blessed with books, radio programs, and testimonies about how terrible those first few years of marriage can be for so many couples, maybe for the majority of couples. We’re reminded how important it is to hang in there when it’s all so very bad. We’re encouraged to not give up when everything inside makes you want to give up. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate those testimonies. We desperately need those testimonies. But along with those stories, there’s a place for our story too.
We had a simple wedding. You know, those afternoon cake and punch weddings? Our actual honeymoon only lasted two nights. Phil had just gotten the job at the factory, so he only had two days off. We spent those two nights in Las Colinas, about 30 minutes from our newlywed apartment. With money gifted to us, we stayed at the Marriott. According to Phil, we stayed in Room #2614. He has remembered that room # for almost 28 years. He says a man will never forget some things…and I’ll leave it at that.
Phil was doing factory work. I was turning a pick-up truck’s worth of stuff into a home. But we look back on that time and remember it as being euphoric. Passionate. Beautiful. Rich.
Why were we both so deliriously happy? For the first time in our lives, the two of us were building something. Together. Something bigger than ourselves. Something vitally important. Important to God. Important to our future children. Important to the people God would bring across our path.
We weren’t building a house. We could barely make rent. We weren’t even building careers at that time. No. We were building a HOME. A family. The two of us were becoming one physically, financially, emotionally, and spiritually. We were learning the joys of putting another person’s needs above our own.
I know. Some of you are just waiting for me to spill the beans. Waiting for me to get on my soap box and explain a detailed formula for such bliss. But a beautiful romance shouldn’t be described with bullet points. There’s a mystery to it.
Yes, there are basic truths. Be kind. Love and honor each other above all others, and I do mean, ALL others. Above friends. Above immediate family members. And yes, above parents. It would have been a joke had someone…anyone…tried to stand between the two of us. We were a team. A unit. (And just a shout out here to our parents. They never did anything but love and support our desire to build a strong bond with each other).
We were blessed with the understanding that it’s always a bad idea to try to “fix” the person you’re married to. So we didn’t bother. When a spouse suspects he or she is a “project” to be fixed…it’s a romance killer. Did I say romance killer? Because that’s exactly what I meant to say. A romance killer. We both knew it was our job to do the loving and honoring and it was God’s job to do the fixing. And the funny thing? God used all that loving and honoring…to do more “fixing” than our words would have ever been able to accomplish. And the romance stayed intact.
During our newlywed years, we were especially blessed by our church family and we stayed involved. We learned from those who were ahead of us on the journey. We learned from their wisdom and also from their mistakes.
Phil and I once heard a great teacher say, “In marriage, sex is the icing on the cake. It’s not the cake.” We understand what he was trying to say but we beg to differ with his terminology. Sex is not referred to in the Bible as a pleasant afterthought. It’s not a little “added bonus” to the really important stuff in marriage. Honestly, sex is the difference between being married and just being friends. Phil and I didn’t get married so we could share the light bill or file joint taxes. We didn’t even get married out of respect for each other’s character (though we certainly did respect each other’s character, and still do). We got married out of a fiery attraction to each other. God said that it would be so. It doesn’t take Him by surprise. Yes, we had good counselors. And yes, we loved each other in a lot of ways that have nothing to do with the physical. But we’re disturbed by how much the physical side of marriage is sometimes downplayed, as though it’s “noble” to be above it. Trust me. It’s anything but noble to downplay the importance of physical intimacy in marriage. I know. Some of you are probably thinking, “But what about when you’re really really old or one of you becomes ill and that activity is no longer on the table? Is marriage of no value then?” Of course that’s not what we’re saying. When it comes to the beauty of marriage, most would agree the latter years are the sweetest of all, the years we will lovingly take care of each other, serve each other. But make no mistake. The sweetness of those years comes on the heels of the investments made in the earlier years.
So to all of you preparing for marriage, be encouraged, friend. Love with open arms and great abandon. Don’t seek to be served, but to serve. Marriage is a strikingly beautiful institution, designed to display the deep love between Christ and His church. We’re not giving up on the beauty of marriage and neither should you.
I hope Phil and I will get to sit together on the front porch for many more years to come. I hope we’ll live to see grandkids and even great grandkids. I hope we’ll be able to pass on the things we’ve learned to the next generation, with kindness and a lot of grace. But God knows the future and we trust Him.
If we do live to be old, I’m convinced I’ll still be able to reach out for his hand and ask, “Sweetheart, on our honeymoon, what was the room #?” Phil’s wrinkled face will smile, and his green eyes will still twinkle as he softly whispers, “#2614, Dear. #2614.”
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