We were fairly strangers, Derek and I.
I came home from Moscow, Russia, in March of 2003. Eight months later, I was married! Derek lived in Pennsylvania, and I lived in Massachusetts, so this meant little face to face time, and a lot of letters and phone calls. However, all of the letters I wrote had to be read and approved by my dad first, and all phone calls had to be chaperoned by my siblings.
It was ROUGH! I remember being so mad at my dad a few times, because of his courtship terms, that I chose to sleep all night in the Toyota rather than sleep under the same roof as my dad.
Not passing blame, just telling our story. My parents and Derek’s parents were both immersed in an ultra-conservative home school movement, and he and I were both the firstborn guinea pigs. My parents have since changed a little in regards to courtship “rules,” and Derek’s parents have pretty much changed 100%. So my sisters, and definitely Derek’s sisters, have benefited from our trial and error experience.
Even after Derek and I were engaged, we were never allowed to be completely alone. (The letters and phone calls no longer had to be monitored, which was nice.) There was always supposed to be a chaperone! Talk about frustrating. (We did manage to sneak in a kiss before we got married!) So when we finally got married, there were just piles and piles of issues and attitudes that simply hadn’t even been presented, never mind discussed and worked through as a couple.
Frankly, I think that a couple should be one in spirit, soul, and to a certain extent body before marriage. Who wants to sleep with someone with whom you haven’t created “sparks” yet, through appropriate physical contact?
We were married in November, 2003, and I moved to Pennsylvania, eight hours from my family and New England home. Those dark winter days were depressing, and we lived in our basement while we were working on finishing the first floor of our house. I got pregnant right away, so I had crazy hormones to deal with. I was sick because I was pregnant, and my mom and sisters weren’t there to keep my company. My husband was busy 24/7, working a day job and then coming home to build our house. Which was a great thing, of course, building a house, but I was very lonely! Any free time Derek did have, he wanted to spend watching a movie, crashed on our couch. I wanted to go OUT!
We hadn’t learned to communicate our different needs.
The summer after we were married, I finally made him understand that I really, really wanted to DO something with him before our baby was born and it would never be just him and me again. So we tried an overnight canoe trip. That was a horrible, horrible trip. We started the trip off mad at each other, over an unresolved issue, and we just festered and spewed until by next morning we were barely speaking to each other.
We did try again, and this time our camping trip to two different KOA campgrounds while I was 8+ months pregnant was a sweet time together. A special, positive memory of our first year!
He learned that even though building a house for me was, yes, love in action, I also needed love to just do nothing with me but fritter away time. I learned to communicate respectfully, and not nag. (Both lessons we’re still learning!)
Oh my word, I was such a nag! I was the embodiment of a critical wife. I remember once, he was down on his knees, grouting the tile in one of our bath rooms, and I was “suggesting” that he was doing it wrong. HELLOO! He’d been building houses and things all his life. I knew nothing about construction! I don’t think I would’ve known to call drywall “drywall” before I got married.
I would question his decisions to replace wiper blades on the car, change out the tires, or spend money on more tools. Um, again, I knew nothing about vehicles, and he’d been working on vehicles and all things mechanical for just about half his life.
Derek is very close to his mom, and this posed a big problem early on in our marriage. We live right next door to his parents, so that did not help! At all. Many days he’d come home from work and stop by his mom’s house first, to chat with her about his day, before coming home to see me. And of course, if he was mad at me, his mom was the first person he went to. We rarely talked through our arguments, feelings, and differences.
Think you’re not a selfish person? With anger problems? Get married. Ha! But I think we were above average with the petty, selfish fights.
Oh, the many times I stomped off down the road, barefoot, and hid in the trees so he couldn’t find me!
Yeah. I did that.
Or the time I tried to lock myself in the bathroom I was so mad, not realizing that he was an expert at picking locks.
Or when I tried to run away from him to our second floor. Ridiculous, since our second floor, at that time, was just studs! He chased me right through the wall.
He kept pursuing me. And God kept pursuing both of us. Now we can look back with laughter on those
bumpy mountainous marriage patches, and realize that God’s grace is greater than our sin. AMEN! (Sorry. I got excited!) Our marriage today is strong and sweet, because of Jesus. A three-strand cord is not easily broken!