After the Honeymoon: Growing Pains

The other night, my sister said something I liked. We’d been talking about someone’s divorce (I know, I know). The split, like all splits, is sad: at one point, the couple was in love. But we weren’t surprised: at the end, it didn’t seem like the couple enjoyed spending time together. So we talked about rough patches, and she said:

“They’re normal, especially at the beginning. You’re still getting to know each other.”

Refreshing, right? The acknowledgement that ups-and-downs are part of a relationship, that even a good relationship isn’t all smooth all the time, and that you can grow into each other.

I’m a little reluctant to share my marriage. I’m not an authority on marriage; I’ve made (and continue to make) a lot of mistakes. I can’t predict the future, and I’ve seen a lot of people fall out of love: I don’t presume to be exempt or that I know something others don’t.

But I do love my husband with fervor. He brings me such joy. Sometimes, when I think about how much love I feel, I start to cry – it’s such a gift, to know this kind of love. (I know – I’m rolling my eyes a little too. It’s a lot of emotion.)

It wasn’t always like this. I’ve mentioned that we had some growing pains. The beginning of our relationship was a dream, but then we hit the skids and it was tough. We both did some hurtful things. Frankly, when I reflect, I’m embarrassed. I hope with age, I’ll eventually look back fondly – “ah, the foibles of youth!” – but right now, I cringe.

In many ways, M and I are different. He’s a night owl, I’m more a morning person. I like dance music, he likes alternative rock. He’s from the country, I’m from the city. Now, these differences are delightful; when we first dated, they were fascinating; during our rough patch, they were beyond irritating.

Am I being too vague? Here’s an example:

On our way to a wedding, a road was closed so we had to take the long route. We arrived later than expected and didn’t have time to prepare as planned. Where he’s from, people are relaxed about what you wear to a wedding: it doesn’t matter if your hair isn’t done or your clothes aren’t pressed. Where I’m from? I’d never dream of going to a wedding in a pair of trousers (skirts only!) or with my hair unbrushed. (If I’m honest, this is probably a bit our personalities too. He is relaxed where I am high-strung, and vice versa). For me, arriving unkempt was a sign of profound disrespect. I was distressed. He didn’t understand my distress.

How I wanted to look
How I’d wanted to look
How I actually looked. (M: "You look fine!")
How I actually looked. (M: “You look fine!”)

We fought. I cried.

It’s not that we disagreed about how you should go to a wedding, it’s how we disagreed. That’s the part I cringe about: how I acted when we disagreed, or when I was distressed. And I was distressed a lot. We are different in a lot of ways. I cried a lot.

In hindsight, it was a vulnerable time. A new relationship is heady and thrilling, but also terrifying. You are exposing yourself, not just to the person you’re with, but to everyone in their life. I wanted so badly to get along with his family and friends, I was nervous: the stakes were high because I cared. Now that we’re more comfortable, I fret much less.

I remember worrying that I wasn’t normal. When I looked around, it seemed like no one fought with their boyfriend the way I fought with mine. (Which actually might be true – whoops!) We had so many growing pains, at times, I worried we were a bad match.

Now, of course, I’m so glad we persevered. Sometimes, a good match means growth, and growth is hard. For me, learning to navigate that rough patch didn’t just make our relationship stronger, it made me a better person, and I’m as grateful for that as I am for the love I feel itself.


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