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4 Things That Surprised Me in My First Year of Marriage

By: Kristen Clark

Getting back from my honeymoon and settling into my new life with Zack was a really sweet time. I remember eating dinner on a cardboard box for several weeks while we tried to find a dining room table set. There was just something simple and sweet about this new season of life. We painted our walls together, we bought decorations together, we decided on a couch together…it was awesome. We loved living life side by side.

Prior to marriage, I had heard mixed reviews from married couples about their “first-year of marriage.” Some couples talked about it like it was a toddler’s “terrible twos,” kind of stage, while others said it was a total breeze. I wasn’t sure what kind of first-year Zack and I would have, but I was praying for a good one.

As the months unfolded, it did turn out to be a good one.

A really good one! But that didn’t mean we weren’t faced with challenges. It doesn’t matter how prepared you are — when you put two sinners into a house together for one year, there’s going to be conflict. Period. You’re going to face differences and challenges.

Even though we had prepared for marriage somewhat thoroughly (i.e. premarital counseling, marriage study books, outside wisdom, a million conversations, lots of prayer, etc.), there were still a lot of things that surprised both of us during our first year. Zack has his own list of surprises, but in this post, I want to share some of mine with you. If you’re hoping to get married somewhat, maybe this little insight will help you prepare even better.

5 things that surprised me in my first year of marriage:

1. Budget Meetings

I thought I was good with money until I married a literal financial advisor. Oh boy. My version of budgeting and saving money was to just make sure I didn’t spend as much as I made. Yeah…apparently that’s not a solid and strategic long-term plan. Oops. Zack brought some structure into my financial life, but this was hard for me. I cried at almost every budget meeting (and sometimes still do) because of how challenging it was to stay within our goals.

Thankfully, things got easier over time, and I’m in a good rhythm now. But let me tell you something — I can see why financial struggles cause some of the biggest issues in marriages today. It’s hard! Looking back, I honestly wish I had put more effort into learning how to budget and save money while I was single. So that’s my challenge to you. Take some courses, look up Dave Ramsey, get a budget app, and start practicing this now. 

2. My Selfish Heart

I knew I was “somewhat” selfish before I got married…but I didn’t think I was that bad. Then, on my honeymoon, I saw a shocking new version of myself. I realized how much I wanted to have things my way. Like a lot. I liked being in control. I naturally preferred to buy the food I wanted, to park the car in the spot that made sense, to paint the wall the color that I loved, to stay up late and not go to bed early…and a million other things.

My eyes were opened to just how many “preferences” I had in life. And when Zack’s collided with mine, it was really hard to defer. Thankfully, God worked in my heart (and still is, hallelujah!) to help me grow into being a more giving person. A more selfless person. I encourage you to practice denying yourself now and intentionally giving up your preferences for the desires of others. This will be huge in helping you become more selfless in your future marriage.

3. How Different Guys and Girls Are

The tears. The emotions. Why?? Why do I cry 50 times more than Zack?! I know this isn’t the case for every marriage, but from what I’ve heard, the majority of wives are more emotionally driven than their husbands. This caught me off guard during my first year of marriage. I felt like a crazy woman sometimes with emotions that seemed out of control.

Thankfully, over time, some good things have happened. I began applying the biblical truth of “taking every thought captive” (2 Cor. 10:5) which helped me to control my thoughts/emotions better. And I also learned that it was really good for me to have a balanced, even-keeled, steady man as my husband. We make a good team. Our guy/girl differences were actually a blessing in the long run.

4. Sex Isn’t Everything  

Prior to getting married, I thought young married couples were pursuing passionate sexual intimacy with each other every waking moment that they had! I viewed sexual intimacy as the most important and most exciting thing about the marriage. Then I got married and realized what reality actually looks like. Although it’s different for each couple, most married couples aren’t obsessed with sex. Why? Because you realize that it’s not the most important thing on the planet.

During my first year of marriage, Zack and I had a blast enjoying one another sexually (and still do), but I was surprised by how “un-obsessed” we both were. Like any gift, we enjoyed it to the fullest, but also enjoyed everything else about our marriage just as much (spending time together, talking, exercising, working, church stuff, family visits, etc). My advice to you would be this: don’t accept or reject a potential suitor on the bases of sexual attraction alone. Make sure you would actually want to be best friends with him and would enjoy spending the rest of your life together.

Getting married is a wonderful adventure full of surprises.

Even now, after almost 7 years, I’m still surprised by things. And that’s fun! It’s what keeps our marriage interesting and exciting. If there’s one thing I’ve learned the most in all of this though it’s this: no matter how awesome Zack is, he can’t fully satisfy me or meet my needs perfectly. The only way I’ve found true contentment in my marriage is by finding my satisfaction in Christ alone. 

In my new book, Love Defined, I say it this way, “no guy can ever give you what only God was intended.” The best way you can prepare for marriage now is to keep Christ at the center of your heart’s affections. To learn more about how to do this, I encourage you to add Love Defined to your summer reading list and begin learning what takes to build a Christ-centered love story starting now. You can even join our free online summer study here. 

I’d love to hear from you below!

  • Out of the four things I mentioned above, which one do you think would be most challenging for you in your future marriage? Why?

Zack and Kristen

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  • Kelsi Koller

    Thank you for sharing this! It is a great encouragement for young girls such as myself. I look forward to the day when God brings the man I’m supposed to marry into my life. And I will admit: I overthink what it’s going to be like even NOW as a single person. It’s poisoning to the truth of it all! So I again want to thank you for sharing and helping girls know what the truth is for marriage.

  • Shanae B

    This is very insightful and practical! Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  • Esther Sentosa

    wow! Older married couples always tell me that marriage tells you just how much you don’t know and wow this post really got me thinking. I have a lot to learn before marriage and possibly during marriage. Thanks for letting me know early.

  • AnnaM

    Hi everyone! I am an atheist in my rational brain but recently I had a spiritual experience where it felt like the Spirit was inhabiting my brain all day long. I feel compelled to read the Bible and pray and go to church, but rationally I know that evolution is real and the Bible is not unwavering truth. What should I do?

    • Grace

      Wow, that’s amazing! God is gracious and loves to pursue people.
      My friend had an experience very similar. She never heard about Jesus but she grew up already knowing the truth and believing it, without anyone telling her. There’s actually a verse about what you are experiencing right now: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.” — John 6:44
      Our Father in Heaven is drawing you to Him!! There are actually really rational reasons to believe in God (alliteration is awesome ;)) if you look into it. I mean, how could there be such a thing as love, happiness, and deep emotions if life came by accident? And how could there be this amazing universe with huge mountains, oceans, and an enormous space of billions of stars? There’s no way that could all come from nowhere.
      Check this verse out (Romans 1:20): “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” The verses surrounding this are really interesting too, if you want to check it out!
      The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel is a book (and now a movie!) about how an atheist tried to refute Jesus’ resurrection for a journal article but all the evidence he found only supported the resurrection. I think the movie might be on Netflix. It’s really powerful!
      The True U series is a video series about how scientifically real God actually is!
      If you have any questions or anything else you want to talk about, I would love love love to talk with you more! I’ll be praying for you! <3

      • AnnaM

        Oh wow, thank you! I’ll look those all up. I wasn’t very eloquent or polite when I commented but you were very polite in response! I can feel the Spirit I felt shining through you too. Thanks again! 🙂

    • girl i totally feel you. i am a devout christian but i also have had times in my life when it was hard to know if God is really real. I just had to pray and have faith. God did reveal Himself to me in so many ways after that season in my life that just cannot be explained and are truly Jesus.

      It bothers me when christians will be rude and try to shove our relationship with God down peoples throats, so i am not trying to be to pushy i just want to help you. 🙂 it can be hard to have faith in something we can not see, but keep reading your Bible, praying, and going to church. God WILL reward you. A verse in the Bible says to ask and you will receive, so ask God to prove Himself to you and to help you grow in Him. I am not saying you HAVE to do this because its not us who can change you or anyone, its God.

      I will be praying for you sister! i hope this helped some! God bless! 🙂 <3

      • AnnaM

        Thank you so much! I felt so confused when I started feeling this way but now it seems as though the truth is becoming clear. I will continue to explore the path of God’s truth! God bless you too. 🙂

        • Pamela

          I am very late, but I recommend reading “the screw tape letters” by C.S. Lewis and “Mere Christianity” also by C.S. Lewis, there’s also this YouTube channel called the bible project, to clear up any questions about the bible (because the bible is often hard to understand), these are just somethings to help you better understand God and Christianity.
          P.s. Hope this is helpful 🙂

  • .

    Lol, maybe she was un-obsessed because of the terrible curse known as vaginismus…. that’d turn anyone off

  • Vania Pozo Vásquez

    Hi, my name is Vania. I’m from Bolivia.
    I think I should work during my bachelor’s in my selfish heart, because I focus a lot on myself, even now being single I do not imagine what it would be like to be married, I’m used to focusing on myself and also on finances, I spend a lot and I hardly save . Thanks for your tips. God keep blessing your marriage.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for this post Kristen!! It would be cool to hear Zack’s list of surprises! 🙂

    • Shanae B

      Yes that would be cool to here from Zack too!


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