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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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