Monday, August 25, 2008

Becoming one

As a young wife, I decided to share a few thoughts about the fascinating process that changed so much in my life: the transition from singleness to oneness, from living a separate life as an unmarried woman to adjusting individuality so it can be compatible with life as a couple.

Consider how incredible this is: yesterday, you lived in different homes, had separate lives, went to bed at different hours, and each had his or her private world. Today, all you have, all you are and all you hope to become is shared with another person, who is to become your life partner under the blessed covenant of marriage. Two adults, a man and a woman, with different backgrounds, tastes, desires, experiences and thoughts become one. What an unbelievable alchemy of human souls!

Our culture, which sadly teaches us to be self-focused and self-centered, doesn't promote oneness in marriage. On the contrary, most often you'll hear things such as, "you need to preserve your individuality and remember you're a separate human being"; "you cannot allow marriage to interfere with your life ambitions"; "be careful not to forget about your personal growth" - and is it a wonder, when we are treated like irresponsible children until our mid-twenties?

"I would love to get married," - some young women tell me, - "but I'm afraid it will require me to make adjustments in some of my plans for the next couple of years."

Well naturally! Once marriage takes place, it makes no sense to talk about "my" plans, "my" life, "my" desires... everything becomes mutually shared, and yes, adjustments must be made - otherwise, you'll end up in big trouble.

But please, don't think I mean to sound self-righteous here. I often mention in my writings what a wonderful man my husband is, and what a fortunate woman I consider myself to be - but it doesn't mean I'm anywhere near perfect. It also doesn't mean the transition from two to one went/is going in a completely smooth and unhindered way for me. In fact, during those first few months of wifehood, I felt several times like I had been... well, knocked out. I remember that first morning I woke up to see a wedding ring glittering on my finger - and I thought to myself, wow, I'm a wife now! So what do I do? I was so eager to start!

One of the first things I learned was that I didn't just become "a wife". I became a wife to my husband, which obviously meant that the adjustments I had to make must fit his needs. My husband didn't require a perfectly clean home; he wasn't very insistent on elaborate meals, either; on the other hand, some of what he requested seemed strange to me at first. I was used to doing things differently, and I didn't understand why this or that should even matter... and in the end, I thought to myself: enough that it matters to him. If it's important to him, and going along with what he wants doesn't hurt me in any way, why insist on continuing to do things my way? Obviously, there won't be "my way" or "his way" anymore, but rather, our way, which must be worked out together.

It turned out that a particular challenge for me, as surprising as it must seem, is simple conversation. I grew up as an only child, in a household where family members didn't see too much of each other during the day, so without even noticing it I became a loner. I used to do things in silence, without telling them to anyone but my diary. At first, when my husband expressed his puzzlement as to why I don't tell much about my day, I truly didn't understand what he was talking about. Tell about my day? How does one do that? ;-)

Also, only with marriage I came to the realization of just how hanged up on my privacy I am, and why it can be such a hindrance to building a life together. Another thing typical of our only-child generation. Of course, in the past not everyone had big families either, but look at the trend. My grandmother had 6 siblings. She had 4 children - and only 4 grandchildren, out of whom only one, so far, is married (my cousins are 30, 35, and 40). In the past, even if you happened to have no brothers and sisters, most likely you had many cousins, nieces, nephews, aunts and uncles. Being used to life in a big family goes a long way, I believe, in preparing you to having a family of your own. In a big family, you must - by default - share, make compromises, and be flexible.

Our families are shrinking, and the alarming divorce rate indicates that we have not been taught to be responsible for another human being. I'm not saying that growing up as an only child made me selfish, but it certainly made me too well adjusted to a lonely life, which I didn't realize until I embarked on the road of establishing a life together with my husband.

For me, the journey of becoming one just begins. Marriage takes work. It takes work for me as a young wife, and I suppose it will continue taking work in five, ten, twenty years. It can never be taken for granted. It requires adjustment, flexibility, creativity, compassion, kindness, willingness to meet each other needs - and a good sense of humor can never hurt, either. :-) Oh, and it's so worth it.


Bailey said...

Thank you SO much for this excellent post!! I always love reading about how a marriage is supposed to work. I should jot these things down in my memory should I ever wake up and find myself a wife. ;) God bless!

Anonymous said...

I think you are wise to realize that the work you & your husband must do to make your marriage successful is just a natural part of becoming used to one another. Most of the differences (& sometimes, clashes!) you described don't arise from severe character flaws in the husband &'s just what will happen when two people bind themselves in marriage. There certainly is a lot of self-discovery made when one gets married, isn't there? And yes, the work does continue. I'm afraid I was rather naive when I married. I mean, I was prepared to work hard, I had a frugal bent of mind, etc. But I think it was a long time before I finally realized that I would be making adjustments, sometimes daily, & that it was not "all about me"...I had to think about the other person in this marriage, his comforts, his needs. It also helped to realize that he was having to make adjustments to me, too!

good post, Anna-

Kat with a K said...

Thank you so much for sharing these things.

K said...

I know you will have seen this already but it speaks to God's unfathomable love and compassion:

It truly shows what God can do against what men think capable.

USAincognito said...

It sounds like you have a good grasp on how to work with your husband to become your own family! :)

Bethany Hudson said...

Well said, Anna. I didn't realize that you are an only child, too. My husband and I are both only children. I'm looking forward to experiencing sibling dynamics through my own kids (whenever God blesses us with more than the one we now have!)

Melian said...

I, too, find it odd and sad that people no longer seem to view marriage as becoming one, or think about what that means. My husband and I got married after our second year of college. So many of our acquaintances said things like "I can't imagine being married now!" And I secretly thought, "Of course not. You're not willing to change your life that much for someone else." It was so clear that people didn't get it. They were often surprised when I told them I would need to consult my husband before I made a major decision. Yes, I am smart, independent, and capable. But I love him too much and treasure our marriage too much to use that as an excuse to railroad him, even if I'm "right". (At least most of the time. Sadly, I fail sometimes.) We began to realize more and more that we were surrounded by people who simply couldn't fathom what it was like to have EVERY decision you make, no matter how minor, impact another person. Or they couldn't fathom caring enough about that person to have that impact their decisions. Fortunately, our best friends got married at the same time, and in the same place in life. We had someone else to go to and remind ourselves of the blessings we had, and to help work through the process of realigning our lives to each other.

I love being married. I could be happy on my own, and I could be more "successful" in many areas if I were single, or married to someone and living separate lives, but I am so grateful for what I have. It's worth so much more!

Anonymous said...

Lovely post. It's been a long, long time since I was a newlywed, but you made me remember those first few years of adjusting....

I especially like the phrase 'our way'. To me, marriage is an equal melding of two different approaches, a mix, a give and take...creating a new family unit with an identity of its own.

I know you don't agree, but I passionately believe it can be done without hierarchy, without submission.

Kelly said...

Well said Anna. I'm 7 years in and it's still work ;-)
It is worth it though.
And you are right on with the comment that our society today does NOT foster two becoming one in marriage. I don't know how many weddings, including my own, where I heard people give advice like, "make sure you keep your own life" "don't loose your identity", or "make sure you do things without your hubby" What stupid advice.
You and I becomes "We" and there is nothing wrong with that.

Dymphna (4HisChurch) said...

I just wanted to let you know how much I am enjoying your blog! What a beautiful witness to your faith you are!

I am a Catholic who appreciates modesty and faith and am looking forward to reading your posts.

Neuropoet said...

Such a beautiful post, Anna! It's so nice to know that someone else out there thinks about marriage in a rational way... :) Thank you for sharing your thoughts, and your journey!


Mrs. Anna T said...

Tammy: this is really not about what *I* agree with. We have God who gave us His Torah, in which it explicitly says a husband is to have authority over his wife.

No debates can change what is written in His Word.

Looking Heavenward said...

I have been married 21 years, and I still am learning so much about becoming one! It has been so exciting to see how God multiplies our efforts when we work as "one". I find myself amazed as He pulls back layers of "conditiioning"--the self-centeredness that society encourages runs so deep in me! I have also been amazed to realize how very much my husband needs and benefits from my efforts to work with him on his goals, as opposed to each of us working separately. Even though I am a dedicated homemaker who homeschools our children, until just a few years ago, I saw my daily work as totally separate from his. Now that I see myself more as an extension of him, I see how my efforts strengthen and enable him to accomplish even more! And, of course, his success is mine as well--our whole family benefits from our increased "oneness".

Keep pressing in to the Lord to learn more about becoming one, Anna! It only gets more interesting and exciting with time!

Anonymous said...

Excellent post ! Thank you Anna :-)


Anonymous said...

Having just celebrated an anniversary, I recognize and agree with your observations about getting used to married life. As Tammy noted, what you describe applies whether the couple believes that the husband should have authority over the wife or not. Egalitarian marriages have the exact same issues.

As an only child myself, I also value privacy much more than my husband does. But, unlike you, I am much more used to talking about my day and expect to hear my husband's day too; he had siblings but he thinks that this kind of talk is strange. I think it depends less on being an only child or not, and more on whether you are from a talkative family.

I will note that my husband isn't as good as I am about sharing things. I think sometimes, in families with siblings, children grow feeling more possessive about their things, because the children grow up having fewer things of their own. An only child on the other hand is less threatened by having to share than someone who is used to constantly fighting with siblings, or someone who didn't have many possessions that were theirs alone. Again, a lot depends on the dynamics of the particular family.

As for people who would rather not get married, of course it is often because they don't want to change their ways or compromise in order to share their life. But I don't see anything wrong with that. If you don't want to share your life with someone, then don't. If you do, it can be a great way to live but it's not for everyone.

-- Pendragon

Anonymous said...

70 faces to the Torah...(Jewish proverb); one can interpret many parts of the Torah in many different ways. Not all rabbis would agree the husband is to have authority over the wife; far from it.

I would say that although much of the Jewish Orthodox world is quite conservative and even patriarchal, the whole ideology of wifely submission is quite alien there.

But I guess on this issue we'll just have to agree to disagree....

Anonymous said...

I loved this post Anna! Very well said!
-Rachelle PW

Kristi said...

I have just a couple of thoughts in reading the comments here about the husband having authority over the wife.
First, the Bible says that not only should the husband be in authority, but he is also commanded to love his wife, to lay down his life for her. God cares for us, and makes the way for us to obey His commandments without it being grievous to husband or wife. If we do things His way, our marriages will be strong and blessed.

Secondly, I have heard marriage compared to a dance. When two people are dancing together, one has to take the lead, the other follow, or there will be much stumbling around, tripping and stepping on the other's toes. It just makes sense that someone leads so that they can move together in beautiful grace and harmony.

Just some thoughts!

Susan B said...

Beautiful post, Anna. Thank you for sharing!