Ever since I was a little girl, I dreamed about getting married.
I played dress up in my mom’s wedding dress, imagined my Prince Charming, and wrote love poems before even knowing what love was. I was a little romantic, you might say. I loved the idea that at some point in life, someone could become my partner-in-crime—the Scooby to my Shaggy, the Patrick to my Spongebob. I loved the idea of a sidekick with whom I can traverse the earth and mutually support through all of life’s ups and downs.
My parents and my grandparents gave me the opportunity to see successful marriages. My grandparents, for instance, are both 95 years old and got married when they were 19 and 20 during World War II. My parents met at the local bar in the town I grew up in and were together for 10 years before tying the knot. Of course, in my parent's marriage, I got to witness the behind-the-scenes ups and downs—but I also got to see my parents overcome the obstacles. As an adult, I am grateful to have had role models that, without a doubt, shaped my understanding of what marriage means for the long haul.
Flash forward to now. I did meet my Prince Charming, and we got married a year ago in August. But there was a phrase that I kept hearing before our big day—“the first year is the hardest.” This stuck with me and, I wondered, leading up to our big day, if this would be true for us. I asked myself: what major obstacles would we have to overcome this first year that we hadn’t already experienced in the five years we had been together? I also wondered, why is the first year the hardest? After our wedding day, I continued to contemplate these questions and questioned, anxiously, at what point we would be faced with these tough challenges.
Now that my husband and I are two months away from our first-year anniversary (oh, how the time flies), I would not categorize this year as the “toughest.” What it has been, however, is a year of extraordinary growth. I have experienced unexpected shifts in perspective that have challenged my views of myself and the world around me. Below are some of the thoughts that have come up often for me during this first year. These thoughts have allowed me to be honest with myself in this new role.
1. You found your sidekick but you are still your own person. Hang onto that for dear life.
Continuing to nurture myself as an individual has been extremely important, and harder than I expected. For instance, I’ve had to continue facing personal darkness or insecurities—they did not go away once I got married. I’ve had to remind myself that I am still a growing individual and that working on myself cannot stop now that I have found my puzzle piece.
As a matter of fact, I now believe that continuing to self-reflect and create internal growth becomes 10x more important when married. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that once you get married, the voids are now filled. This puts a tremendous amount of pressure on the other person and will bring up problems later on. Being deeply honest with myself about the things I still need to work on and discussing them with my partner (and my therapist) has been challenging, but also another stage in growth.
2. Even though you are in the married club now, don’t forget about your single friends.
After we got married, it felt like we had stepped into this new club—the married people club. There is a really wonderful sense of community in this “club” and I have absolutely loved nurturing the relationships my husband and I have with other married couples throughout this first year.
Subconsciously, though, I have felt that we need to find the balance of clinging onto other married couples and being careful not to forget about our single friends. It feels effortless to go on double dates with our married friends, but if we are not careful, we may keep to our small world. Remembering to stay involved and not forget our single friends is really important in keeping ourselves balanced in all of our relationships.
3. Do not become boring.
It’s easy to get comfortable once you become married. When people ask me, “so, how’s married life,” I like to respond by saying, “I feel the most settled I have ever felt and it's wonderful.” This feeling of landing is, without a doubt, a wonderful feeling—but I am a big advocate for not getting too comfortable.
There is no avoiding the fact that since being married, my priorities have changed tremendously. We find ourselves making time to be with family instead of going out to bars. We are working on our side hustles instead of staying out dancing until 3AM. However, we both know that adventures and spontaneity are what make life special. We are always in the process of pushing each other to have fun, even if it is through different activities than what we used to do.
4. Have patience. You have committed to forever.
When conflict has come up for my partner and me, we have both appreciated reminding each other that we have plenty of time to grow together. These small conflicts are tiny in the grand scheme of things. This reminder has helped teach my partner and me patience in uneasy times. Patience also comes in the form of how we each are growing and allowing ourselves to have good and bad days.
With all that said, getting married is truly beautiful and is a monumental and emotional change. This year has taught me a lot about myself and has granted me a wonderful opportunity to honor new stages in life, remembering that my husband and I are both individuals on this journey together.
Courtney Jay Higgins is the Associate Editor at The Good Trade. She is also a Yoga Instructor, vegetarian, wellness and fashion enthusiast. Originally from Colorado, her soul found California when she came to get her degree in Visual Communications at the Fashion Institute Of Design & Merchandising. She has a background in telling a story through writing, creative direction and content creation. Check out her blog and Instagram for her unique perspective on the mergence of fashion and spirituality.