First Year of Marriage: The Roller Coaster

Geanna came to this country when she was thirteen years old. It was her first time to get on an airliner. When she landed in London, it was the first western city she ever experienced. On the next leg of her journey she was exposed to New York City where her adoptive mother spent a week showing her the sites. Then it was off to her new home in a mid-size southern city. After a few weeks, it was time to attend summer camp with her new church family youth department. This was a much more comfortable new experience for her since she had grown up in a country village. The young people were genuinely nice to her and worked hard at including her in all activities. The food was different, but as she learned later it seemed like home because it was summer camp quality.

After a week of camp it was home again with her new family. All the family ate together for evening meals. Father read the Bible and led in prayer. This was followed by the most extravagant meal served on a white table cloth with more utensils than Geanna had ever used to eat a meal. She had seen pictures of such tables, but this seemed unreal to her. Monday of the following week she and her new mother and sister were off to public school to enroll her for 7th grade. The school was huge. The teacher appeared to be no older than her sister. She discovered that there would be 35 students in her home room, she would have a locker, and she would have to learn to pass classes. By the time they came home and she went to put her new book bag and supplies in her room (which was almost as big as her entire house back home), she was exhausted.

Well, how do you feel about now? Excited? Overwhelmed? Homesick? Confused? Questioning? Anticipating a whole new life? Geanna had all these emotions and continued to have them intensely for at least the next year. On Fall Break weekend her new family took her to Six Flags over Georgia where she saw and rode her first roller coaster. After the ride they sat down to have a hotdog and coke. Geanna looked at her new family and said, “That ride is how my life feels!”

While in most cases a newlywed probably would not describe the first year of marriage as a roller coaster (though some would), many couples report emotional turmoil. No matter how well they know each other when they say “I do,” they really only begin to know each other when they engage in the process of becoming one.

There are several dimensions of life, while discussed in good premarital counseling (if they have it) that may generate emotional turmoil. These include expectations, communication, money and sex.
Expectations and communication actually play off each other. Expectations unexpressed presume mind reading on the part of the mate and hence lead to disappointment and frustration on the part of both partners. The expected one is hurt or angry (or both) because the mate does not do what they want. The mate responds with frustration at the hurt and anger because he/she has no idea what is generating it. Then often times when he/she asks, “What is wrong?” they get the answer, “Nothing!”

One young husband told me, “Oh, my wife is just a spendthrift! We are already in debt.” When I asked if he had taken the leadership role of asking her to work with him to develop a budget, he answered no. Many young men seem to pick up the idea, “If Mamma is not happy, nobody is happy” and do not take the hit to lead in budget development. As one fellow said, “If I want sex I can’t curtail her spending.” Unfortunately, this attitude makes his wife a practical prostitute and will lead them to financial ruin.

The other recurrent problem with sex is frequency. Couples who do not communicate honestly about their desires in this arena may manage their frustration for awhile, but one or the other will suffer from a growing resentment eventually leading to an impasse in the relationship. It is best to communicate and adjust out of mutual respect so as to develop a rhythm or pattern of relating that is satisfying to both.

Hopefully by now you have observed the analogy between Geanna and couples in the first year of marriage. It is a little easier to empathize with Geanna. However, in doing so we can appreciate that the first year of marriage is a roller coaster. It may only be equal to the coaster on which you take your six year old brother, or it may be more like the mindbender at Six Flags. Expecting that first year of marriage to have this characteristic can certainly help you (or help you help you counselee) to prepare for the ride.

Here is where the Christian individual and the Biblical Counselor have the advantage. We have the instructions of the Designer. If we will submit to his design, we will find life adjustment to be much smoother. We will speak the truth in love (Eph 4:15). We communicate our desires to one another (Eph 4:29). We will be mutual in our sex life (I Cor 7:1-5). And when it comes to money, we will mutually be about stewardship (II Cor 8 and 9).

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