Believe it or not, I’ve already been married for over two months, and Andrew and I have just celebrated the one-year anniversary of our engagement. It’s absolutely crazy to think about everything that has changed in the past year. We spent ten months preparing for our wedding day, which came and went in the blink of an eye. Andrew and I both moved twice in that time, and now we’ve lived under the same roof for two months (and we only just finished getting our furniture). I graduated with my Master’s degree, and Andrew has completed all the coursework for his Doctorate. After a year as the Coordinator of Religious Education at St. Ignatius, I’ve been promoted to Director and Youth Minister. It’s amazing how much can change in a year.
One year ago, I had just moved to Maryland, and I was nervously anticipating another year at the Institute. I was already wondering how I was going to balance school, work, and wedding planning. But in time I realized that I had nothing to worry about. All of our wedding plans fell into place. We chose a date and a venue. We found wonderful photographers, and I got a great deal on our flowers. I found a wedding gown that I loved, as well as bridesmaids dresses that perfectly suited the time of year and their sunflower bouquets. When the big day finally arrived, despite being late May, it was a comfortable 75 degrees outside and the sun was shining and warm. Our big day passed in the blink of an eye, as did our honeymoon, and before we knew it, we were standing in the apartment that we now shared, knowing that life was about to go back to normal and at the same time wondering what this “new normal” was going to look like. It had been a while since either of us had had a roommate, and this was not a typical roommate situation. We were husband and wife.
Over the next few weeks, we adjusted to our schedules. Sometimes I was up and out of the house before Andrew even woke up, but most mornings, Andrew woke me up as he headed off to work, and fifteen minutes later, I would stumble out of bed and towards the kitchen for breakfast. Our morning routines rarely coincided, but our evening routines always did. Throughout the first few weeks of married life, we always went to bed at the same time, despite the fact that Andrew woke up an hour (or more) before I did. He obviously doesn’t need as much sleep as I do.
Most days I have been able to work from home, which has been both a blessing and a trial. It’s wonderful not to have to drive into the office (a 50 minute commute with no traffic), and I find that I get a lot more done when I’m sitting on my couch without any distractions. Well, with only one major distraction- Andrew. Though my mornings are always quiet, afternoons can be a bit more difficult to navigate. Sometimes we need food, so I have to take a break from work to buy groceries. I have to take a break to prepare dinner and then eat it with Andrew every night. From time to time, Andrew wants to talk about something, so I find myself taking yet another break. There have been many afternoons where five hours of work must be spread over eight because of these breaks. With time, Andrew and I were able to work out a schedule that allowed me to work more consistently, but it’s always a bit of a struggle to resist the urge to take a break when Andrew comes home or when he wants to take a break from his own work. But we both know what a blessing it is to be able to work from home, and neither of us want to abuse that privilege. So we both work hard to respect the boundaries of my position.
Andrew and I have learned a lot during our two months of married life. As I mentioned before, it’s been a while since either of us has had a roommate, and the husband and wife relationship exceeds anything that we might have encountered in our college days. In college, we woke up when we wanted to wake up, and we went to sleep when we wanted to go to sleep. If our roommate didn’t have the same class schedule as us, we just crept around the dorm room until it was time to make our way to class. We worked by the light of desk lamps, or the light that came from our shared bathroom. If we really wanted, we could have operated as two individuals only connected by our shared living quarters. We didn’t need to be good friends; we didn’t have to eat together or study at the library together (I, on the other hand, was fortunate enough to room with one of my best friends in college, and we were mostly inseparable). When your roommate is your husband, it’s very different.
The college roommate situation can ultimately come down to two “I’s.” Even if you’re very close to your roommate, you don’t consult them before making most plans. You don’t have to eat most of your meals together. You don’t share the same bed. And most importantly, after your four years of college life, you move out. Most people don’t plan on living with their college roommates for the rest of their lives.
Now I have a new roommate, and things are very different with him. I’ve needed to abandon that “I” mentality in favor of a “we” mentality that is much more in keeping with marriage. I’m not merely talking for myself anymore. I always have to answer with Andrew in mind. I generally consult him before making plans, not to ask permission, but just to make sure he knows what’s going on. Before any large purchases, we always discuss it together, because it’s no longer my money, but ours. On occasion, we’ve both been asked to drop everything to help the other with something. Sometimes it’s small, like doing a load of laundry. Other times, it’s bigger, like taking time out of your busy schedule to attend a prayer service for a sick co-worker. It’s not always convenient, and it often demands that I put Andrew’s needs before my own, but it’s totally worth it. It also helps knowing that Andrew is also always willing to put my needs before his own. When you are always giving yourself totally to the other, you are never empty because the other is always filling you at the same time.
Married life has been a very joyful experience for us so far, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been difficult at times. We’re still very much in our honeymoon phase, but that doesn’t mean that we haven’t argued once or twice. The shift from “I” to “we” is not always an easy one. Sometimes it’s downright hard. We live in a culture that is very egocentric, very “I” focused. We also live in a culture that is overwhelmingly anti-marriage. Marriage is whatever we want it to be. Marriage is just a piece of paper. Marriage is a product of my will. I can get divorced if I ever feel like marriage (and my spouse) is no longer satisfying me. But true marriage is not like that at all. True marriage is not about “I,” but “we.”
Marriage teaches us to think of the other, to put the other first. It teaches us to think not as autonomous individuals, but as people who are intimately related to others. There is no “I” in marriage. There is only a “we.”
But a word on that- marriage is certainly about the “we,” but that doesn’t mean losing your “I.” Ironically, since giving myself to Andrew, I have become more myself. It reminds me of the Gospel passage where Christ tells us that he who wishes to save his life will lose it, and he who gives up his life for Christ’s sake will find it (Matthew 16:25). Not the same idea, but it definitely relies on the same principle. The more I give myself, the more I become myself. As Pope St. John Paul II once wrote, man “can fully discover his true self only in a sincere giving of himself” (Gaudium et Spes 24).
Adapting to this new “we” mentality has been a challenge, but it has also brought Andrew and I great joy. Sure, we fail from time to time, but we continue to walk this journey forever. Where one is required to put the needs of another before his own, there will always be a need for forgiveness at times. We all fail to live up to our calling. The important thing is that we remain faithful- to God, to one another, to the vows that we have promised. I have lived the past 26 years thinking first about myself (and I don’t mean that I’m selfish- which might be true- but only that there has never been anyone else that I have needed to think about before considering my own needs). Now I will spend the rest of my life thinking about Andrew and the children we desire to have together. I no longer live just for myself, but I will spend the rest of my life living for my husband and children, for the “we” that God has created from the two who have become one.
Mary Help of Christians, pray for us!