Real Talk – The First Year of Marriage Is HARD
Posted on Aug 14, 2018
The best way to describe the first year of marriage is honestly the craziest roller coaster of your life. It's a roller coaster of emotions that doesn’t seem to slow down until your first anniversary hits and then all of a sudden everything seems somewhat normal and you begin to get the hang of this whole marriage thing. Granted, everyone will obviously have a different experience depending on their upbringing, their personality, and relationship with their family.
The hardest part for me was leaving my parents’ house and moving away to a different country. I’ve lived away from home for a year while in undergrad, but I knew it was temporary and that I would eventually go back to my parents’ house. I’ve always had a close relationship with my family, especially my mom, and so the thought of leaving was something we all struggled with.
The year leading up to my wedding was busy with preparations – I chose not to hire a wedding planner and decided to do everything myself with the help of my mom and sisters (whom I drove crazy). We went dress shopping together, chose the hall together, chose the flowers and centerpiece designs together, went to the food and cake taste testing together, so naturally this strengthened our bond even more and brought us closer together.
My husband, Kareem, and I did our Katb Al-Kitab (Islamic Marriage ceremony), henna, and wedding all within the span of one week. It was a week full of celebrations and joy – followed by painful goodbyes. I won’t necessarily go through the details of how hard it was on my family and I, but it was a crying fest to say the least. I moved to North Carolina with Kareem, which is where I was born and lived for 18 years of my life so technically I was moving back “home”, but for anyone who’s left their mom’s house you know that home is where mama is. Even with all of my childhood friends and my uncles waiting for me, I still felt very much alone.
Kareem’s family, who all live in North Carolina, had prepared a beautiful walimah for us. It was basically like a second wedding for all of our friends and family in NC. The first two weeks of my marriage were full of celebrations, alhamdillah. It didn’t hit me that I was married until the day after the walimah when Kareem went to work and I was alone in a new house that was suddenly “my house”. I remember lying in bed thinking, “Ok all the fun is over, I want to go home now.”
The first year of my marriage was a learning experience, as it was a time of growth for both Kareem and I. We quickly realized that we barely knew anything about each other despite our yearlong engagement. We realized that you really don’t know a person until you live with them under the same roof. It took a lot of time for me to get used to certain habits of his and I’m sure it took him even more time to get used to mine since Kareem is an only child and he’s never really lived with anyone else other than his parents. Some days were beautiful, full of love and emotion. A lot of days weren’t so pretty. We fought. We fought a lot about silly, petty things that we look back at now and kick ourselves in the butt for.
I think the hardest part for me was coming to terms with the fact that not only did I move out of my parent’s house, but that my family doesn’t even live in the same city (or country for that matter), which meant that I couldn’t see them whenever I wanted the way we saw Kareem’s family. They couldn’t come over for tea or dinner the way Kareem’s parents did. We couldn’t always celebrate birthdays and Eid together the way we did with Kareem’s parents. I couldn’t grasp that concept, and thought it was unfair. It took me a long time to come to terms with that reality and realize that this is life. Even now, five years into our marriage, I sometimes struggle with this reality.
I always thank Allah (S) for how patient and tolerant Kareem was (and still is), because let me tell you, when I’m upset or “in a mood” as he likes to put it, I am not an easy person to deal with. Even though he wasn’t going through the same struggle I was, he still made the effort to empathize with me and tried his hardest to put a smile on my face and make my day better. Being away from your family doesn’t ever get easier; you just learn to deal with the reality of it. It especially doesn’t get easier when you have a baby and see your in-laws enjoying her whenever they want, but have to FaceTime with your family for them to see her or wait for the yearly visits.
As the days went by things got easier – but sometimes they didn’t. And you know what? That’s ok! It’s ok if you guys are madly in love one day, and you’re at each other’s throats the next. It’s ok to argue and it’s ok to be sad. As long as the foundation of your marriage is built on mutual respect and love, arguments will always happen and you will always make up. And when you do, you will come out even stronger and love each other more than you did the day before.
At the end of the day you remind yourself of all the reasons you chose this person, this one person out of all the billions in the world, and you smile to yourself and you apologize and you give them a hug and kiss and you never go to sleep in separate beds. I’m not going to say never go to sleep upset with each other, because we are human at the end of the day and I know for me personally, it’s hard for me to get over things sometimes. Instead, I always try to make it a point to give Kareem a kiss and tell him “I love you” before bed even if I’m still mad. Sometimes I fail at this even now. Kareem is much better at letting things go and apologizing, but hey I’m working on it and marriage is a work in progress. Every day you work to make each other better; you work to make your marriage stronger. [Photo Credit: Chasity Zwicker Photography]
The last thing I want to touch on is that marriage doesn’t make you happy; a spouse can’t make you happy, only YOU can make yourself happy. Together you and your partner make your marriage a happy marriage because both of you are happy individuals. Don’t rely on your partner or anyone else to bring you joy if you yourself can’t. I say this because I think we all, to some degree, have the misconception that marriage makes people happy. The media and our society always portray marriage and relationships in such a romantic and sugar-coated way that it’s hard for us to not have this preconceived notion of what a real marriage is like. Looking back, these thoughts and expectations from society are a huge factor into why the first year of marriage is so difficult and so different in reality. This is especially true for those of us who don’t date and live with our partners before getting married due to religious/cultural reasons.
Marriage is beautiful. Marriage is hard work. And yes marriage does get easier as the years go by. Even after having a baby, I think it is much easier than the first year. You learn to let things go. You learn to love more and argue less. You learn to forgive. You value your time together more. You realize that life is short, and the fact that you wake up next to your spouse every single morning and have the privilege to spend another day together is a blessing that you can never take for granted.
Danah is wife to Kareem and mama to their daughter Kinzah (aka Kiki). She was born and raised in Charlotte, NC, and loves all things food, fashion, photography and home decor. After having Kinzah, she created her blog, Mother of Pearl, where she shares a glimpse into her life as she navigates motherhood and hopes to build a safe space for other mamas to connect. You can follow her on Instagram.