Approximately three weeks ago, I traveled with my husband to Memphis for our Frost Family Reunion. In the midst of visiting & celebrating family, my husband intentionally planned a date to the National Civil Rights Museum, formally known as the Lorraine Motel, which is where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. While that date was an absolute highlight and something I had hoped for & bugged him about, I found myself far more emotional and in-tune with self, as we explored the infamous Beale Street.
The Beale Street experience was like Native Omaha Day for Omahans. It was like the Pride Parade in Los Angeles for those in the LGBTQ community & allies. It was like the Crop-Over Festival in Barbados. The music was loud, the people were beautiful and smiling and vibing–the energy was better than the most eloquent of words could ever describe. There was a sense of pride that permeated the air and I was in the center, taking it all in.
The smell of smoked and well seasoned turkey legs filled the air. We stopped at a backyard bar that had beautiful round light bulbs hanging in the air. My husband reached for my hand, and asked me to dance. With cousins, aunts, and in laws all watching, I smiled and reluctantly took his hand. While I love to dance, it isn’t the thing I do best. . . I’m more of an at home, music playing, candles burning, dance-in-the mirror type. Publicly, I just groove. . But nevertheless, we danced. As he held me close, I closed my eyes and out of nowhere, tears filled them. I was unexpectedly overcome with emotion, tears trickled down my face, and I hid in his shoulder, took a deep breath & thanked God. Swallowed in music, under the stars, with a warm breeze gracing my skin, I said, “Lord, thank you, for this man. .” My husband, unaware of my tears and the moment I was having, whispered, “I love you more than anything.” It was then, that I realized, to be one, meant far more than a new last name and a signed certificate.
I’ve been married to my husband a whole 365 days. When I walked down the aisle to dedicate my heart, my body and my soul to this man of dreams, I wasn’t without doubt. I wasn’t sure that I was making the right decision. I mean how can you be TWO THOUSAND PERCENT SURE? I knew that I loved him. I knew that he loved me. I also knew that forever was such a long, long time. I remember preparing to walk down the aisle and I became extremely overwhelmed. . . he walked out, my bridesmaids walked out, my beautiful maid of honor walked and then it was my turn. . . with my parents in conversation and occupied with one another I stepped into a nearby room and just cried. In walks my God Dad who must have sensed that I should be coming down the aisle by now. He looked at me and smiled. His eyes told me that what I was feeling was normal. With his voice steady and his hand in mine, he prayed. When he finished he hugged me and said, “Let’s go get married Babe Rock.” That moment will forever be etched into my memory.
In talking with my grandmothers, aunts, church family and friends and all of the other married women I know, I’ve learned so much about the ways in which marriage has changed over the years. The differences are vast. What to do, what to serve, what to wear. Wedding location. Who gets invited. Who walks who down the aisle. My grandmother married my grandfather before she was 21 years old. Her father told her she would get married OR go to college. In hearing her story I thought about how different her father’s instructions were from mine. My father refused to pay for anything wedding related until I had completed my Ph.D. Four degrees later, he gave his permission. When Dell asked him for my hand in marriage, he said my Dad told him, “You can propose whenever you want. But she needs to walk across that stage before I walk her down that aisle.”
My grandmother knew that she would have a house full of children and be an at-home mother. My mom had already given birth to the three of us before she got married. My aunts have never been married and the many married women I know have all done things differently–some have children, some decided not to, some couldn’t, some with step-children and others currently expecting. Some work, some don’t, some have husbands who stay home, some who say they’d never be married to a man who didn’t make enough to give them the option to stay home. . . the variations are endless.
I didn’t know where I stood. . . I knew that I’d never be an at home mother and I was firm about wanting to secure my own bag and not so sure about having more children. I love my work. I love my grind. I never wanted to give up the independence I worked so hard to gain for the sake of being a wife. I have been asked at least 100 times: Are you pregnant yet? When will you start having kids? How many children are you all planning to have? Can I be the god-parent? The assumption is that since we’re married, we will have children. While many things have changed over the decades regarding marriage, what it is, what it looks like and what it consists of, one thing has been constant for me and I thank my grandma for this advice: A marriage should be what the husband wants it to be & what the wife needs it to be. If those things ever conflict, it should rest on what God has ordained it to be.
What I have found over the past year is that my marriage is not like my Mom’s marriage, or my aunt’s marriage, or my grandma’s marriage. It’s different in many ways. Similar to theirs though, it required a shift in my thought processes and in my life. It’s more than a celebration that occurred on July 14, 2018. The commitment isn’t just on that day. It’s every day. I have to wake up every single day & agree to “I do”. Some days it is absolutely easier than others, but on the particular, aforementioned Memphis night, I was more sure than I ever would be and while I wish that moment was what my days were filled with, the reality is, all of them aren’t. We have to work to create those highs and embrace them when they come, even if it is in waves.
This last year has taught me that the “fairy-tale” I spent all my life waiting for is not a reality. Yes, marriage is beautiful and it’s delicate and it’s sacred, but it’s also hard! The happily ever after doesn’t come by hope alone. I have struggled this past year to stay true to the vows that I made only a year ago. I promised to love, to honor, to obey. . . and some days I want to argue about why laundry isn’t finished and dishes aren’t done. I want to lash out about him feeding a stray cat and not remembering my pineapples on his grocery store runs. He jokes when I’m serious and I laugh when he’s firm, some days it feels like we’re not doing this thing right. Then other days, like the one we shared a few weeks ago in Memphis, the stars aligned and moments like those are reminders that we’re in this thing for the long haul. It’s a reminder that perfection isn’t real and that real love, isn’t perfection.
My husband is not perfect.Neither am I (sorry to shatter your dreams, hahaha- – it’s a joke), we are both like Drake said, the furthest thing from it like everyone we know. What I love most about my husband is that he chooses me, in all my imperfection. He genuinely, wholesomely, chooses me. Even though I over-commit. Even though I work long hours. Even though I’m spoiled. Even though I’m harsh. Even though I’m ambitious. Even though I’m uncertain about more kids. Even though I put my career before personal life. Even when my hair isn’t combed, when my make-up isn’t done, when I’m not feeling well, when I’m moody, when I’m angry, when I’m sad, when I’m annoyed or annoying, when I won’t shut up or don’t feel like talking! He chooses me when I’m up, he chooses me when I’m down. He chooses me. I am sure it takes effort. I am sure it takes intentionality. I am sure it takes focus. Contrary to popular belief (or not LOL), I am not an easy woman to choose.
I am easy to love, but to choose me each day means choosing a child that isn’t his. It means choosing a past that he was indirectly a part of, but continues to be directly impacted by. It means choosing a woman who gives & gives & gives. It means choosing a woman, who in all her glory, is flawed. I respect who he is as a man because I have watched him caress the ugliest parts of my soul, kiss away and work towards healing the parts of my mind that he had nothing to do with hurting and in the darkest of days, I watched him kneel and pray over the parts of myself that I typically run from. He is a rock that a forever can be built upon, because he trusts the True Source and he doesn’t falter. He doesn’t run. He doesn’t misguide or use the broken parts of me against me. He covers my scars and my doubts in love and his consistency melts away my insecurities. He really is a special man and I feel blessed to have him.
When my girlfriends ask me for marital advice I only offer one sentiment: Pray. I think that is where the best marriages start, maintain, sustain and live. I remember praying for a man like my husband. I remember asking God for someone who is kind, gentle, hardworking, patient, faithful, respectful and God-fearing. I remember meeting my husband and still not recognizing that he was what I prayed for and I think marriage and other things in life are the same way. We pray and seek God for something, then it arrives and we say, “Well, not like that!” or “Hmmm, you’re close God, but not quite.” or “Yes, that’s it, but I don’t want it right now.” Marriage has taught me that God is going to be God. It’s my job to trust Him and make room for him to do the things that I have asked of him and because of who he is, often times it’s more!
While it may sound like I said “I do” & lived happily ever after, I want you to know that is not at all the case. If I had to reflect on the last year it has been many things, but simple isn’t one of them. Here are the most influential lessons I’ve learned in year one of my marriage:
- If you don’t keep God at the center, it will create an imbalance.
- It’s okay that the forever you’re stepping into looks different than the one you self-designed a few years ago.
- Being a good wife is not being a perfect woman.
- Making time for me and what I love is more important than it ever was before.
- Consideration, Communication and Collaboration goes a long way!
- You can never talk enough about needs & expectations!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
- Keeping the details of your marriage private is not pretending, it’s protecting.
- It is not my husband’s job to make me happy. It’s mine.
- Treating my husband how I want to be treated ignores the fact that he may prefer to be treated differently.
- When I see a good looking man, I still smile and blush — and that’s okay. I am married. Not blind.
While one year of marriage seems small, it’s monumental for us. The 73 million young adults currently 18-34 years of age, commonly referred to as millennials comprise the largest population in the last three decades. An unprecedented amount of millennials will remain unmarried through the age of 40 (Murphy, 2019). Research also shows that social media, along with finances, sex and communication are leading causes of divorce. 42% of first marriages end in divorce and this number increases each time you remarry.
In pre-marital counseling we talked a lot about deal-breakers. . . why/when would you divorce or walk away from the marriage and my Pastor said something profound, “Many people will walk down the aisle and before God, family and friends, say I do. And then, they don’t.” As I reflect on year one of this life commitment I think about that. . . Tune in to our social media accounts for conversations about marriage, deal breakers & more. I look forward to learning more from & about you!
*Note to the reader: Thank you so much for reading! You can find more information on millennials here. You can find more on divorce stats here & here too! Here’s a great piece on why the first two years of marriage are critical.