Monday, April 27, 2009

Marriage 101: You Are Not Single Anymore

I hope you enjoy my latest series on the highs and lows of our first year of marriage. And in case you were wondering, yes I do have 'permission' from Duncan to share with you all. When I asked if he minded, he didn't seem to care, he was thinking more along the lines that this series may be a bit 'boring' for married readers. Well, we will see who can relate....

The title 'You Are Not Single Anymore' may have caused you to think well, duh but I think single people seldom consider that their lives WILL and MUST change after marriage. You see, you cannot bring the single life into marriage. You are not one anymore, you are two or rather two who have become one. I think a lot of singles who complain about their singleness and dream of it one day ending with a trip to the altar have not realised that marriage will cost them the advantages of singleness. Now I know when you are single, it's hard to think of any advantages but when I was single, I just took the 'freedom' that singleness brings for granted. When you are married you cannot do what you want, when you want and with who you want. There is now someone else to consider.

Duncan and I have struggled with the loss of our singleness in different ways. Now I'll be honest here, I am a very selfish person. I like my space, I like things a certain way and I'm quite happy with my own company. I enjoy catching up with people but if I spend a day alone that's certainly no tragedy; it's a blessing. I was worried that I would struggle being married because of this. Not only would I no longer have my own room, I wouldn't even have my own bed! Due to God's grace I have adapted in these areas better than I though I would but I doesn't mean I don't struggle with others.

I think Duncan struggles more with his loss of 'social freedom', that is he can't just make plans to see whoever he wants when he wants. His house is no longer his own and he has to take my feelings into account. Often while I cook dinner, Duncan will come home from work and ring up to three people just for a chat. I can't do this, I'm not a big fan of talking on the phone and I find one in-depth phone conversation enough for one night. Otherwise it's just too draining. In short, Duncan is more of a people person than I am and at times this has caused tension.

It really got my goat a few times last year when other people casually mentioned to me about plans that Duncan has made but neglected to tell me. If there's one thing that really annoys me, it's situations when I'm the last to know about my own business. Whether it's been inviting people to stay without checking with me or making plans for the house and then mentioning them to others first, this has proved to be a sore point.

I was talking to one of my married friends and she said that she and her husband are the same; she is the 'social' one and her husband is the 'loner' one. She loves having people over but her husband likes to plan it first and if you ever just 'drop in' on them, you better have a good reason. I joked that maybe we should have swapped partners but after thinking about it, I realised that God is using these differences into our marriages to make us more like his Son. If I didn't have Duncan, I would probably be a hermit. And if Duncan didn't have me, he may wear himself out with all his socialising. We really do need each other.

Marriage makes you realise that there ARE advantages in being single. Not that I regret being married by any means but I do grieve the loss of some freedoms. I struggle with serving Duncan domestically. Sometimes I just can't be bothered cooking, cleaning and washing. When I was single, I was more slack in this area because I only had myself to worry about. But now I'm finding myself striving to be more creative and varied in my cooking, to make sure the house is clean because I know it makes Duncan happy. I regret not practising hospitality as much when I was single, busyness seemed to constantly be an excuse. It's a constant fight against laziness and selfishness.

If you're single, I advise you not to expect that marriage will suddenly change you. It won't. Marriage will show you up for what you already are. So if you're selfish and inconsiderate towards your parents, siblings or housemates, then don't assume you're going to be able to automatically snap out of it if you marry. The Holy Spirit is at work in all Christians but we need to co-operate with his leading.

Here are some ways I think singles can practice serving those they live with:
  • Stick to your share of the chores.
  • Clean up after yourself.
  • Don't just invite a mob of people over without checking with your housemates. It's their house too.
  • Be considerate noise-wise of housemates/family who need sleep or do night shifts.
  • Practise hospitality.

Marriage has indeed involved many conversations and struggling to explain our points of view in a way that the other can understand. It often means that we have to relinquish plans that we could have just gone ahead and accomplished if we were single. I realise I've only touched the tip of the iceberg with this post; the whole journey of marriage is learning to not be single. But I know I have learned that being with Duncan brings such great joy. I love sharing life with him and I'm praying that will only increase as the years pass.

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