This weekend marked my first wedding anniversary and I wanted to reflect on the some of the feelings and spiritual lessons that I have learned along the way this past year. The common theme in all of these spiritual love lessons is humility and openness.
Words of Affirmation- I never valued this as a love language. Having grown up with many disappointments and low self-confidence, I often placed little value in the praises or promises of others. Actions always had far more value to me than words. This shifted for me as a wife. I suddenly felt the need to hear that I was needed and that I was ‘doing a good job’. In hindsight I can look back and attribute these to how I defined myself and how to do this new ‘role.” It brought up feelings of insecurities and expectations that caused me to question if I was sufficient. It is important to note that within a couple months of marriage I found out that my emotionally toxic job was ending soon, and my husband’s family was also going through difficulties. I felt like I lacked control and direction professionally and personally.
So much of my self-identity is centered in sharing my gifts with others. I was the ‘strong friend’ that people turned to for a kind ear to help them navigate through difficulties in life. I even volunteered as a crisis counselor weekly. I felt value in that role. Unfortunately, I married an extreme introvert. When we were dating he shared life events, but seeing him deal with the stress of life daily without letting me in emotionally created a sense of isolation and hurt. That coupled with daily reminders from my mom that I was not being the “typical wife,” and feeling like I was not living up to grand expectations I placed on myself wore on me.
I had to humble myself and bear my soul in a new way. I had to tell him that I needed to hear and feel like I was needed. I needed to hear that even if my work was falling apart that I was doing well and serving well in the relationship. We have these check-ins almost monthly because the way my anxiety is set up I need it. I have learned that while other people’s words aren’t that powerful, his are.
Acts of Service- I used to think acts of service in marriage meant doing the laundry (which I hate) or letting him have most of the covers. But it is also showing them that they are a priority. In any act of service, it involves giving of your time and talents.
My husband is very supportive of the many services and extra-curriculars I am involved in. As a married couple you lose the luxury of having maybe just a day or two on the weekends together. You see them every day. My absence in these various activities was more noticeable now that we lived together. I had to prioritize our relationship and I eventually bared down on activities that were not worth missing out of our time together.
As stated, one of my talents is my ability to console others. In the first few challenging months of marriage, I was able to use that gift in many ways to help my husband through the difficulties he had to face. Service is not just how I show love to others, but also how I prefer to receive love. I grew to value the freedom that came from surrendering my worries and concerns knowing that I had a partner to share the yolks of the world with. He is so very giving of his time and resources and it brings me great joy.
Receiving Gifts- Gifts come in various forms. They can be material or spiritual. One thing I believe we have worked hard together at is learning how to be open to God’s gifts. Openness to God’s blessings requires the humility to surrender control after you have done your part. Both of us are the oldest sibling and have always been the ones that shoulders many familial responsibilities. While those traits made us the hard working and determined people we are it does not us make us all powerful. Sometimes we have to offer up our need for control and the results have been the showering down of God’s graces. This has come in many forms, but one in particular has been in my job switch. We prayed for God’s will to be done and He showed that he can make a way out of the tiniest bit of hope. Gifts come.
Quality Time- I always valued this the most as a love language. Nothing is more valuable than time and nothing says more about a person than how they use that precious time. Quality time with my spouse has evolved from weekend dates to also including spending quality time together with God. I wish we had, especially during the engagement, dedicated more of our time together to develop a prayer life as a couple. We pray individually in different ways, but there is a beauty and intimacy that praying together brings. This is something that will constantly evolve throughout our union but it’s essential to our spiritual health as a couple. For me I found that my prayer life has grown so much in this last year. My relationship with the Holy Spirit was what kept me grounded as I navigated through wedding planning. In times of struggle the Holy Spirit has always been a guidepost to find my way back to spiritual health. The ways that have been manifested has been in allowing me to be vulnerable to my husband in new ways, to be vulnerable to friends (especially when I was searching for a new job), and most importantly in my growing vulnerability with God. Out of this so many fruits have been made visible.
Physical Touch- I believe there is not enough value in preparing individuals who have had difficulty with self-esteem and body image for marriage. If I am being completely candid there should be more resources for individuals who had previous battles with chastity to turn off their warped views on sex. Matrimonial intimacy includes the act of sex, but furthermore, the physical touches such as hand-holding, kissing and hugs should not be ignored. Of course, each couple is different but as someone who isn’t much of a hugger, I grew to cherish holding hands and cuddling while dating. That chemistry should not fizzle now that you have gotten married. It was shocking to me how quickly the work of knowing your spouse can be swallowed up by routines and busy schedules. That is not how the beauty of intimacy is fostered.
This year has been a roller coaster of emotions and events, but therein lies the adventure of life and love. I am truly blessed to have my husband to share these lessons with and learn so much more with in the coming years.