The best way to describe the first year of marriage is honestly the craziest roller coaster of your life. 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 is going to have a different experience depending on their upbringing, their personality and relationship with their family.
For me, the hardest part was leaving my parents’ house and moving away to a different country (my parents and siblings live in Canada and I live in the US). I’ve lived away from home during my undergrad for a year, but I knew it was temporary and that I would eventually go back to my parents’ house so that didn’t really help me much. Also, because I’m the eldest, I’ve always felt that my parents rely on me the most. Whether it be with my siblings or around the house or even moral support, I’ve always felt that being around helps keep my family together which is something I value dearly.
The year leading up to my wedding was busy with preparations as you can imagine. I chose not to hire a wedding planner and so being the perfectionist that I am, I 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 centrepiece designs together, went to the food and cake taste testing together… everything from A-Z, I did with the help of my mom and sisters so naturally this strengthened our bond even more and brought us closer together.
Kareem and I did our katb ktab, henna, and wedding all within the span of one week in Canada. One week full of celebrations and joy. Then it was time for me to say goodbye, I’m not going to go through the details of how hard it was on my family and I, but it was a cry fest to say the least. Everyone from my dad to my grandmother was in tears. 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 waiting for me and my uncles and their families who live in the same city by my side, 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 laying 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, it was a time of growth for both Kareem and I. We quickly realized that everything we thought we knew about each other wasn’t necessarily true. Not that either one of us was lying during our engagement period, but 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.
Some things weren’t so petty, and it took me a long time to come to terms with, like the fact that his family lives in the same city we do and mine don’t. I couldn’t grasp that concept, and thought it was unfair. It even got to the point where I sometimes didn’t enjoy seeing his family, because in my mind it was just unfair that they get to spend time with us and my family doesn’t. I always thank Allah (swt) 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 and I know many guys would not have tolerated my attitude sometimes. 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. He continues to do that even now with our 5 year anniversary coming up in June (time flies, it’s crazy!) because 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 sometimes, and sometimes they didn’t. But 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 day. 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. Everyday you work to make each other better, you work to make your marriage stronger.
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 with kids, 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.