A few weeks ago, I read with delight two posts from The Romantic Vineyard: Wife Debi’s A Letter to My Newlywed Self: Age 19 and Husband Tom’s Letter to His Newlywed Self: Age 24. They invited others to take a stab at writing such a letter to their former self. Here I go:
Dear Young J,
Forget the wedding. That’s like the first five minutes of an epic-length movie. So what if everything didn’t go exactly like your dreams? You managed to pull off something far more important than the right reception food or an album of pretty wedding photos: You married a good man.
Trust me, this guy will not cheat on you. He will hang in there when the going gets tough. He will care about you, even when he thinks you’ve gone a little crazy. He will try to be the best father he can be. He will be faithful to God. He doesn’t now and will never put all of his shoes back in the closet. But he’s a good man. So pat yourself on the back for a good choice, and let’s move on to other stuff you should know.
Honor your families. No matter how weird your own family seems, his family seems to have immigrated here through the Men In Black alien visitor program. But your families’ personalities and interests are just different, not better or worse than one another. Rather than wasting time wondering what is wrong with his family, get to know them. See them as God sees them — as children of the Most High King. Don’t worry so much about protecting your heart; let God do that for you. Instead, reach out and act with love.
As for your own family, your parents’ marriage will dissolve in your first year of marriage. It will feel like they couldn’t pick a worse time, right as you’re trying to get your sea legs for this marital voyage. But honestly, is there any good time for one’s parents to divorce? Honor your parents through this difficult time, but be sure you nurture your own marriage. And cut your guy a break when he doesn’t know what to do with a blubbering wife: Don’t expect him to read your mind; just ask him to hold you.
Be who you are. You are not and never will be a domestic diva. Do not compare yourself to other wives or some unrealistic ideal. Believe me, I’m saving you years of worry and that wrinkle that formed in between your brows by telling you to LET GO.
Sure, you want to be a terrific wife and mom, but domesticity is not the key. Your husband will be happier in the long run having a happy, functioning wife than one who always feels bad about herself because she isn’t up to snuff in the domestic world. Make an additional effort when you feel like it, but feel good pursuing interests and activities that play into the strengths that God gave you.
Get involved in your church family. Attending church and being involved in church are different. Get outside of what this church can offer you and your husband, and start thinking about where you and your husband can serve.
Indeed, God will refresh you as you serve others. And you’ll see sides of your husband you wouldn’t see otherwise, increasing your love and awe at his dedication, leadership, and eloquence. (His public prayers are beautiful.)
Don’t let kids derail you. Your children are going to throw a wrench into the wheels of your marriage. Remember that week of drum major camp when you woke up on day 2 and thought, “I can’t move because every bone, muscle, and nerve in my body hurts”? Yeah, that was an amusement park ride compared to night #53 of colicky baby.
You’ll lose sleep. You’ll lose patience. You’ll lose the time to shower for more than one minute. You’ll lose your sex drive. You’ll lose connection to your husband. You’ll lose yourself.
Unless . . . you take my advice and tackle some of this stuff. When you’re feeling moody and overwhelmed, research postpartum depression and don’t quit talking to your doctor until you feel better. Read fewer parenting books, and talk to grandmothers, the ones with hindsight on what practices worked and what really matters.
Set aside time to be a couple as well as parents. Talk with your husband — not about what’s wrong, but about your shared lives, your hopes and dreams, your love. This early childhood is just one season of the long marriage you plan to have. Focus on your marriage and let God carry you through the difficult days.
And know that motherhood will end up being one of the best blessings in your life.
Accept God’s forgiveness. I know it hangs over you — that past sexual history. If you could go back and change anything in your life, that would be it. Yeah, well, you can’t. But God’s going to use your experiences in a big way in the future. First, however, humble yourself before Him and accept His forgiveness.
And stop thinking that your sex drive is a leftover from your “slutty” days; it’s a God-given desire that you abused in the past but now you are using according to His plan. He wants you to take pleasure in this gift. The past is simply that: past. You’ve got your whole marriage ahead of you, with a good man who loves you and wants to be intimate with you. You’ve finally arrived where God always wanted you to be — in His design for sexual intimacy, a covenant marriage.
Grace and peace (and chocolate),
What would you write to your newlywed self? What lessons have you learned over the course of marriage?