When any two people come together in any kind of relationship, you can expect that certain ideas will clash, and others will meld perfectly. As a man I once knew said, “If two people agree on everything, one of them is unnecessary.” The adage is just as true today as the first time I heard it.

So I’m not going to tell you a fairy tale here about the first year of marriage. It will not be a tale that will inspire those of you who are single to rush into a relationship and marriage. The truth of the matter is that marriage is hard, and the first year could be argued as the toughest. Abby talked about our first year of marriage over at Unbound Northwest.

But I am not going to tell you a story of woe either. Instead, I am going to tell you about true love, and what that has looked like over the last year (and then some). Because true love is not the fairytale first dance. It is life, lived together as partners every day.

The Honeymoon from Hell

This year for our anniversary we are headed to McCall to redeem our honeymoon and will be staying at the Shore Lodge. And yes, I will call out the horrible experience we had last year at the Hotel McCall. I wrote a review of them here, here, and here. To put it simply:

  • I tore my calf muscle a week before our wedding, so I was using crutches and a cane to get around. Our room was on the second floor. Did we get help with our bags to our room? No.
  • The restaurant they use for room service was closed from Sunday until Wednesday, so we had no room service. Did they tell us this when we booked? No. Contrast: the Shore Lodge is doing some renovations this winter. Immediately after we booked, we got an email telling us exactly what was going on, and apologizing in advance for any inconvenience it would cause during our stay.
  • The Hotel McCall has an indoor salt-water pool. They had an issue with the heater, and so it was cold–unable to be used the only day we could have used it. Did they compensate us, or offer any discount or anything else in return? No.
  • When confronted about our poor experience (before I left the reviews) the manager offered excuses. There was no offer of a discount, refund, future free nights, nothing. Apparently they don’t care if we return (or if you ever go there if you are reading this). They have enough tourist who get suckered in when everything else is full. They don’t need the likes of us, paying customers in the off season, coming in and interrupting their staff’s time on Facebook. (yes, I saw a staff member on her social media, and it took her a couple of minutes to acknowledge me when I dared ask for something)

Needless to say, we were off to a rough start. Put a groom in pain and a tired bride in the same room for a few days without the capacity to be pampered, and although we made the best of it, we need some redemption this year.

The First Few Months

Often, newlyweds live in a place that is less than ideal, but we had a place we were making work. We also had our then 14-year-old son living with us pretty much full time, interrupted with rare visits to his mother. We had an agreement to stay there until December, at which point we would decide where to go next.

The time period was designed to give us space to save money, recover from the wedding, and be able to move.

Not to mention that Abby had a major medical issue in May, just after she also graduated from college, and that set us back even more. Recovery from one thing or another just seemed to be the theme of the moment.

Then our landlord decided to sell the place we were living. With two dogs, we had to scramble to move with no money saved up and only 30 days to find a new place. This meant, more than likely our 14-year-old who was already adjusting to a number of things, would have to switch schools. Again.

We did it, and with the new place came a new peace for everyone. It was astounding the difference it made in our family. The drama, however, would continue.

Career Choices

Abby struggled with what to do after college. From simply getting a different job than the one she was in (she hated it) to going for a Master’s degree in…something…she wasn’t sure what was next. During her senior year, she had a mediation internship at the courthouse and found her calling: mediating conflict was her happy place. However, turning it into a career? There were a ton of questions about how she should best do that.

The answer came in the form of law school. It was something she had thought about, but never really investigated. The investigation turned from casual to serious to filling out applications and attending interest nights at law schools.

She’s retaking the LSAT in June, even after an amazing first score in February, so she can get more scholarships.

In the meantime, I was used to being a freelancer but had taken a job with a local internet marketing company, a job I like and dislike at the same time. The steady income and benefits are good: but it comes at a sacrifice, and does not pay as well as freelancing once did.

It has worked out well, though. I am still able to freelance on the side, not write as much fiction as I would like, but I am headed toward doing more of that. I’m also going to school, but slower. I am taking a freelance writing course, and am enrolled in college online, going back with the eventual goal of getting my Master’s in writing and rhetoric.

All of these career things equaled stress. Every decision was agonized over. There were moments when my job was going well, Abby’s was not. And vice versa.

Conflict

If you have not figured out by now that we are both ambitious people with lofty goals, go back and read what is under the headings. Stop skimming this article. When two driven, strong-willed people come together, they are bound to butt heads. Not to mention we have different styles of dealing with conflict: Abby is a verbal processor, and I process internally. I need space and time, she wants to tackle things right away.

Big honesty moment here: it took us ten months to figure out how to balance this out. Every time we had an argument, even a small one, I would try to retreat, and Abby would verbally chase me. I did not always handle being pursued well, and she did not handle me trying to back away well.

I had trouble expressing my need for space and time, while Abby had no trouble expressing her need to verbally process (no shock there, that is verbal processing). I’d never before dealt with anyone who pursued me with such zeal at those moments of, shall we call them intense marital bonding?

Love and Partnership

Want to know the secret of how we figured it all out? The one thing that will make your relationship perfect like ours, since now we have how to do this conflict thing figured out? HA! There isn’t one, and we don’t. We do better every day. We love each other more. But we are far from perfect. However, here are some tips that might help you:

We love each other, and we are on the same side. This applies to so many areas of life, but especially in marriage. We both want to raise a teenager from a boy into a good man. We both want our family to be well provided for, comfortable and happy. Neither one of us wants conflict, and certainly not with each other.

We are team Bertmore, and both of us want that team to be the best it can be. Neither of us are trying intentionally to tear the other person down and assume some kind of dominant control. This leads me to the next point.

We are partners. It is one thing not to oppose someone. It is another to be partners with them, coming alongside and supporting their goals and ambitions. But it is not just about supporting the other person’s goals and joining with them to help accomplish what they want. There are two other key elements:

  • Your partner comes alongside you and supports you in your goals and ambitions as well. This is not always perfectly balanced. Sometimes one person’s needs or goals come ahead of the other person’s, but this is constantly in flux. It reverses as often as it needs to.
  • You make shared goals and work together to accomplish them. These can be relationship goals, financial goals, and even career goals. They are short and long term and show your commitment to each other’s needs.

When does disaster strike in partnerships? When you have goals that are pulling you in opposite directions. Your shared goals must take precedent over your individual ones, at least if you are determined to stay together, so sometimes those goals have to take a back seat.

We cannot afford for Abby to go to law school and me to go to college full time, and support a teenager in the house at the same time. Abby gets to go to school first, me second. While she is in school, I need to support her in every way possible.

It does not mean that my goals are any less important, or that our partnership is unbalanced. It means that, although it is hard, I need to put my personal goals on hold so we can accomplish our shared goals. The time of a reversal of that will come.

None of these final tips I have shared mean we will have a perfect relationship going forward. It hardly means that I will never retreat, and she will never over-pursue me to get a verbal resolution.

It just means that we know a few simple things. We love each other. We have shared goals. And we have promised each other to partner in achieving those goals, no matter what that looks like. Our first year of marriage was not a picnic filled with rainbows, unicorns, and tooth-achingly sweet love. It’s been filled with real life, real challenges, and real work.

That is true love.