I got married on a warm, sunny December day in the desert of Arizona. It was a day I had spent the better part of a decade waiting for.
My fiance and I were high school sweethearts, so we had known each other for over seven years by the time we walked down the aisle. We spent the last three years going to college two hours apart, meaning I only saw him every couple weeks. It also meant I spent most of our engagement and wedding planning without him.
To say my heart desired for the day when we could finally go home together, and not face one more tear-filled goodbye as I watched his Chevy truck fade into the distance again, was an understatement.
Now, looking back on our wedding pictures fills my heart with joy every time. We were both beaming with excitement and anticipation, and our families rejoiced with us.
During the quiet minutes in the car between our nuptial Mass and reception, I remember watching my new husband’s face behind the wheel.
He was quiet, in the way one is quiet when contemplating a new and profound mystery.
I was his wife. He was my husband. These were realities we had only dreamed or joked about for seven years. In our minds, we had moved from forty years in the desert into the Promised Land. The veil of the married life had begun to lift. All was celebration, community, and grace.
Two days after the wedding, on New Year’s Day, we packed up the rest of our things and drove two hours north where my husband was still finishing school. I looked at our tiny one-bedroom apartment like it was a castle, and we were the king and queen of our little kingdom.
Most importantly, it was ours. I could tell him “let’s go home” if we were out at the store, and “home” was finally the same place. “Goodbye” meant he would be back later that evening, after school. “Goodnight” was something I whispered to him laying beside me in our bed. It was everything I had wanted for so long, and I was happy.
That’s why the sudden mood swings hit me so hard.
After a week or so, I started crying. A lot. I cried everyday, and I couldn’t figure out how to tell my husband “why” in coherent words. I was just sad. For no reason. Life suddenly felt pointless. The motivation to do anything seemed to be gone--even after four intense, hard-working college years.
I was a bad wife because I wasn’t joyful anymore. At least, that’s what I told myself.
Something was wrong with me, and my poor spouse didn’t know how to help. Newlywed life was supposed to be the land of happiness, and I felt miserable.
On top of my unexplained crying fits, the crosses of marriage started to slowly appear. I realized how easily I was provoked, how little I actually desired to sacrifice out of love for my husband, and how often I snapped at him because of the smallest annoyances.
Little conflicts over little things pierced my already hurting heart, and the differences in our personalities and habits reared their ugly heads. Even seven years of dating had not perfectly prepared me for living with this other person.
It wasn’t until I desperately opened up to a friend over the phone that I started to understand my own feelings. I had just graduated, just quit my job, just moved away, and just left the single life behind.
In almost every way, my life had just changed in exciting, sacramental, and good ways, and yet it was overwhelming.
Where had all this free time suddenly come from? I was used to barely keeping my head above water on a full-time school and part-time job schedule, not to mention clubs and a social life.
Where were all my friends? I was used to living in a townhouse with five other women, going to sorority events, and being surrounded by thousands of people every day at Arizona State University.
What was I doing? I had no job for the first time in four years and no school for the first time in sixteen years.
Now I was finally able to begin to articulate to my husband why I was acting so strange, and that it wasn’t because I was upset we had gotten married! In fact, our marriage was something profoundly beautiful to me, and I loved being a wife to a loving spouse.
I was never diagnosed with depression, but I know that a lot of what I felt was a deep emotional reaction to the immense change that had uprooted my life and ripped away my old “normal.” It was a jolt that sent me, finally, to my knees. “God,” I prayed (more than once), “I give you everything. My marriage, my future, and my life. I can’t do this. I’m too weak.”
After few more rough weeks, I began to slowly emerge from that dark tunnel into a brighter world. I realized that, with God’s guidance and strength, this new chapter was mine to make, almost from scratch.
For hours at a time, I jumped headfirst into a job search and ended up being connected with two wonderful families who needed a nanny and a tutor. I started volunteering at the local pro-life pregnancy resource center and made close friendships with all the other volunteers there. Once a week, I scheduled a phone call with my best friends so we could keep in touch. I explored the local library and checked out books I wanted to read. My husband and I found a new home at the local Catholic parish (where he had been confirmed only a year before!) and committed together to one Adoration hour there a week.
Week by week, I was crying less and less. The depressive states didn’t occur as often, and I felt a new sense of purpose awakening in my heart. My past was gone, but not dead. My family, close friends, and college experiences continued to shape my new life, and I began to see God’s miraculous hand in every new opportunity that presented itself.
It was a hand that had been there even in those darkest first weeks, carrying me.
It took three good months to truly begin to feel like I had my feet underneath me again. That was nine months ago. By God’s patient grace and mercy, I’m thriving. I love being married, and I love my husband.
There are hard days and new challenges constantly thrust upon me, but thus is the Christian life:
"Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed."
St. Peter tells us not to be surprised when suffering and persecution come our way. I, mistakenly, did not expect the darkness, as if the devil would not eagerly attack the holy institution of marriage, the foundation of our society. And I felt alone in it.
But we are not alone in our darkness.
Change, even positive change like marriage, knocked me off my feet. I didn’t think it was normal to mourn big changes, even the happy ones.
Just remember to kneel when you are knocked down.
Find a crucifix, the epitome of suffering love, lay it all at His feet, and trust. Talk to your spouse, call a friend, seek therapy if necessary, or walk outside into the sunlight and breathe. And pray. Always pray.
Because the newlywed life is beautiful and the sacramental graces innumerable.
In my twelve short months of marriage, I have already had to learn this, and learned to believe that it is a true reality, not just a pretty phrase. Fifty years from now (God-willing), I still plan on calling upon the bottomless ocean of marital graces we received one day last December to carry us through hard times.
And God wants us, his children, to ask for a lot. To depend wholly on him in childlike trust. He is the Cheerful Giver.
Since I am still a newlywed myself, I am still learning what it means to be a daughter of the King and a wife to my husband. Still learning to let go and let God. To other young brides out there, be not afraid. There is profound joy in your new vocation. And should the darkness come, you are not alone.
You are deeply loved, He has a plan for your life, and there is redemption in our suffering in the shadow of the Cross.