38 Lessons From My First Year of Marriage at age 38

What even is my yearly birthday blog anymore? It’s not lists of reasons I’m single, so why do I feel compelled to continue with a tradition that is no longer a tradition that is still kind of a tradition?

Well, Steve and I have been married a year and a month (and some change) now, and we have a few little lessons we’ve learned. Why not share?

In fact…

  1. That is the first thing. So many people and so many marriage advice books and everything says there should be no secrets and couples should share everything. I disagree. So help me, if Steve accidentally lets me see his phone screen while he’s playing Wordle, I will flip. It almost happened once, and it was a scary moment for our relationship. Wordle belongs in the world of no sharing, no hints, nothing. I want to do it myself so you just watch your screen, sir.
  2. Also on that list are illnesses. Last Thanksgiving Steve came down with the flu (remember how I abandoned him and went to my family’s Thanksgiving party without him because he was so sick? I remember.) Anyway, I did not get his flu, because there are some things we don’t share.
  3. Aside from that, I do feel it is important to share orders of sweet potato fries, shakes (I usually can’t eat a whole one, so I just want a few little spoonfuls of his), and Cafe Rio salads (we’ve found it’s a fantastic date night dinner to share a salad and use the survey coupon for free chips and salsa. It’s just the perfect amount.)
  4. It is also important to share what you would like as a gift for special occasions. It just makes the whole dang process so much easier, and expectations are met, even if it’s less of a surprise.
  5. Many years ago, my parents bought a label maker on a black Friday sale and I made fun of them mercilessly for that choice–like who buys a label maker anymore? My how the turns table…my #1 Christmas request was a label maker and I just want you to know that I love it.
  6. I also got a Baby Yoda stuffed animal for Christmas. It is important to express your wants (label maker) and your needs (Baby Yoda) in a marriage.
  7. Patience is indeed probably my favorite virtue, likely because Steve has it in abundance.
  8. A little story that I told Steve he could never tell another living soul when it happened because it was so mortifying and I felt so stupid and embarrassed and ALL. THE. EMOTIONS. But now I am telling you.
    • It was late February and Steve and I were headed on a magical trip to New Zealand because we both had wanted to go for forever because Lord of the Rings is the history of the world and we are into history. Let’s skip over the part where a cyclone whipped through and our flight was cancelled and we were told we couldn’t get a flight for another week and we were about to cancel the whole trip when we got a flight out the next day but that routed us through Australia first (surprise checking off of another continent on our list).
    • Aside from all that, we arrived at a much different hour than we had originally planned. We planned to switch off driving every time we stopped because it was more fun for us both to see the changing scenery, but ANYWAY they drive on the other side of the road in New Zealand and the steering wheel is also on the other side.
    • We got in late at night, Steve drove the ten minutes to our AirBNB, and we slept off a bit of the jet lag. The next morning, being my turn to drive, I started backing out of the driveway. In between trying to manage looking out the opposite side, trying to understand the back-up camera (I don’t have one in my car), and just a narrow driveway, I scuffed the driveway gate. Yes, in the first 2 minutes of driving on the other side.
    • It was not a bad scuff. Yea, nevertheless, it came to pass that it was an expensive scuff (please note that even if you send the info to your insurance and they say it should be fine, your agent may not be paying attention that this was an international claim and by the time that is figured out, you will be 2 days past the deadline when your credit card insurance will cover it. Just start with the credit card first, folks.)
    • All this was not known at the time, but I did know it was going to be a mess. Steve did not say one word of criticism, unkindness, or anything of the sort. And he even said I should just still keep driving since we knew we were going to be switching off all the time on the trip and I just had to get used to it. His patience saved me.
    • because…I was an ornery wreck for 3 or maybe 4 days straight after that, berating myself and beating myself up about the stupid, expensive mistake I made (let’s just add this was on top of added expenses because of the trip cancellation and things we had to rebook, so it was already racking up the unexpected charges). We drove tons on the trip and had 3 different rental cars, and there were zero other issues any other time. It just HAD to be the first 2 minutes I started driving.
  9. Lord of the Rings is healing. When we got to Hobbiton, I was able to switch off my ornery for several hours and enter into pure magic and happiness and joy and everything wonderful. I switched back into ornery mode again until we went on our Lord of the Rings tour on the South Island. From then on, I was just my normal ornery self not idiot driver ornery self. *smiley face with tongue sticking out*

10. Steve’s patience was also exhibited this summer when we had set aside some budget to update the landscaping in the front yard. We wanted some manual labor hired in to do the digging out and hard stuff, but when they came in with a bid at our budget to do the whole thing, we just caved.

  • and learned our lesson
  • The team was very frustrating to work with and we had to birddog everything to make sure they didn’t cut corners (or DID cut corners as they almost didn’t cut out a patch of grass to make a corner garden for our tree).
  • I got so frustrated one Saturday that I left on my morning walk with the dog and told Steve I wasn’t sure if I was coming back because I HATED the way the rock installation looked.
  • On my very long walk, I called my parents and talked about how they had so many projects in the past that they hired out that just weren’t what they expected and it was OK and I was going to be OK.
  • So I came home.
  • But I did lovingly invite (make) Steve talk to the landscapers about changes because I was a mean bum and knew I couldn’t be nice to them but Steve could.
  • Also the rocks look just fine. After the rain washed away the dust, I liked them a whole lot better. #oops.

11. One area where we are not so patient with each other: house projects. We discovered that we are not the best at doing house projects together and I would probably conjecture the problem is me–I just like things the way I like them, want to do things the way I do them, and I have also been a homeowner for several years so I have a lot more tools and experience than Steve.

12. One project that just about broke us was deciding to replace the kitchen faucet. Ours was leaking a bit and instead of just replacing the cartridge, we thought it would be nice to upgrade. Of course, as we got into the project, we couldn’t get a valve loose because of buildup and when we did, the valve was broken.

  • What even is a house project if you don’t go to Home Depot 3 times?
  • A Home Depot trip, several YouTube videos, and about 3 hours longer than the original project (because I kept doing something wrong) and we finally had a beautiful new faucet.
  • And we no longer wanted to work on house projects together anymore.
  • However, as part of our anniversary this year, we evaluated some things and decided to make a goal to do MORE house projects together because we want to figure out how to do this thang.

13. Are you surprised we made a list of about 70 things we wanted to do (some very very minor like put some papers in a folder) and we’ve already pounded through a lot of them and we’re doing much better, thank you very much.

14. So how’s married life?

  • This is the most frequently asked question during your first year of marriage. I know it’s just for conversation, but sometimes I like to answer honestly because it is more than people bargain for.

15. Married life is good. And fun. And also a very big transition for two people who lived a long time on their own and have their own idiosyncrasies and habits and and and and.

16. But I will say that I made the transition harder than it needed to be (you are never surprised.)

17. Without sharing a ton of detail, I had a hard time just adjusting to the whole concept and philosophy of marriage–like you’re really now in this thing and what even is it and are you sure it was the right thing and how do you even know and wait…what is love again? And what if I need some space sometimes?

18. And let’s add on top of that some really weird identity stuff. I couldn’t quite figure out who I was anymore because I am still who I am, but also now I’m part of a bigger entity and I wanted to be part of that entity and I wanted to work as a team, but I also didn’t know how I personally fit into that.

19. I had a hard time de-identifying myself as a cool single gal and kind of felt I was just run-of-the-mill now. That was hard.

20. And I had an unhealthy dose of some weird guilt. I just kind of felt bad that I got married. That I had somehow abandoned my friends who are single and who I had identified with and commiserated with and had absolutely fantastic times with–and now I just didn’t “belong” there anymore and I almost felt like I had betrayed my people. And also like so many other people wanted this so much more than I did, and I would have been OK not getting married, and just…yeah. I’ve been able to work through a lot of that but sometimes I still feel guilty. It’s a weird feeling, folks.

21. I listened to a podcast on Faith Matters with guest Rachel Rueckert where she discussed her book East Winds about reckoning with marriage. While she and I seem to be wildly different in the real world, I still read her book, and I was surprised to see how many emotions and thoughts I experienced that were the same. I just had a hard time figuring out what this whole marriage thing was about and what it really meant and how I was supposed to figure it out.

22. I loved this lesson from the book: <“Do you think marriage is too much work,” I asked, though perhaps this was more a question–the real question–for me than for her.”> <“No,” Kim said. “Life is work. Love makes it easier.”

23. And this one: “I like you, I thought. And I always had. We weren’t the smooth brand of Hal and Kim’s compatibility that I admired so much. We weren’t anyone but ourselves. Maybe that was okay. Yes, things sometimes felt hard. But there was also a sense of safety, contentment, and pleasure in being together. Maybe I wouldn’t always wonder if I was feeling the ‘right’ thing like an incessant itch and, instead, just feel. Perhaps we could still learn from others, [and] continue to become the best version of us. But this, us, I was beginning to comprehend, was a long-term endeavor only we could do for ourselves, an act of creating and sustaining and believing in our own story as we went along. Maybe marriage was better experienced than understood.”

  • Hmmm. Maybe better experienced than understood. I can get behind that.

24. Back to the identity thing, the second major question in the first year of marriage is, “What is your new name/When are you changing your name?” or questions of that sort. I have not changed my name. When Steve and I started dating, he asked me what my thoughts were on that subject, and I told him I was uncertain but that I didn’t know if I would. Although unexpected, he has always been supportive that this is my choice to make.

  • It has been an incredibly stressful decision for me because I believe in our partnership and I’m not super used to going against culture, but I also just am who I am and I like my name. I don’t know that changing my name is totally off the table, and I don’t care at all if people call me the “wrong” name (unless they call me Mrs. Steven Meilstrup and I convulse a little), but I just…haven’t changed it. For now we just use both last names to refer to our fam or lovingly call ourselves the StittStrups.

25. But let’s get down to the hardest part of marriage, OK? Steve snores.

  • Liz doesn’t sleep well if she sleeps in the same room as someone who snores.
  • Liz was getting terrible sleep at the beginning of marriage.
  • Liz found out that although she used to sleep very little, if she slept less than very little, she became an ornery monster.
  • Many things were tried, nothing worked for either one, and finally Liz got sort of used to it. Until recently, but that’s another matter further down the list. But also, we are still trying more solutions.

26. Steve sleeps pretty well, so that’s good for him. So well that this can happen while he naps (courtesy of a niece and nephew):

27. Fun fact: Whenever I say something that comes out of my mouth wrong, I just add “said with love” at the end. It really helps. You should try it.

28. Something Steve and I have really enjoyed is worshiping together. Not necessarily at Church anymore since he’s in the bishopric so we don’t get to sit together, but in seeking out and finding God.

  • After a few months of marriage, we discovered we’d actually been to quite a few different temples so we started to make it a little goal to get to new ones. In our first year of marriage we went to 12. Bountiful; Jordan River; Draper; Ogden; Washington D.C.; Provo City Center; Atlanta, Georgia; Mt. Timpanogos; Hamilton, New Zealand; Oquirrh Mountain; Pocatello, Idaho; and Cedar City.
    • I particularly enjoy a built-in gospel study companion, philosophical idea bouncer-off-er (although I think Steve would appreciate those questions not being the second he wakes up), and someone to pray with and for every day.

29. It is wonderful to have a partner who is just so easygoing. From dogsitting to kidsitting to lots of family time to vacations that don’t quite go how we want to just about everything.

  • He has become the resident carpet cleaner from kid spills, dog accidents, and even human spills (such as someone tripping on the stairs with his morning orange juice and splattering it all over the wall and stairs).
  • Mind you, this spill was not as bad as the Great Orange Juice Explosion of 2022 where he was shaking up the juice, the lid was loose, and our kitchen cabinets, drawers, floor, ceiling, and curtains were subsequently covered in juice. But that one had to be resolved with a visit to the dry cleaners.
  • And he does remind me that at my first Christmas with his family at his mom’s house, I innocently opened a bottle of Martinelli’s that proceeded to spray everywhere all over the floor, cabinets, and ceiling and that had much worse staining potential. So we’re even.
  • And then the time when we were boating and our canopy took off in the wind and his fingers got caught in the canopy and we thought his fingers were going to get ripped off and I said a few words I had to repent for, and he just groaned.
    • What even is a family reunion without a trip to Instacare? He still has his fingers, thankfully.
  • Even so, he keeps his cool which is amazing and also super frustrating to me because I DON’T WANT HIM TO BE CHILL SOMETIMES.
    • But also I do. In a gospel discussion about all of us being different parts of the body of the Church, I asked Steve what part he would be. He said he thinks he’s the lungs. He listed a few reasons, but my reasons are because he helps me breathe and calms me down.

30. And I have needed a lot of that lately. Because.

31. This.

32. We are excited and scared and intimidated and pretty much everything you can feel (including queasy! But mostly uncomfortable.) At the same time, what I mentioned before with feeling guilt over getting married has also made it so hard to know how or when to share our news.

  • I have so many friends who have experienced infertility, miscarriages, and infant loss that I just feel so deeply for. I know announcements can be triggering and challenging, and I couldn’t stand the thought of my joy creating someone else’s pain.
  • Add to that the aching pain so many of my friends who are single have felt or feel as they wonder if this would ever be a reality for them or know that it never will be. I was there, and I know some of it.
  • Ultimately, though, multiple friends told me that I was withholding an opportunity for joy from people and I just needed to suck it up, “put people out of their misery” (you know, those of you who were just waiting and watching), and tell people.
  • And so I’m here telling you at 23 weeks.
  • Due in January.
  • And it’s a little baby boy.
  • I was a nervous wreck about it for quite a while, but I’m settling into just being a nervous fender-bender. Or maybe more like a nervous backing out of the driveway and scuffing the rental car.
  • Steve, surprise, surprise, has been a lot more calm about things. I know Steve will be a great dad. We had only been dating a short while when I told him that I didn’t know what would happen between us, but if things didn’t work out, he still had to keep dating and trying to get married because I just knew he’d be a fantastic dad. It was weird of me to say, but you’ve heard much weirder.

33. Alas, this is why Steve’s snoring has become an issue again because I can hardly sleep anymore. It’s no joke when I put in my retainer, turn on white noise, pile up five pillows, turn on the humidifier, make sure the path to the bathroom is clear, fill up my water bottle, turn the AC down super low (which gets adjusted lower at about 1 a.m.), and put wrist braces on both hands for my severely inflamed carpal tunnel. This is after I’ve taken off the compression socks I’ve worn with my capris all day and gagged on my toothbrush as I brushed. It must be hard to love me, but he does.

  • And we can’t blame Steve entirely for lack of sleep when there’s a Tae Bo class and a bowling competition happening inside of me every night.

34. Guilt is a surprisingly effective method when you’re pregnant, but I don’t recommend it. I have always been a regular blood donator but obviously can’t now. Steve has never donated and doesn’t like needles, but I may have razzed him a bit that maybe he should donate instead of me now.

  • The guilting worked so well that he decided to donate at a Church drive.
  • Two minutes after this picture…
  • He passed out cold and went super white with blank, staring eyes. It was one of the freakiest Frodo faces I’ve ever seen.
  • He wouldn’t revive until I said his name loudly, so basically I pulled him back from the dead.
  • I will never guilt him again (so she says).

35. Some things go as planned. Like my parents buying this amazing stone counter cleaner that then became the way we announced the baby to part of my family when I gave this to Steve as a birthday gift.

36. Some things don’t go as planned. Like the family party with lots of Steve’s fam where we offered to bring cupcakes for his birthday. I took the afternoon off work so I could painstakingly fill the cupcakes with colored frosting to announce the gender and then I was planning to have the tops of them announce we were having a baby. I got so stressed out that I’d do it wrong that my sister had to come over and help save me as I flipped out about it.

  • Turns out the warm car ride down to the party combined with the cupcake cover instead resulted in this as our announcement.

37. My mom said one of the surprising things about Steve is that he has gotten on board with my weirdness. They used to count on him to be a straight shooter and now he still says things in his normal way, but the things he says are colored by my weirdness rubbing off on him. And it’s hard to tell when he’s serious or not. Hence why we have interesting reactions when we dead-pan tell people the baby’s name is Balthazar.

38. So many people say that the first year of marriage is hard. In some ways, it wasn’t hard at all for us. And in others (um…just read my blog above), I’ve been a challenging partner. But as we got close to a year, I would jokingly say to people I was so excited for the first year to be over so the switch would flip and suddenly everything would just be easy (the only logical conclusion if the first year is hard is that it’s easier after that).

  • The funny thing is that after we made it to a year, it really was like a switch flipped and I have been able to settle into marriage better and feel like I can make it and I have so many more positive emotions.
  • So joke’s on me, I guess.

So, yeah, it was a hard and good and wonderful and challenging and growing (emotionally, spiritually, and even physically #babybump) year for us.

We don’t have much advice for newly married couples. Maybe one thing is to just give things time. I was not great at making decisions quickly before I got married. Steve was bad at it, too. Together, we became worse than the two combined. But we’re getting better.

And one more thing, if you ever feel bad about your life, just take a picture like this.

Literally EVERYONE looks good in this pose, even these poor old married chumps.

Ok, bye.

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One Reply to “38 Lessons From My First Year of Marriage at age 38”

  1. Julie Michaud says:

    In many ways I feel like I’m reading my own journal from our first year of marriage! Changing identity is HARD. AND IM SO EXCITED FOR YOUR NEW ONE – MOM! What a lucky, lucky baby to get you two as parents! Sending y’all all of the love and happy/healthy/comfy as possible thoughts for the rest of your pregnancy 💕

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