Did you all know that on our first wedding anniversary, Will almost killed me? Legitimately.
We were living in St. Peterburg, Florida while he completed a one-year residency program. Will LOVES the ocean and had this wild idea that he wanted to take me on a romantic boat ride to a place called Honeymoon Island. There we would have a romantic lunch, explore the island, and to top it off, sail home hand in hand as we watched the sunset.
I know what you’re thinking, um what the heck is wrong what that scene? Sounds like a crazy romantic, fun filled day. How could he almost kill you? Kill you with love maybe?
Well you guys, the problem is that we are from Kentucky. And there’s no ocean in Kentucky, which means my husband had NO experience with BOATING ON THE OCEAN! To be honest, he had zero experience with boating at all!
The other issue was that, as much as I LOVE the ocean and all of its beauty, I enjoy it from the safety of my beach chair. This girl has seen too many episodes of Shark Week.
You can see where this story is going, right?
What was supposed to be a day that you’d perhaps see in The Notebook, turned out to be more like an episode of Gilligans Island, and my friends, my husband was Gilligan.
The bad decisions just kept coming. (The above two pictures were the only ones I took that day. I too busy fighting for my life the rest of the time, LOL)
First, he took us out on the ocean (in a tiny boat), even after being advised to stay in the intercoastal water because of how choppy it was. Our boat was tossed around the ocean like a toy. Desperate and terrified I put on my life jacket because I just knew this was the end. I already saw the headline: Young couple goes missing after boat capsizes on their anniversary.
It was supposed to take us 45 minutes to get to the island. Instead, we wrestled the ocean with our miniature boat for 2 hours. With each wave that tossed us up, we were met with a body thrusting slam on what felt like concrete.
If the ride of death through the open ocean wasn’t enough, Will then anchored our boat about 70 feet from Honeymoon island (he was nervous to anchor too close because he didn’t want to get the boat stuck) and informed me that we would just swim the rest of the way. You know, because swimming in the ocean is a favorite past time of mine. NOT! I hyperventilated and had a panic attack as I swam for my life with the JAWS theme song playing loudly in my mind.
In my moment of sheer terror, my husband told me to stop embarrassing myself. He said, Jenna, there are small children swimming to this island, get it together!
Oh really Will, did they watch SHARK WEEK last week!?
The icing on the cake was finding out that we weren’t even at Honeymoon island. No, we were at some tiny little island that was filled with BIRDS! And not like a pretty bird scene you might be imagining. It was more like a cesspool of brown poppy bird water that smelled like rotten eggs. (We’re still not sure what island that was).
What about the romantic lunch you ask? Well, we aren’t sure if it was the chicken salad or smoked fish dip, but we both had food poisoning when we got home. Either that or the bird flu, either was a possibility. We were both sick for an entire week.
To say the least, we will NEVER forget our first wedding anniversary, so job well-done babe, HA!
That’s the funny thing about marriage; you can imagine, dream, and create beautiful plans for it. Just like Will did for our anniversary.
But when it comes down to it, when we go into marriage, even with the best intentions, we have NO experience. And like my dear husband who took us out into the ocean without ever doing that before, well things got a little rocky.
That’s to be expected right? With anything, the less experienced you are, the harder it is in the beginning.
Will continued to learn about boating and practiced many times by taking our friends and us out for adventures on the water. (Yes, I got back on a boat with him, can you believe it!?) Call me crazy. But by the time we moved back to Kentucky from Florida, Will was a much more experienced captain. He even won himself the nickname of Captin Will by all of our friends. A step up from Gilligan, right? HA!
Similarly, our first five years of marriage consisted of a lot of practice. And with that practice has come experience. So I want to share with you the two most valuable tips I have to offer.
1.) Don’t wait to be happy.
In our five short years of marriage, Will has graduated dental school, we’ve moved a total of four times (once out of state), bought a house, bought a business, tried to learn how to run said business, I quit my job. We’ve stayed up late, spend weekends working, and we’ve saved and sacrificed when we’d rather travel.
We’ve had extreme highs, and gut wrenching lows.
Is our life different than any other young couple? No, absolutely not. We all face these challenging years as we try and dig ourselves out of school debt, learn how to share money, begin our careers, start our families, etc.
But there’s something SO important here that I don’t want you to miss. Don’t wait to be happy. Don’t make rules for yourself that say you can only be happy when you have this house, or make this much money, or drive this car, or have this job, or travel here, or have these many kids.
Because I’m telling you all, you will be waiting forever to be happy. And when you finally wake up one day and look back, you will realize these “building years” were the happy years. They are full of learning, joy, and of love, if you are willing to see it.
If I would have waited on all of the things I thought I needed to be happy, well then, the past five years would’ve been a wash. But they weren’t, they were the best five years of my life.
They were the best because we chose to love and be happy during the journey. We didn’t wait for happiness; we practiced it.
“Have you ever noticed how most people seem to be waiting to be happy in the future? They seem to be so intent on getting through the day they forget to enjoy it. It’s as though happiness is a distant city to them – a city they’re striving to reach. But happiness is something that must be learned and practiced if we’re to become skilled at it. Pushing it out into the determinate future involves running the risk that we won’t know how to be happy when we get there. It’s like saying, some day when I can afford to buy a piano, I’ll sit down and play beautiful music. It doesn’t work that way. Owning a piano doesn’t confer the knowledge of how to play. And arriving at a particular stage of life, whether it’s measured in terms of age or income, doesn’t mean that we’ll suddenly become happy people”. Earl Nightengale
How can you practice being happy now?
2.) Lovingly embrace every phase of life
I’m going to repeat it, LOVINGLY EMBRACE EVERY PHASE.
In our lifetime we go through different life stages. Each stage of life brings about its own set of challenges. The challenges of life never stop, each phase will test you and push your limits. Just when you think that now maybe you can be happy, something else comes up.
That’s called life.
And this is WHY we can’t wait to be happy. In the first phase of marriage, there are lots of challenges that could detour you from choosing happiness.
When Will and I got married at the age of 24, we knew we were in for a long road these first five years. School/residency, moving, building a business, and paying off a lot of debt. But we were determined not to miss out on happiness and love during this phase.
How did we practice being happy during this beginning phase of marriage?
- Laugh hysterically at the completely ridiculous shenanigans your husband gets you into on your wedding anniversary.
- Accept that you can’t buy fancy things at this point in life with gratitude that you can buy the things you NEED.
- Release the need for material things and draw closer to your spirit.
- When you get frustrated because you keep throwing money at debt, keep the big picture in mind. FREEDOM! You may not see it now, but the next phase of your life will.
- Plan and discuss finances together, even if it’s frustrating at first. Be willing to compromise on certain things.
- Make goals together for your relationship, health, and finances.
- Draw near to your husband when you feel like pulling away.
- Forgive when you don’t want to.
- Be the first to apologize, even if you think it’s the other person’s fault.
- Show love when it’s not deserved.
- Encourage each other to grow.
- Don’t make unrealistic rules for your relationship.
- Ask yourself – What am I giving our relationship; instead of, what am I getting?
- If you’re too upset to talk without saying hurtful words, then don’t say anything at that moment. Take a time-out and revisit the conversation once you’ve had a chance to think.
- Do not name call; it’s a detrimental way to lose love and respect.
- Show yourself loving compassion when you feel like you’are losing it – you’re new at this marriage thing, give yourself a break.
- Grow your relationship with God, and your marriage will grow immensely.
- Take what seems like God’s rejections as his guidance, trust in his plans for you when they don’t make sense.
All of these things are practices in which brought happiness to our marriage.
I encourage you to think about ways in which you can practice being happy now, in the phase of life that you’re in. What behaviors can you change, how can you show more love?
“The fact is that most of the ingredients necessary for happiness are present in the lives of most people every day. They are the things and conditions for which we need not wait. They are ours today. And most of them are things we’re so used to, we take them for granted. They’re the people with whom we live and work, our children, our hopes; there’s the anticipation of the day and what it will bring; the opportunity to work well and honestly so that we can take pride and satisfaction from it and by so doing enjoy our leisure and our rest. There’s the happiness that should come from being with our friends and neighbors. And the thoughtful person finds happiness in just being alive. He enjoys walking on a sunny day, but he likes to walk in the rain, too. He can find happiness from the of surf, or the crackling of fire”. – Earl Nightengale
Our building years
These first five years of marriage were our building years. They were challenging and fun. We strived to implement practices that would carry us through to the next phase on a solid foundation.
We’ve gained some good experience and will continue to build our marriage resume.
We’re on our way to our next phase which I know will bring great growth, joy, happiness, and love.
Take one small step today,