Sunshine and rainbows.
Society likes to imply that getting married magically transforms life into this beautiful, perfect thing, but then you hear that sage nugget: “The first year of marriage is the hardest.”
Wait. I’m confused.
I rarely feel bliss when I’m dealing with something that isn’t just hard, but hardest. I love a good challenge, but I’m not typically twirling on my toes through the process. Being a newlywed absolutely can be both blissful and hard, but typically you’re only feeling one or the other at any given time.
Just over halfway through our first year of marriage, we had our first fight. I did, anyway. No, the honeymoon isn’t over. It was a good fight. An honest fight. Most importantly, a fair fight. As cliché as it may sound, we came out on the other side stronger and with a better understanding of each other. I came out on the other side genuinely proud of the way I handled the situation. Well, most of it. I’m not one to shy away from a little over-sharing, especially if I think the information could help someone. Now, keep in mind that I’m not a psychologist. I’m not licensed in anything. This is just a real world account of that first-fight milestone and how it all got better.
To put it succinctly, this fight was over the fact that my husband told me he was going to add me to his insurance plan through work and unilaterally decided that we couldn’t afford it without telling me until I needed it. I have never had insurance in my life and am one of those people for whom the Affordable Care Act was not particularly affordable. I had been waiting to see a doctor for a troubling increase in migraines among other things, and the past month has been a particularly miserable time and waiting was no longer an option.
A couple weeks ago, after 10 full days of being so miserable that the very act of standing made me need to take a nap, I told him, full of disdain, that I needed to see a doctor. I had been monitoring my blood pressure and found that the episodes in which I was particularly exhausted, I was measuring in the neighborhood of 80/40. I had tried supplements, every diet change imaginable and vigilantly consuming all the water I could drink, but nothing was making this better. We went to the doctor who listened carefully as I read off a front-and-back page of notes and who called this state that had become my new normal “deeply disconcerting.” Oh, wow. She ordered blood test to check for several things and referred me to a neurologist, warning me that the battery of tests likely to be performed could easily eclipse the $10,000 mark without insurance. We shelled out $500 for the blood work that turned out to be completely inconclusive and I cried as soon as we got in the car and out of view.
I cried because I was scared. I cried because I was angry. I cried because I felt like I had been so completely let down by this man I love more than I can express. I felt shut out of an important decision-making process and I was angry at myself for not pushing harder. I cried like a toddler cries when what they really need is a nap; I had been so consistently exhausted for so long and to top it off, I was generally in a lot of pain. I felt hopeless because if he didn’t think we could afford the insurance premium, this low-end figure suggested was going to be impossible. I felt certain that I wasn’t going to get better because my health wasn’t worth the sacrifice.
I spent the next day practically unable to communicate any of this. It felt like too much to spit out all at once and honestly, it probably was. Rather than shut down, I just explained that I wasn’t ready to talk about it because I was scared and emotional and felt like I needed some time to process things. That was the turning point. Once I was allowed a little space to collect myself, thoughts and ideas started to come together cohesively. I was able to make sense of what was in my head.
Perhaps the most important thing I said through this process was, “I love you even though I’m very upset right now.” While it was absolutely and 100% the truth, it provided this buffer that allowed me to put things together in order: I’m hurt that I wasn’t able to be a part of the decision. I’m scared about my health. I’m worried about the money. I want to be a part of the solution.
Credit: Shaina Sheaff Photograghy
Focusing on how to be a part of the solution was the magic bullet. I didn’t want to take over; I didn’t want to belittle his efforts. All I wanted was to be partners in this. I know my husband sees himself as a provider and a fixer and it’s so very important to consider those characteristics when you want to resolve a fight. Up until this point, I had left him feeling like a poor provider and, true or not, swiping at his core values made him defensive.
TIP: Use your “I” statements and talk about what you will do and what you’re able to do. In this case, I will sit down with you and look at our budget. I will take the reins in finding an affordable plan and we can find some places where we’re being less purposeful with our money and we can find a way to make this work.
We started with a bank statement from a previous month and immediately found places where our spending wasn’t out of control, but it wasn’t responsible. Food and fun were going to need to be re-evaluated and the relatively common resolve to curtail that spending left us with plenty of money to take care of insurance. As I shopped around for plans, I found one that worked well for us in terms of premium, deductible and coverage. We signed up immediately, found a neurologist in my network and scheduled an appointment.
At that point, it didn’t matter why it took an emergency to make things happen. It didn’t matter why he made a decision without telling me. It didn’t matter that he didn’t look into more alternatives that would work better for our budget. There’s still a part of me that would like answers to those questions, but I have to let that part of me go and focus on the fact that we found a solution and I now have the resources to find the cause of my health issues. I can focus on the fact that when I asked to be a part of the solution (an offer I don’t think I had made before), he enthusiastically accepted and treated the situation with the immediacy it deserved. I also have to remember that it’s always going to be his nature to fix things on his own because he sees that as his responsibility; therefore, it’s my responsibility to remind him I’m here for both of us when problems arise and communicate that I appreciate the things he does.
It’s very easy to focus on shortcomings, but resolving to look into your capacity to find a solution makes things so much easier. My mother, knowing my tendency towards anger and ability to take a pound of flesh with words, asked me if I left him any dignity (fair question). When I told her that I did, I knew it was the truth. He also left me mine. We really are better for it. While the rest will be left up to doctors and could take months to fully understand, we have the most we can hope for because we found it together. We truly are better together. That first year of marriage can be hard as you rediscover boundaries and learn to work within them, but when you’re able to do it together, it is so incredibly worth it.