It has been by the inspiration and encouragement of the Holy Spirit that we started this business. When we were planning our own wedding, we searched for a Catholic photographer who would capture the sacrament with respect and understanding. At the time we weren’t able to find anyone marketed as a “Catholic photographer.” Several years later, through too many events to discuss in this post, we discerned God asking us to be His photographers.
As we continue down this road, we are constantly refining our business and asking God for His instruction and guidance. We’re focused on sharing how joyful marriage is, though the culture will tell us a different story; but again, that’s a thought for another post. As we’ve been praying through how we can better equip our couples—as well as anyone else following along—for holy marriages, we thought it would be beneficial to invite newly and not-so-newly married couples to share their own experiences.
Today we are kicking off our new series, “Letters to Newlyweds.” We’re blessed to hear some advice from Joey and Lindsey Gruenwald as they share with us the ten lessons they’ve learned from their first year of marriage. Joey and Lindsey have been our friends for several years. We all met while serving as FOCUS missionaries, and Joey and Amy were teammates at George Mason from 2015-2016. That year was amazing! Both couples were discerning marriage at the time, but now both couples are married and both are parents. Oh, how God’s good gifts continue to come when you remain close to Him in prayer and continue to ask Him for His will to be done.
Now without further ado, we present Joey and Lindsey’s ten lessons from their first year of marriage.
Lessons From Our First Year of Marriage
We celebrated our first anniversary with a quick breakfast at one of our favorite brunch places while Joey’s parents watched our one-month-old son. We spent the time recalling our memories month by month from our first year as a married couple. The conversation turned out to be great preparation for when Amy and Kyle asked us to write about what we learned during our first year of marriage that might be helpful for engaged or newly married couples. I think it is safe to assume that our lessons will change and new ones will be added to the list, but for now, here is what we have learned.
1. BE OPEN TO LIFE
As we recapped memories from our first year, some of the most joy-filled ones were when we opened our home to other people. While we dated, we learned that we valued our time together, but another important part of our relationship was spending quality time with other people. Being open to life is not something only reserved for married couples in regard to having children; it also means that it is important for us to welcome others into our relationship as a means of sharing our love. We love hosting friends. It is a joy to share our home and our lives. It also has taught us to work together as a team to serve others, much like parents do. There is a special grace associated with welcoming others into your relationship. It is good and special to have time together as a couple, but openness to others (including our baby boy!) has drawn us out of ourselves in new ways and has grown our love for one another deeper.
2. ASSUME THE BEST
As the reality of living together and operating as a family unit set in, we started to notice little frustrations like leaving the toothpaste out, not putting dishes in the dishwasher, or not throwing away used Kleenexes (yikes!). We each discovered new and unexpected things that frustrate us. We had to recognize that in the transition there is a lot to learn. Assuming the best has helped us to avoid being quick to anger and has allowed for a more peaceful transition to living and operating together. It is important for us to not only think about it, but to verbalize that we are assuming the best when we talk about these topics. It helped change the tone of conversations from accusation to an approach of trying to understand and work as a team to create a unified way of approaching things in our lives.
3. DIVE IN
Don’t be afraid of what is hard. All of our little struggles are opportunities to embrace the cross and grow together. Struggles in marriage are meant to purify us. The cross is not a sign that things are wrong or bad. Christ leads us to embrace the cross with Him. Dealing with small difficulties together makes us better equipped to deal with the really hard stuff.
Seek creative ways to have fun together. One time we went to a thrift store, picked out silly outfits for each other, and then went out to dinner while wearing those outfits. We have played dozens of rounds of Bananagrams and Mexican Train Dominoes. These are some of our favorite memories from the year—just being buds.
5. CHOOSE JOY
A lot of our conversations surrounding difficult things for one or both of us ended with us trying to find the joy surrounding the hard things. We have become each other’s cheerleaders in tough times because it is sometimes hard to see the bright spots on your own.
Every month during our first year of marriage our daily schedule changed due to Lindsey’s clinical schedule and Joey’s travel schedule. Constant change did not make for a consistent prayer life, and we failed a lot. We learned to regroup every few weeks to revisit goals, reestablish times we could pray together, and plan. Thanks to the advice of the priest who led our marriage prep, we had a “Family Meeting” on Sundays over breakfast after Mass, during which time we prayed, talked about how we were doing, discussed any worries that we had not already talked about during the week, and planned our week to come. This habit helped us adapt to so much change over such a short period of time.
7. BE HUMAN
Oftentimes when one of us was frustrated, it was because that person had unrealistic expectations or desired and expected perfection from himself or herself. We needed the other to remind us that it is okay to be human and that we do not expect perfection from our spouse. Humans struggle. We are not perfect and that is okay.
For our whole first year, we lived a minimum of a 45-minute drive from many of our friends, and we were states away from either of our families. Although this was not ideal, it was good for us because it let us retreat together. Most weekday evenings we had the chance to spend time with just us. It gave us a lot of time to talk and to continue to grow to know one another, things that sometimes can get drowned out by busyness.
9. CELEBRATE THE BAD & THE GOOD
For one of our wedding showers, every guest brought a bottle of wine with a tag tied onto it, labeled with an event that we would experience in marriage. Most of the events were fun or silly things like “the first time you shovel snow together” or “when two become three,” but some had less-fun events like “the first fight.” It helped us to acknowledge the difficult things we had overcome and to celebrate the victories we had achieved.
10. GIVE THANKS
Each night while we dated, we texted each other three things that we were grateful for that day. If you want to have more joy in life, reflect on the ways the Lord is blessing you. It is crazy that we get to be married and share life with someone we love so much. It is a gift, and we hope to never lose sight of the gift that is our spouse.
Thank you for reading this first letter in our new series. We’d love to hear from you if there is a topic you’d like to see covered in a future post! Please let us know in the comments.