Love Lessons From My First Year of Marriage

Good news—my husband is home from his deployment in Afghanistan! Words can’t describe how incredible it feels to have Michael back.

We recently celebrated a big milestone: Our first wedding anniversary. We spent this entire past year living thousands of miles apart from one another, so we encountered a few challenges that most couples will never have to face. We didn't get to talk on the phone as often as we would have liked, and I only saw a pixelated version of his face a handful of times. In fact, the two weeks we spent together in the middle of his deployment was the longest time we'd seen each other in person since we got engaged. I'll admit—it was rough celebrating our first anniversary with a phone call, but knowing that we'd get to spend our lives together as soon as he got back made it all worth it.

Even though we were halfway around the world from each other, we still learned some valuable lessons about marriage:

champagne toast to a new apartmentToasting to our first night in our new place!

eating pizza on the floor
Here, we are enjoying each other's company with pizza and beer in our furniture-less apartment.

Be Understanding

If you think it’s hard to get your husband to open up now, try sticking him in a room with 10 other Army dudes in a warzone, where sharing his deepest thoughts isn’t high on his priority list. He managed to be sweet during most of the times that we spoke, but it was difficult to have stifled conversations with a two-second delay.

On the bright side, this made arguing nearly impossible. It takes so much time and energy to argue over the phone that we tried our best not to bicker. Plus, what’s really worth fighting over if you’re happy your partner is alive and well? It wasn’t always easy, though. I worked hard not to take certain things personally or to hold my tongue when I was upset. I’m hoping this attitude will carry over, even after we spend every day together.

Be Quick to Listen, Slow to Speak

I learned this rule the hard way. After writing lengthy messages on Facebook about how upset I was, whenever I was feeling distraught, only to follow up with a long-winded apology, I forced myself to simply not write anything in the first place. I'd recommend not texting anything in the heat of the moment (too tempting). Wait it out so that you can approach the issue to your spouse in a more productive way.

You Don't Have to Share Everything

Now that Michael’s back, we can spend hours talking about the most random stuff on the planet. But while he was in Afghanistan, our limited time slots forced us to be direct and focus on things that actually mattered. I learned to keep some stuff to myself that I could tell put my husband to sleep (friendship drama and shopping adventures included).

By not sharing, I’m not risking the probable situation where he can’t even pretend to care, and then I get upset that he’s not paying attention to me. As a wife, I understand that what’s mine is his (and vice versa), but I know there's certain subjects I'm better off talking to Mom or one of my friends about (that's what they're there for!).

high school sweethearts
DO share hilarious photos from when you first met!

Be Independent

I won’t lie and tell you that the past year has been a breeze. As I struggled through a big move to New York City, a heavy course load at grad school and planning a wedding alone, the hardest part of it all was not being able to call my brand-new husband for support. I couldn’t share the good stuff, either! I remember holding back tears at the finish line of my first 5K race—I had no one there to greet me—and feeling even more alone and vulnerable after getting mugged outside the front door of my apartment building.

I faced everything alone. As hard as it was, eventually, I got used to it, because I didn’t have any other choice. It made me realize that no matter how connected and intertwined we become with our spouse, it's essential to hold on to your own identity and personality. Instead of feeling like you need him in order to succeed, your husband should make you feel strong and capable of taking on the world, even on your own. I don't know if I would have been able to fully learn this, had he never left.

Make Each Moment Special

Sometimes, you just have to work with what you've got. I couldn’t get flowers every week or cook him a nice dinner, but I made sure he knew that I was thinking about him by sending a care package full of goodies every month. He did the same by picking up a few things from his long journeys, like a one-of-a-kind lamp trinket from Kuwait or a keychain made from a special rock you can only find in Eastern Afghanistan. We’d send each other messages online and I’d update him with photos, while always trying to keep our conversations upbeat. These little things made a big difference.

It’s been an amazing year, and I hope it just keeps getting better. I couldn’t have forseen all the happiness that’s come our way after getting married. We remind each other often that it was the best decision we ever made, and I’m sure you and your loved one will feel the same. Here’s to a lifetime of more anniversaries!

first anniversary
This photo of us was taken in high school. We've come a long way since then.

—Lisa Turner

lisa and michael

Lisa Turner is a real bride who is navigating the planning process with her friends and family while her groom, Michael Turner, is serving in Afghanistan. Already married last year, the high school sweethearts will have an official reception in January of 2013 in San Diego when he returns to the U.S. The party will take place in a clubhouse near the beach, complete with Mexican and vintage-inspired touches to celebrate their marriage in a fun and very California way.