Thought Catalog
June 16, 2017

5 Things Every 20-Something Woman Needs To Know About Marriage

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So, you’re 23 and rocking it.

Or you’ve just had your 26th birthday, and feeling adulthood hit you hard.

You’re excited about getting married soon.

Or you’re single and loving life… or single and wishing you had a husband.

I have been through all of it, and I’m currently just a little bit past it, but not too far ahead. The 20s are a very formative decade, and come with so many changes it’s hard to keep your head on straight sometimes. After I got married at age 26, I began to settle in and adjust to my new life, and realized there were a lot of things no one ever told me about this specific time. While it is different for everyone, just between us girls, here are several things I wish someone would have told me about that would have been extremely helpful in navigating this season:

The false positive pregnancy tests.

This was one of the most emotionally exhausting experiences of my life. While I was aware that home pregnancy tests always need to be confirmed by a doctor, I really didn’t realize that false positives were very much of a possibility. The instructions even say that false negatives are more likely than false positives, and that both are extremely rare. The over 99 percent accuracy that is advertised on all HPTs leads one believe that they are trustworthy. Imagine the toll on my emotions when, after taking a test one day, I peeled back the shower curtain to discover a little blue plus sign. Shock, excitement, fear, anxiety, and general head-spinning were in order. I stared at the test for a good five minutes before bringing it outside, taking a few pictures in different lighting to make sure it wasn’t all in my head, all in between a pounding heartbeat and clasping my hand over my mouth and wondering how in the world I was going to tell my husband. Would he be worried since this was before we had decided to get pregnant? How would we pay for all of this? How would I continue working during the dreaded vomiting of the first trimester? I immediately ran out to the store and picked up different brands of tests to confirm. I waited until the next morning to test again, only to be greeted by only one pink line, not two. The test was negative. How can I possibly explain the confusion that washed over me after a night of extreme emotional ups and downs? I could barely concentrate at work, and ended up asking my boss if I could leave early to go to the doctor. Was I pregnant or not? Needless to say, I really wish someone would have told me about false positives, and how they are apparently more common than we are all lead to believe. This entire experience caused a very unnecessary roller coaster of emotions that, when paired with an already hormonal time of the month, absolutely wore me out.

The changing cycle.

The above leads me to the reason for the pregnancy test in the first place. I really had no idea how much my cycle would change after getting married. It was very difficult to adapt. I’m sure it has to do partly with getting older and into my upper twenties, but I know marriage plays a role as well. My cycles had been like clockwork since the very beginning. From age 12, I always knew exactly when to expect their arrival, and never once were they missed or late. I do not exaggerate when I say I never missed a period, even during my early twenties when I was constantly traveling, changing time zones, and alternating my sleep schedules from day-shift to night-shift and then back again. The thing was a rock that wouldn’t budge. Fast forward to my life as a new wife, and pair that with turning 26, and you get a recipe for disaster. Well, not really disaster. Maybe just extreme stress. Several times during my first year of marriage, my period was late. Not just a few days. Late, as in 2 weeks, sometimes 3. What do you think this resulted in? Me rushing out for pregnancy tests. “Oh my gosh, why is it so late? It’s never late! I’ve got to be pregnant!” Nope, not pregnant. Just late. This left me very frustrated. Not only did this change occur, I also noticed changes with symptoms, intensity, and other variables. It seemed to be becoming a lot more sensitive to things such as exercise, sickness, and general life, whereas before, the thing did not falter during times of extreme physical, mental and emotional changes. I thought, “Now is not the time for my periods to become irregular – they’ve had nearly 15 years to be irregular. Now is the time to be consistent and trustworthy, so I can properly carry out married life without the stress of trying to prevent pregnancy or become pregnant.” Sadly, this was not the case. After visiting my doctor, I received the wisdom that I wish I would have received before this started happening. “There is absolutely nothing wrong with you. You are very healthy. You are older now, so your body is changing. This is is your new normal.” As frustrating as this was, I was comforted by this being my “new normal.” I just so wish I would have been told to expect my cycle to change, as this would have saved so much unnecessary stress.

The body image wrestle and win.

While the age at which this occurs is different for all of us, there comes a time in every woman’s life where she decides that she is going to love her body. I am lucky that this age for me came early on in my life. Of course I have wrestled with certain things I don’t like about my appearance, and things I wish I could change, as we all have. But I have been blessed with people in my life who encourage me in this area, most especially my husband. I think the wrestle ended before we even got married. What really drove it home was coming to the place where I knew that God created me this way, just how He wanted me to be, no more and no less. He wanted every detail about my appearance to be there. Once I accepted this, I was awestruck by the truth of it. Thinking of Who wanted me to be this way, blew my mind. I can honestly say that I don’t struggle with my body-image now. Of course some days are better than others, and there are days in every woman’s life where she feels average, plain, not pretty. But there is something about this stage of life that just makes us throw our hands up and say “I’m done.” We throw out all of the lies. We get tired of hearing that we’re not perfect. So we take “You’re too____.” and “You’re not____enough.” and we punch ‘em in the face. Ain’t nobody got time for that!

The ease of confident self-care.

This ties right in with the above. I wish someone would have told me how much the opinions of my husband regarding my appearance would bring me to a place of self-acceptance that I never knew before. This played out in the simplest of things such as shaving my legs. Of course my goal is always to be well-kept, but I am amazed just how much insecurity regarding how I look has been lost. I just don’t really care anymore. This is not to say that I no longer care about keeping up with my appearance. Quite the opposite – my husband’s affirmation of my looks and him telling me regularly that I am beautiful gives me the extra boost of confidence I need to care just enough. Not too much to where I obsess over my appearance, but not too little to where I become lazy and unkempt. While I love how good and confident it feels to be well-kept, I also know that my husband just doesn’t care if it’s been 4 days since I shaved my legs, or if I wake up and decide not to do my hair. This is one of the best and most beneficial things I’ve found about marriage so far. And I do know that some husbands can have the opposite affect on their wives, based on how they affirm, or how they cut down. A spouse is a powerful person, and carries great potential to directly influence the self-confidence of their significant other.

The blossoming individuality.

Here is something I was not even close to being prepared for after getting married. I had no idea that being married would bring out so much of who I am as a person, to the point where I now feel more like myself than ever before. I believe this has everything to do with marrying a very good man. The right person will always enable you to flourish in your self-esteem, self-care, hobbies, interests and passions. I found myself moving towards things I’d always wanted to do, exploring my passions with great zeal for life, and completing tasks and projects I’d always meant to finish. Being with the right person has a way of giving you that zoom of strength you need to be fully and 100% yourself. The knowledge that someone not only loves and accepts, but also genuinely enjoys, you as a person, brings a steadiness to the heart like never before. I grew to a place where it didn’t really matter anymore who thought what about me. I felt no shame in being 100% myself. I believe that a good and solid marriage does this for both people.

Girl, you got this. You’re strong, brave and beautiful. You are a powerful woman who is fully capable of rocking out this adulthood thing. You’re in your twenties – maybe single, maybe married, maybe soon to be – and you are simply amazing. Don’t worry. Stay close to your Father, and your sisters, and rock some red lipstick when you feel down. I’m here for you. Go kick some a**! TC mark