• Ava Hoffman

Lessons from a Honeymoon

Y’all. Being married has been a TRIP. Four months in and…I don’t even know how to describe it. It has been like one of those road trips where you forget your deodorant, sleep in the car at sketchy gas stations in the middle of Nebraska, get lost in the black of night on an Indian reservation in South Dakota, and somehow wake up in Idaho with a car that smells like Fritos Honey BBQ twists.


We have no idea what we are doing, a general idea of where we want to be one day, a variety of messes to sort through every week, and a bunch of memories that make us shake our heads and laugh. Y'all. Marriage is no joke.


I had a day the other week where I just needed...I needed a reminder. A reminder that hard ends; that we can fight through complicated and emerge stronger and more unified. I was having a moment; I needed a break; I was desperately craving proof that we can do this…that I can do this.


I started looking at the photos and memories from our honeymoon- we went to Charleston, South Carolina. As I was reading my journal and almost feeling those sunny rays on my face, I thought I’d share some of our trip. Some of how our married life started. Beginnings are important. And while I might be biased, I think our beginning carries reminders for all of us, regardless of marital status or number of anniversaries in the books!

When we pulled up to our little bungalow for the week, I cried. It was all lit up. It was bright and cheery, and it had a bed. Oh how we rejoiced at that bed! We slept like dead people…no one told us a wedding would be so completely exhausting. Follow with a late night, two flights, an overly convoluted rental car situation, and a grocery trip to the local Piggly Wiggly at 11 PM...honeymoon on a warm Southern isle or not, that little hut was paradise, and that bed was a slice of heaven.


Monday was the day we began exploring…investigating the island and discovering what uninterrupted time together looked like. I give you permission to laugh at my ridiculousness cause that was my biggest concern about married life…what was I supposed to do with him?! We had been minimum six hours apart for our entire relationship, and we never spent weekends together without other people in the house…what was I supposed to do with this person 24 hours a day for over a week?!

I was reminded that first day how delightful mundane is…searching for parking spots, walking hand in hand, popping into shops searching for trinkets and unearthing weird little rock people. We tried to get coffee, ended up with smoothies, and learned that driving golf carts around the island is the way to go. No matter what we did, we were together, and despite my concern, it was simply heavenly.


I was woken up late the next morning with fried potatoes, pancakes, eggs, orange juice, and the best frozen sausage we’d ever had. TR and I have this affinity for zoos and aquariums - we have our entire relationship. In the nine months we dated, we visited Oxbow Park, Blank Park Zoo, and the Kansas City Zoo. It was only natural we had a date at the South Carolina Aquarium.

We got lost in the water and the colorful fish and the coral. The swirling tanks and floating jellyfish held us captive, and the meandering paths through the tanks offered endless possibilities. I pushed TR, and we did the “Haunted Trail.” It was not scary in the slightest. He pushed me, and we fed the stingrays. It was one of the neatest and oddest things I have ever done!

We watched the dolphins in the harbor and dreamed about the lifetime we had ahead of us. We excitedly talked over one another and backtracked. We laughed. We talked about the harsh realities our life would have due to chronic illnesses as the sea breeze dried our tears. We chose not to dwell and traded in the harbor view for a vine-covered pavilion garden bench and a conversation about our dream home.


We dipped our toes into fine dining that night with a dinner we still drool over. My oh my how we were spoiled - duck is the meat of choice for this Hoffman family! It was a night where nothing else mattered…the world stood still, and time passed by without notice. Reality was a distant and abstract concept. It was just us – figuring out what being a couple could look like, aided by plates of delectable foodstuff; experiencing the wonderous feeling of being more in love than on the day we were married.


It was a fleeting moment.


For no reason, an unknown cause, the middle of our honeymoon week was r-to-the-ough. ROUGH. Barely a few days into this whole marriage gig and already, the learning curve was STEEP. I was despondent. Homesick, lonely, and partially miserable. I didn’t know how to let TR into my most sacred heart places; he didn’t know how to lovingly push me to open up. I was hurting, physically and emotionally. I wanted to go home, and I wanted my mama.


Before we got married, TR and I decided to have a no-phone policy for our honeymoon. No social media. No texting. No phone calls. No contact with the world at home. We were disappearing, hiding for a little bit, and radio silence gave us that space from our spheres. We let our families know we got to Charleston…and then we fully retreated.


See, I knew I would have a moment. I didn’t know what it would look like or when it would happen, but I knew it would come. It would be an overwhelming emotion I would need help processing, an emotion I wouldn’t be able to cope with on my own. I knew if I didn’t turn to TR, it would make things harder down the road.


He needed to be the first rung of my support system. We chose a digital retreat to protect our marriage and ensure our support system would undergo the restructuring mandatory for a healthy marriage.

It wasn’t pretty…I sent TR to Walmart twice on needless errands just to get rid of him, trying to find some space for myself. I chose Oreos and a random British reality show on Netflix over sharing my heart with him. I ate pizza. A LOT of pizza. It was not healthy.


Thursday night, I decided to get over myself. TR had been so patient, anxiously waiting until I was ready for an adventure. I saw it on his face – he was restless. I chose TR. I wasn’t ready, and sometimes we have to jump when we aren’t. I put on clothes and climbed in the golf cart. It was the first time I sacrificed myself for him in our marriage. It was such a small little thing, and I learned that sacrifice often is. It is the small hundred million things we don’t ever expect and sometimes don’t even realize we surrender.


We drove to the island point, hiked the dunes at sunset, and saw the ocean. The lighthouse. We looked for shark teeth, collected shells. We were together, and we were making a memory. As I slogged through the sand, I had a thought. This was what marriage would be like…unsure footing, physically and emotionally demanding treks, unexpected twists and tricky misunderstandings. Together. I held TR’s hand, and he lifted me over splintered logs, leading me to sand easier to walk through. At the end of that challenging path were the glorious waves, colors and clouds painted by Jesus Himself, and rest. The wind blew through our hair as we strolled…not needing to speak, soaking in the beauty.


That beach restored a little something in me. There was stillness and serenity. Water quenches and refreshes. Invites us to slow down and beckons us to breathe. Those waves lapping my feet washed away something inside me and soothed those raw places. As the swells swirled around my feet and calves, my heart swelled, too…more love and more trust for this man I had been called to. That gentle dragging me out of the house reminded me to see, to feel, to connect…to reconnect. Those cotton candy clouds, soft blues, vibrant oranges, and peachy pinks reset something in both of us. It was our first hurdle.


We spent Friday at the beach and oh oh oh…how glorious those hours were! Soaking in the sun, flying through the waves, utterly and unapologetically child-like. Giddily and with abandonment sploohing through waves and splashing one another. There were moments where I caught TR looking at me – he didn’t know who I was in some moments. As we waded farther and farther into the ocean, our relationship deepened, and somehow, we fell more in love.


We were tiny, insignificant, totally and utterly irrelevant…and yet, God blessed us with one another. As wave after wave swept over us, the enormity of our love story crashed over our hearts. There was a magnitude of gratefulness like nothing I have ever felt before.


Our last night on the island, we celebrated with local seafood at a dive on the beach. TR lovingly cracked all my crab legs, and I let him eat my corn-on-the-cob. I introduced him to okra. We were gifted key lime pie by our waitress, and we talked about what going back into reality might look like.


We mourned together as we packed and cleaned. Wrestling through restructuring my support system allowed me to fall in TR’s arms that night, tearfully sharing my fears and apprehensions about starting real life. We loved our bubble – not having to deal with the integrating of families, moving, and figuring it all out. We liked hiding from the world. We did not want to leave. It was just us, and we loved that.

The morning we left, we did it together. We wrote a note in the guestbook, walked out, and locked the door. We held hands as we walked across the porch and down the stairs. One looooong look back at the bungalow that shielded us for a bit…and we climbed in the car. It was a quiet ride to the airport, punctuated with a sniffle now and then.


Landing in Minneapolis was bittersweet. There was so much excitement to start life together. To make supper, play a game, watch a movie, and fall asleep together. To find new coffee shops and restaurants. To decorate the house and make it feel like home. Oh there was exhilarated anticipation! The sadness we felt was good…it meant precious memories were made, and it signified a deep longing for togetherness, aloneness.


I share all of this for a couple reasons.


Almost Married Friends Please take a honeymoon. Even if it is just a long weekend in a cabin a town over, take the time to retreat as a couple for the first time. Deepen your bond as husband and wife and invest in making your spouse the first rung of your support ladder. Consider making your honeymoon phone free. Embrace radio silence.


Newlywed Friends Beginnings are so important. Maybe yours has been the night out – a scene from a movie that never ends, perfect lighting, delectable food, and flawless conversation. Or maybe y’all are slogging through the sand and have the drag marks to prove how arduous this first season has been. There is the middle ground, too, where towering waves give way to sprays you can gleefully and weightlessly jump over. Beginnings are important, but they are not defining. No matter where you find yourself or your marriage, remember to cling to your spouse. Your heart was drawn to them for a purpose, and you are called to leave them better at the end of the day.


Friends Married Longer Than I Thank you. Thank you for being a thriving example and testament to the impact of hard work, continual investment, and commitment to doing life with your spouse. Thank you for showing us that falling in love over and over is a reality; that a love that changes and deepens enriches each season of marriage and fighting for that is worth it. Thank you for showing us the hundred million ways sacrifice can look.


My Single Friends Hi. I see you. I remember that season of life where marriage seems like a distant improbability no matter how you long for it. You are not alone. Please take this as an encouragement to start praying for your one-day spouse; start praying for your walk if God calls you to a lifetime of singleness. Pray over the marriages of friends, and pray for your own heart. Fall in love with Jesus first, friend. Reach out if this season seems overwhelming.


No matter where this piece finds you, we all have brutal seasons, beautiful seasons. Seasons where the white caps meet splendid sunsets in perfect unexplainable harmony. A single season does not define you nor does it define any piece of your life. Take heart. Look up. Find community – start with a single friend. Be grateful for the calm moments, the glorious meals, the mishaps, the memories. Nothing is wasted. Nothing.

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