In the memoir Our First 100 Days as Newlyweds, Asia and Russell encapsulate everything that transpires in alternating dual voices. "We invite you to follow along with us on this wild ride of high hopes and misguided expectations as we strive to balance on a tightrope in the middle. This is a saga of misadventures, mishaps and miscommunication in holy matrimony." It is a tender portrait of new marriage, supported by family and church, and it is surprising how many key life issues are mentioned in just the first 50 days including gender roles, control, misguided expectations and money.
The story begins in St. Lucia where the couple elopes on a private beach. Russell gives up control and nearly drowns trying to learn to SCUBA dive. The unfamiliar underwater environment seems to echo his new world as a husband. As his instructor tells him, "You get the hang of it after a while." Russell ruminates, "I believe that's true, underwater and in marriage. As long as we communicate -- and remember to breathe."
The newlyweds share their ups and downs in creating a home physically as in, "Where do my things go?" and emotionally as in how do we respect and respond to each other. Russell calls Asia, "Queen of Tardy. I don't know if she's allergic to the idea of being on time or what, but in this race called life, she's always running behind schedule." Asia's sense of timing bothers him and he needs his space, which is a challenge for her to understand. Their motto, "Love never loses its way home," seems to ring true as they eventually figure it all out.
Asia often attempts to reframe Russell's paradigm when she utters, "You always think I'm trying to win," she says. "But how can I win if we're not getting along? Why don't you understand that we're a team?" This idea of one side winning or losing is a challenge for many couples. While working hard to plan time together for special moments, this couple must deal with several crises including when Russell's brother has a mini stroke while preaching. Asia advises Russell, "You need to slow down or the same thing that happened to your brother is gonna happen to you."
Coping with yet another calamity after Russell's car accident, they share lessons learned about each other through different situations whether at a party, or seeing another couple's brand new big house. They ponder, "Is that our dream?" Is that what we want? Which dreams match our passion? Is it the new Infinity car or the down payment on a house? Asia is one hundred percent in support of Russell's dreams as she reveals, "I would love to be watching you up on stage. Or maybe we can both get up there and you perform your poetry while I sing."
Giving up control is hard. When dealing with wedding issues such as planning the reception, or selecting photos, Russell and Asia share their inner monologues about how they felt and responded and learned to comfort and support each other. Both feel connected to the Church, family and God. As Russell states, "If God is the foundation, the man is the support beams, the one called to hold up the home. I'm responsible for maintaining order and making sure my wife feels honored and valued at all times."
When Russell is asked how he knew Asia is the one, Russell explains, "The answer, once again, is simple: I knew she was the one because she challenged me in a way I'd never been challenged before. She made me want to be a better me." Even though he appreciates the way she challenges him and knows he needs to change to be a great team member in this marriage, it is a struggle to make it all happen. "In reality, this marriage is the wildest, whirlwind, 'there will be vomit' ride I've ever been on. And this is only the beginning."
There are moments when it seems hard to believe all of the struggles that occur during their first months of marriage. "Why does it feel like everything is working against us? The car situation, our constant fighting, conflicting schedules, no living room furniture, the list goes on." The honesty and revelation in this book is unique; from sharing everything including how they interact with the online world will be helpful to many others.
Couples ten years ago did not have to worry about their personal issues being discussed on Facebook or social media. Examining their choices as their marriage evolves from changing or not changing your name, to who pays which bills and the drama of the joint bank account all bring up issues of accountability. Inventing rituals for themselves when going to church, praying together or watching movies at home openly divulge dirty laundry that couples often wish to avoid. Russell and Asia unreservedly bare their souls.
Meeting their needs physically, mentally, and emotionally takes work. As Russell explains,
"• Literally: I'm driving on this road in my wife's car. • Figuratively: On this road of life, I'm becoming one with my wife. • Philosophically: The road lies within; the car is my mind. • Spiritually: Narrow is the road...drive carefully. Might as well chalk it up to grand design. Meaning God set all this up for me to understand what it truly means in tangible terms to come together in holy matrimony."
Having both of their voices adds richness to the text. Frequently, a book about couples only shares in one gender and I often wonder what the other person thinks. In this book, both sides are presented evenly.
At a time when fifty percent of marriages end in divorce, it is brave to commit and even more courageous to share the ugly side of working through a personal relationship. Perhaps if more people committed to the process and shared challenges explicitly, we would have more peace and harmony.
During their first 100 days together, Russell's grandparent's celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. "Take a husband who loves his wife so much that all he wants to do is what's in her best interest," my grandfather said, "and a woman who loves her husband so much that all she wants to do is fulfill his desires." With this advice in mind, Russell says, "All I can ever do is take things one frame at a time -- and know in my heart that I've already won." Russell and Asia's love for each other is deep and vibrant, leading onward to many foreseeable adventures on the horizon. Russell states, "Ideally, I'd be traveling the globe with my wife, writing screenplays for a living." Maybe Russell's dream will come to fruition and they will step out of the rat race. Enjoy all the twists, turns and even surprises such as when Asia goes missing. I highly recommend this memoir and cannot wait to read their next 100 days story.
About the Authors: Lisa Niver Rajna and George Rajna are co-authors of Traveling in Sin, a true tale of love, travel and transformation. They met nearly seven years ago online and have been traveling ever since! Follow their journey at We Said Go Travel.