The Mr. and I just celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary last week (stay tuned for an entry about our NYC trip). We also recently had a lovely conversation with one of my nieces, who is engaged, about marriage. This blog entry is the love child of the two. The ideas, about marriage and the things I’ve learned during the 10 years of mine, have been brewing for a time… I’ve only in the last year or so been able to grasp some of these ideas. To be clear… we are a work in progress, and even this entry is a tool to be used in making our marriage better.
In no particular order:
- We go to great lengths to get someone to “choose” us…. But what do we do to make them glad they chose us?
We all do it. Because we all want love. Well, maybe not all… but most. We want a companion. We want someone to choose us. So we put our best foot forward. We give extra care to our appearance, we laugh at unfunny jokes, we complain less, we shave our legs more, we genuinely want to learn how to surf, we aim to please, we take the time to care, we give good gifts, we are patient, we admire, we listen, we go out of our way to be close… to touch, we try new things, we eat spaghetti with chopped hot dogs….. And we love it. Right? None of it is even fake. We truly want to offer the best version of ourself to this person that deep down, we really want to hitch our horse to. We do a lot, for them to choose us.
And eventually, that changes. We shave less, we give up on learning to surf, we complain, etc. etc. etc. And, the routine of it all is not necessarily a bad thing. The normalcy of life together is beautiful in its own right… but I would ask (myself)… Do I do things that make him glad he chose me? Am I a person, that 13 years after falling in love, he is glad he hitched his horse to? I no longer have to worry about impressing him, certainly not on the superficial levels… but I do want to do things that make him glad he chose me. I may not ever surf, but I can take interest in his passions… I can be adventurous… We can play together. I can still care. I can make sure that I am something good to be hitched to.
- Finding a balance between legitimately taking care of our self while sincerely putting them first.
I can’t take care of anything… not child, nor husband, nor pet, nor home, if I haven’t taken care of myself. And that takes many forms. For me, it is a good reminder that as a family, we aren’t just some glob… all running together… we are individuals, joined together. I am a better wife and mother when I am physically healthy, rested, professionally satisfied, creatively productive, and socially fed. Putting him first doesn’t mean I keep quiet when I’m hurt or annoyed or troubled. It means that I take a minute to think about him… him…. this magical person that I somehow found myself cosmically connected to. When I need something, I take 2 seconds to think about how it’ll affect him, and I try… try… not to keep score or get resentful about time or needs or resources. I value my self…. and I value him. The two aren’t mutually exclusive (Man, wish I’d learned that sooner).
- Union: becoming 1 means it isn’t always fair
In a court of law, there are standards, laws, procedures, guidelines… there is a system put in place that, generally speaking, makes things cut and dry… black and white. NOT SO IN MARRIAGE! You can not take someone to court who doesn’t adhere to the same set of laws. If you don’t practice Hindu, eating cow is not a sin. In marriage, you have to work together to create a system of guidelines, and even then… you have to be flexible! We all bring baggage to a relationship, and we all bring our own system that we feel the whole world should adhere to. Feeling like someone committed a crime, is bad enough, but finding out that they adamantly find no fault in their behavior is a recipe for a LONG night of “talking it out”. Fair, is only fair, if you’re on the same page… don’t assume you are.
- Someone can’t give you what you think you “deserve”, if you can’t give it to yourself.
Decide for yourself if you’re pretty… or useful… or worthy of appreciation. Figure out what the criteria is, and see if you don’t make the cut. And if you don’t… get better! The end result will mean a stronger sense of self (and with it comes independence, sense of worth, coping skills, et al.) AND less work for your spouse. Side benefit: The positive image you have of yourself is absolutely contagious. Don’t leave the dirty work for someone else. Revere yourself, don’t wait for someone else to.
- When in Rome… Speak Italian.
If you visit a foreign country, a gracious visitor will learn their language. If you want to properly communicate with your spouse, you better learn their language. Do I appreciate my husband changing the oil on my car? Sure. Does it impress me? Yes! Does it make me feel loved…. hmmm…. not exactly. But if he holds my face in his hands, and gives me 5 seconds of eye contact with a sincere kiss… I feel it. I feel loved (In a fraction of the time, btw!). And inversely, Cooking an amazing dinner for my husband will be met with great appreciation and satisfaction, but it might not make him feel loved.
- Just because things “seem” fine to you, doesn’t mean they are fine. Hence, the need for yearly (or quarterly or weekly) reviews.
Perhaps this one requires a slightly jaded nature… but consider it a word to the wise. Your perception, might not be accurate. Your spouse (or you… if you’re honest) might be good at burying things…. deep. Things, they may not even realize they are burying… until, they begin to surface. Be bold… be brave… and look your spouse in the eyes (with love, kindness, and acceptance) and say… “Is there anything, for any reason, you’d like to share with me, so that we can be closer”. And then… the hard part… listen. Maybe you’ll be told you’ve come up short… Listen. Whatever wincing your pride does, it isn’t as important as the health of your marriage. Maybe, this will be the opportunity they’ve been looking for… to just get some junk off their chest.
- If you’re marriage isn’t work… there’s a good chance it isn’t working.
Like a garden. You don’t glance down and pluck the big huge weeds that you happen to see… you get down on your hands and knees and scour the earth for anything growing in your garden that could potentially hurt your crop. It is work. Rewarding, but work. I used to think that the key to marriage was making a good selection. And then, generally speaking, it was smooth sailing. Wrong. The selection is critical. But the nurturing of the garden… the tending… it’s what makes it last. You can plant a beautiful garden, and then slowly watch it die, if you don’t work that soil. Your good selection is nothing, if it isn’t taken care of. Meticulously. If you don’t have dirt on your knees and blisters on your hands… don’t expect a beautiful, plentiful harvest.
- Don’t fix your boat in the middle of a storm. Wait until the seas are calm.
We fight about pretty ridiculous things. Right? One thing we have learned… is don’t wait until emotions are high and tension is thick to air your every grievance. It just isn’t productive. And when the tone is negative, you focus on the negative… highlighting things that maybe shouldn’t be highlighted, and you will almost NEVER get the response you’re looking for. If you are seriously feeling starved of affection… a fight is not the time to bring it up. You wait until all is well, no distractions, and then honestly (and gently), let your concerns be known. It’s your best chance at effective change.
- Just because you were given permission to do something, doesn’t mean it is the best thing for you to do. BOUNDARIES!
This might not apply to everyone, but I have a sneaky suspicion that nearly everyone could use some insight and direction concerning boundaries. This topic warrants a novel… not a paragraph… but here is an example to keep it simple. Just because my husband was “fine” with me having a busy social calendar and was “cool” with me hanging out, etc. Doesn’t mean that it was the best choice for me and my family. I have had to learn that sometimes, you limit yourself, even when those in your life do not set or enforce any. And he has learned that, as a unit, we are allowed to assert some expectations… without feeling like we are limiting or parenting one another. When you decide to join forces and live as a unit, you have the right (and the need) to say “I’m not really comfortable with that”. It’s important to be able to say that… and not willy nilly… but with thoughtfulness. And, it’s also important to be able to set limits, even when someone else doesn’t set them for you.
Seriously… go find on a book on this topic and devour it. It will blow your mind.
- Mama said…
“Be the change you want to see in the world”… okay, so my Mama didn’t say that… but the sentiment is the same… She always told me to be and do the kind of things that I wanted from him. If you want him to be more sweet… be sweet. If you want affection… be affectionate. If you want attention, be attentive. If you want romance, be romantic. You get it. It’s simple, but why is it sooooooo hard???? I mean, I’m already SO perfect… and it’s him not me. And. yeah, no dice.
- Surprise, Surprise
We dated for 3 years before we got married, and I remember thinking that was a good amount of time because there would be no surprises. Well… that was just kind of naieve… on a lot of levels. Surprises are good. Surprises mean… Surprise! You’re a little bit different than you were when you were 25 and we now have some new stuff to adapt to. Or, Surprise! Didn’t you know I expected you to make __% of the $$? Or, surprise, I wasn’t intentionally holding back… that junk was just REALLY repressed. Or… Surprise! Life took me in a little different direction than originially intended, cool? Or.. surprise! Parenting together isn’t something you can exactly predict with fine precision. Or… Surprise! I’m awesome as ever, but I’m human… and I fail. It’s great to cover your basis… it’s critical to really have a strong sense of who you are choosing… but get ready… things will change, and you will be surprised. Sometimes it’ll hurt, and sometimes it’ll be absolutely magical.
After 10 years, our crop is plentiful. Our garden, beautiful. We are not without scars. Our hands are blistered. There have been droughts, there will likely be more… but we enjoy the harvest, while we continue to labor for the season ahead.