Every year in the United States, there are approximately 2.5 million weddings. Whether it’s a huge event with a steak dinner and dramatic send-off, or a quick trip to the courthouse, the end result remains the same: you’re hitched.
Well, I mean you hope so.
I am a child of divorce, so I may not be the best to ask about the forever part. I’m 7 years into my own marriage and sometimes forever feels like a REALLY long time. I’m sure my husband would tell you that, at times, it feels impossibly long when I’m on an anxiety bender or have a particularly bad case of the “why-do-you-do-everything-you-know-I-hates”.
Marriage isn’t always easy. Here are 5 things I wish I’d known before I became a bride.
- There are seasons. I’d always heard of the “honeymoon phase”, but I guess I always figured there was that period of bliss, followed by general marriage awesomeness until death did us part. I’m here to tell you that’s not the truth. I was duped. We had our “honeymoon phase”, followed by the “oh marriage is super fun” phase, followed by the “why do you leave stuff everywhere” phase. Then we had a kid, which kicked off the “holy crap how do we keep this little person alive” phase. I’m fairly certain we will remain in this phase for at least the next 20 or so years, until we enter the “finally we can breathe” phase where we retire in the country somewhere and go to Sam’s Club for fun on the weekends. That will be the life, right? Wide open spaces and club packs of those soft peppermints to keep in our pockets to hand out to the kids at church. The seasons are not always pleasant and so far more of them have been hard than easy. They test our relationship and sometimes our commitment to that relationship. But let me tell you, when two people have the same goal and the same dedication to that goal, the seasons are bearable. You learn from them and you look back to them and laugh at how challenging you thought they were at that time. I (jokingly, kind of) have told my husband he has the choice of being married or dead. There are some seasons I think he’d err on the side of deadness. Things don’t always get easier right away, but the work sure is worth it.
- You won’t always get your way. I’m probably not the best at compromise. I am a pretty independent woman and consider myself to be pretty intelligent. It is HARD for me to admit I’m wrong and even harder at times to apologize for it. One thing I’ve learned is that more often than not, whatever the disagreement we are having isn’t worth the effort. In most circumstances, it feels better to compromise and move on than it does to go to bed the “winner”. My own choices are few now, and we consider things together. Sometimes it isn’t the choice I wish we’d made. Sometimes I think it’s the wrong choice. But compromise is important and we stick together, no matter the direction the choices take us. Marriage is not about my happiness, it’s about us as a unit.
- Forget your pride and GO TO THE COUNSELING. Dear past self: Counseling is not for failing marriages only. You are dumb to think that. Someone is willing to sit and listen to you and your spouse’s thoughts and give you purely unbiased feedback. Don’t be afraid of being viewed as a marriage who “needs help”. Be viewed as a marriage who took the help when it was offered and didn’t wait until it was a last resort.
Find a counselor you can both trust and talk it out. Little things, big things. Things that you thought weren’t things at all. It is lovely and it will help and you will finally understand how to communicate with each other, even if you thought you knew before. It is SO worth it.
- Kids change everything. Prior to going to said counseling, my husband and I had a kid. The kid is so stinkin’ cute. She looks just like me to the point where people comment on it in public; so much like my sister that Facebook tries to tag her every time I post a picture of my daughter. The kid is pretty perfect. She’s sassy but sweet and has just the perfect amount of her daddy to make her hilarious and genuine.
But with the kid came changes. We haven’t slept a full night in over 4 years. Our house is cluttered and lived-in. Our 3 dogs who were once our babies now observe our attention from the sidelines. Our marriage took a back seat to diapers, breast milk, and baby-led weaning, followed by potty training, Pre-K, and play dates.
In short, we had a kid and we quit talking. We became roommates who had a common interest in keeping this little human alive and happy and not crying and fed. Our daily tasks and responsibilities became our focus as we neglected the responsibility to our marriage. We came to a brick wall and realized that we barely ever said words to each other that weren’t about our kid. By the end of the day, we didn’t have the energy to nurture our feelings about each other because we’d already nurtured ourselves out on our child. Enter said counseling (see number 3). Talk about a swift slap in the face. The man I fell in love with was still in there, under the exhaustion of toddler parenting. I was still myself under the eye bags and irritability. We found each other again and it made us better spouses and parents.
- When things are tough, don’t believe the lie that you are the only one. Having conflict at times is a sign of a healthy relationship. No two people will agree all the time. I can guarantee you that any marriage that appears to be perfect is, in fact, not. For the first few years of our marriage, we literally NEVER fought. Like, it was sick. We might disagree but we never really had a big argument. But things change, people change and situations change. I remember being fairly certain that our marriage was headed for demise when we had our first real dispute and couldn’t agree on a solution right away. I felt so alone and like a failure. I didn’t grow up in a home where marriage was successful, so I figured that since we finally broke our streak, we were going to become a statistic.
But guess what? We WEREN’T the only ones. When I asked the advice of women around me whose marriages I admired and viewed as “perfect”, I was shocked to find that many of them had past histories of not only arguments, but even infidelity and separations. The thing they all had in common? Healing. Whatever you go through in your marriage, whether the season is blue skies or stormy days, I can tell you that most likely, someone has been through it and come out on the other side.
So here we are at year 7 of marriage. We are more seasoned at this gig than we used to be, but we still have so much to learn about our relationship and each other. The sweet far exceeds the salty and I think our brightest days are ahead. We will continue to learn from the past and plan to learn in the future, and no matter what, we will continue to learn from each other.