Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Love lessons from 3 1/2 years of marriage

It's coming.

Whether you're dreading it or excitedly counting down the minutes, Valentine's Day arrives in less than 48 hours. And since I tend to over-extend holidays (Anniversary dates and birthdays? Try anniversary weekends and birth weeks!), you get somewhat of a V-Day-themed post today. . .and probably Friday.

Please don't hate me if you're anti-Cupid, but I love holidays, and since I am married, coming from me this topic just makes a little more sense than a "Why I love/hate being single on Valentine's Day" post would. With that said, I can obviously consider myself a marriage expert with a whole three and a half years of marital bliss under my foldover waistband belt, so I am sharing 15 things I've learned about marriage so far.

1. You must love and like your spouse. Who knew (besides any Amy Poehler fan who recognizes the genius attached to anything she touches) such a profound marriage lesson would come from Parks & Recreation? The newlywed excitement dies down, my friends, and if you do not find yourself with someone you genuinely like and admire as a person and friend, you have yourself a problem.

2. Time apart is not a bad thing. Different hobbies and friend circles can actually enhance your marriage. Having separate interests and going to separate events give you something else to talk about with your spouse but also give you the chance to maintain your individuality. Your hobbies and passions molded you into the person your spouse fell in love with in the first place, so don't stop doing those things in fear of growing apart.

Not really!
3. It's OK to go to bed mad - even if one of you is better at doing so. When we were dating, I refused to end nightly conversations on a negative note, no matter how ridiculous a simple argument would become. I'm so impatient and want questions answered and problems solved immediately, so I had no problem hashing out issues until 3 AM. This approach had maybe a 40 percent success rate. Usually it made things worse. Now I have almost no problem sleeping on an argument because most issues become much easier to solve the next day with clearer minds and cooler tempers.

4. Be yourself. Way to state the obvious. Doesn't this apply to the first stages of a relationship? Yes, but it applies to marriage too. You should never feel like you have to hide a part of who you are from your spouse. As weird as I appear to others, no one but Jared gets to see the truly weird side of me, and that's how it should be. Otherwise it would just be me and my 10 cats. Marriage is about loving the whole person. 

5. Just as you shouldn't compare yourself to others, you shouldn't compare your marriage to other marriages. First of all, no matter how well you know a couple, you really have no idea what their marriage is actually like. Don't resent your spouse for not being as ______ as your friend's spouse. There's nothing wrong with incorporating traditions or activities you admire about other marriages into your own, but don't measure one against another. 

6. Marriage teaches you a lot about yourself. Before you get married, you hear all about how you're going to see a whole different side of your partner and will constantly be learning new things about him/her. What you don't hear so often is that you're actually going to learn a few things about yourself - things you don't really want to know - like how impatient/selfish/messy you are or how problematic your impulsive shopping habits can be. It's not always pretty, but it's eye opening and an opportunity to grow and improve.
7. You cannot change each other, but you do influence each other. So be aware that your actions now directly affect someone else's behavior. This is a good lesson to learn before having kids.

8. Laugh. A lot. Laughter can get you through almost anything.

9. Say "I love you." Say it every night, every morning, when you leave, when you come home, in the middle of the day, in the middle of a disagreement. . say it a lot.
10. Maintain intimacy. Whatever that means for your relationship, do not let comfort or routine get in the way of it.

11. Give your partner the benefit of the doubt. This can be hard for those of us who like to jump to the worst conclusions possible, but it's not fair to your spouse, and it starts to take a toll on your relationship. Our long road to the altar was a little bumpy, to say the least (what else would you expect from a journey that started at ages 15 and 16?), and before the wedding I allowed "what if" thoughts to take over my mind. Now I cringe at the thought of having thought those things because Jared is the one who stepped up and has had to teach me what a true partnership is.

12. Learning to fight fair is a process. Fueled by immaturity, many fights while dating turned to taking cheap shots and speaking without thinking. You can't do that in a marriage.

13. The little things matter. An "I love you" text or an email with a random article Jared knew I'd love to read in the middle of the day, a picture or video he comes across and saves for me to see when I get home, remembering a meeting or appointment I had and then asking about it later, a cupcake waiting for me on the counter. . . things like this add up and mean so much more than a giant Valentine's Day bouquet delivered to work or a fancy reservation made for our anniversary.

14. You really are a team. I especially like to bring this up when I'm trying to get Jared to do something neither of us wants to do like clean the litter box or go start the cars when it's -50 outside (so I don't have to). But it's true. Support your partner because everything he/she goes through, you go through. You face the bad times, good times and in-between times together.

15. Make your own rules. Other than the standards every marriage needs to survive (honesty, trust, communication, etc.), every relationship is different. What works for you probably doesn't work for other couples, and that's what makes each marriage beautifully unique.

No comments:

Post a Comment