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When I first got married, I thought that I was supposed to abide by some pre-set all encompassing marriage rules. There were all these bits and pieces of advice that were thrown at me the year of my engagement. Aunts and Uncles and women at the store where I was choosing my place cards would just say random one liners to me; “words of wisdom” as I knew them to be. I would listen and repeat in my head, make a mental note and think Right, Got it.
The unsolicited advice ceased fire the second I left my room to descend the staircase to the walkway of my marital destiny. The feeling of “She’s on her own now” was overwhelming. I think I actually saw my Aunt dust off her hands and shrug at another lady who then glanced over at her husband, who was asleep sitting up in his chair. Twitching.
I stood at the top of the stairs, looking down and it didn’t help that my sister, married for 10 years leaned into me and whispered, “Do you totally want to bolt right now?” I glared with a half smile at her, knowing that she was only kidding. I also knew that Vegas sounded really nice right then, and had I said the word to her, we’d be out of there before anyone would notice. But I kept going.
The room was in slo-mo, I felt like I was in bubble wrap as I moved down the stairs to take my place next to my 6 foot 5, brother in-law, standing in waiting to walk me down the aisle. He looked down at me with certain fear and said uncertainly, “You ready?”
WTF was going on??? WHAT do you people know?? What are you NOT telling me??
But, I nodded and Pachelbel’s Canon in D came on and I began the walk. I swear I could hear the thoughts of the people beaming smiles at me. Like a crazy person, random voices were in my ear, “Don’t go to bed angry.” “Always say you’re sorry”, “Don’t sweat the small stuff”, “Don’t have kids.” ”HAVE kids!” “Be a cook in the kitchen and a whore in the bedroom”. Okay, the last one, I didn’t hear from anyone, that one was my own, I read it on Maxim (AND probably the one with the most truth. Just sayin’.)
WHAT I found in my marriage, was that ALL the advice, though valid and with decades of proof in it’s pudding, was not totally accurate. Of course I know this NOW, after being divorced for over 5 years (Married for 5, together for 9). Some lessons are learned in retrospect.
When asked if I would get married again, initially after my divorce, I was quick to say “Hells to the no.” But, after some serious personal growth and some major schooling of how to be divorced parents that have a great relationship as co-parents, I now hesitate for a minute.
I realized; that I thought marriage was supposed to be a certain way and (shocker…) I didn’t fit that mold; no matter how hard I tried. And I tried really, really hard.
What I understand NOW is that marriage is what you make it.
Today, marriage looks different to me. I tried to make it something that it wasn’t. I tried to BE someone that I wasn’t…
So, … marriage doesn’t seem so daunting to me now. It actually seems like a pretty cool thing IF you make it your own and are able to live authentically in it.
But I’d have to tweak these “Words of Wisdom” a little. There’s truth in all of them, but this is how I would do it differently.
Words Of Wisdom #1:
“Your spouse should ALSO be your best friend.”
Yes. That sounds amazeballs right? I mean, who doesn’t want to be with someone that you can tell everything to and do everything with and never, ever get annoyed?
But truth be told and my ex-husband said it best in our marriage was “I don’t want to be your girlfriend.” I got it. He wanted to know things and share things with me, but he didn’t really want to hear my gripes about my period cramps or the fight that was happening between two of my girlfriends at work.
I think the spouse being your best friend thing means simply, that you genuinely LIKE the person. And honor that like with respect of boundaries (i.e. poop in private). You can love someone and not like them (think of a family member), but if you really like someone and like spending time with them and enjoy their company AND still want to totally make out high school style every other night or so, then win, win, right?
Words of Wisdom #2:
Don’t Go To Bed Angry:
This sounds lovely. I imagine a couple so self aware, that they decide to put on a pot of coffee and sit at the table until the issue is resolved, because they love each other THAT much. Sounds awesome, right? Please.. Who can actually DO that?
Look, sometimes you’re so pissed that you don’t WANT to make nice, yet. Maybe you’re so heated that you CAN’T even fathom accepting another point of view. THIS is normal. There is NO reason to go to bed hateful, but you CAN agree to disagree and call it a night to sleep on it, as hard as that is. (I KNOW. I’m a Gemini. I like closure and resolution.) BUT, everything IS always better in the morning. I don’t mean that the fight or issues go away, I just mean, that you might gain some perspective and calm down enough to communicate properly. I think, if possible, if you must go to bed angry, to make sure that the other person knows that you still love them. You can always say something like, “I love you, but I’m really mad at you right now. Let’s talk in the morning.” And then, you must walk away.
Word of Wisdom #3:
“You’ll be closer and more in love if you have a baby.”
ECCCHH! I call Bullshit.
Okay. I have to admit, before I had children, this seemed obvious. I mean, how intense and beautiful must it be to create human life together and then SEE yourselves in one human that your LOVE made?
But then that human life doesn’t sleep through the night or has colic or cries more than you thought it could and your husband is working longer hours because the sudden pressure of him providing for family is weighing on his shoulders and then you go back to work and then you never sleep again and the time he is at home playing the parent role, he’s not doing the dishes and the babies diaper hasn’t been changed in like, 4 hours and weighs 17 pounds.
HOW on earth does THIS bring you closer?
Okay, yes. There were many, many great wonderful moments between us; during my pregnancies and the births of our two children. It WAS pretty awesome at some moments, but the longevity of it all, the hourly tasks were something that was just… well, really fucking HARD. TOO hard. And I don’t think we liked each other during this time.
A baby CAN bring you closer together, but it can also pull you apart if you let it. Communicate kindly and respectfully. Ask for help, be humbled together and Good luck.
Words of Wisdom #4:
“Don’t Fight In Front Of The Kids.”
Okay, as much as I agree with this one, I also know it can be impossible. There are going to be annoyances and disagreements that come up and the kids are going to be right there a lot of the time, not everyone can hold their tongue all of the time and wait until the kids are in bed. I DO think that the level of argument needs to be taken into consideration here. I mean, is it a small bicker or are you screaming hateful words to each other? That, then needs to be taken out of the room.
Regardless, kids will see you fight and they will see you clearly annoyed with the other and they will pick up on any negative vibes in the home. What they DON’T see a lot of the time, is the resolution. They see you fight and then two days later, it’s fine, but they don’t know what happened in between. I don’t think you should bring your kids in to witness the closure and make up of an argument, but do think you’ve got to go to them at any age, even toddler years and say, “Your daddy (or mommy) and I don’t agree on everything and people who love each other will fight, but we always talk about it and work it out and I love your mommy (or daddy) very much and we love you.”
I know. This sounds so movie perfect and real life just isn’t like that, but we can try, right??
Words Of Wisdom #5:
“Sex in a marriage will just naturally deteriorate and that’s okay.”
NO! No. I mean, yes, it will naturally go in stages of one week, it’s five times, and the next, not for a month. It IS normal for this to happen, and after major life changes (baby, moves, losses, etc.) this IS okay, but I for one, understood that we NEEDED to have sex. Not like that needed, but our relationship needed to be connected like that.
I’m not naïve. There were MANY times where I didn’t want anyone to even look at me, but life is stressful and you’re both busy with work or kids and you see so little of each other, it’s imperative to connect and sex is the fastest (sorry) and cheapest way to do that. One 7-minute quickie fixed more things in our relationship than 10 date nights and a weekend getaway could have.
As you probably know, I am NOT a medical doctor, or psychiatrist of any kind and am certainly NOT qualified in ANY way to give out relationship advice. But, I will say that the BEST advice I ever have heard was from couples who had been married for over 40 years OR divorced couples, because they’ve had a chance to look at it and see where they went wrong. I think I’m a better person and wife… for having been divorced.
Photo courtesy of the Guardian.