I am very happy being married. I have a partner to journey through life with and whether or not things are easy or difficult, JP is there with me. He knows when to back off and let me figure things out for myself, and he also understands when I simply can’t do it anymore and he needs to step in and help me. He “gets” me in a way that no one ever has before and he has undying patience for my quirks and idiosyncrasies.
We have had a lot of ebbs and flows in our relationship and the reason that we’ve made it when others haven’t is because we’ve remained dedicated to the sanctity of our commitment. There is no “plan b” in our marriage – this is it. We are going to make it work even when we don’t like each other very much because we know that what we share together is a gift that we don’t want to be ungrateful for or give up on.
JP and I are a pretty great couple if I do say so myself. I shared our 10 marriage commandments with you, which was a synopsis of what I think makes our marriage successful. Now I would like to share the things I wish that I had known about marriage before I got married because getting to the happy place that we’re at today was not all rainbow and butterflies.
I promised to be real in the marriage section of my blog and I am going to be very candid and genuine in my list below. Please add your thoughts in the comments!
Marriage is not only about your personal happiness. JP is not around to simply make me happy, although that would be really nice. Marriage is about “we” and not “I,” which can be a big adjustment. Learning to consider someone else in all of your decisions isn’t something that simply comes naturally. Sometimes, you need to put your own wants on the back burner and do what is best for your relationship instead.
Arguments don’t mean that you aren’t compatible. Personally, I am kind of creeped out by couples who say they “never” argue. Either they’ve gotten to a point where they simply don’t care to voice their personal opinions anymore or they are married to clones of themselves. No one is ever going to agree all the time.
Personally, I wouldn’t want to be married to a person who thought exactly the same way that I did and never challenged me. There are productive ways to argue (discussing issues civilly and using “I” statements) and unproductive approaches (screaming and playing the blame game), but the fact of the matter is that everyone disagrees sometimes and that doesn’t mean you aren’t a good couple.
Apologizing is a sign of strength, not weakness. No one is always right, even though many people think that they are. Part of being an adult in a healthy relationship is not only knowing when you’re wrong, but admitting it and taking the necessary steps to avoid making the same mistake again. When you mess up, consider it an opportunity to grow rather than a character flaw.
I also think it’s important not to belittle someone’s apology. I have heard men say, “I better record this, she never apologizes or admits that she’s wrong.” Well, guess what? Now she never will again because you’re a jerk. There is a graceful way to apologize and also a graceful way to accept an apology. Learn both.
Marriage is a long-term investment. I try to avoid calling marriage “work” because that term has negative connotations. I mean, who really wants to go to work every day when there so many other ways to spend your time? In the same vein, who wants to be in a relationship that feels like a job? I consider marriage to be an investment. You do have to put in effort, but the potential returns are well worth it. Besides, you have full control to inject fun along the way.
Keeping score will get you nowhere. If you are keeping a mental tally (or god forbid, a real one) about who put the dishes away last time, you are being petty and are going to cause needless arguments. You don’t need to keep score when you’re playing for the same team. Picking your battles is so important and so many couples forget to do this.
It’s hard to feel loving feelings towards someone who is always nagging and annoying you. Home is supposed to be somewhere you enjoy being, so don’t suck the joy out of it for your partner. I’m not saying that one person should carry all of the weight, but I am advocating to let the small things go. You will both be happier for it.
Being in love is a choice. Each day, you have a choice whether or not to be in love with your partner. Life isn’t a magic fairy tale or an episode of Sex and the City where everything feels good all the time without any effort. You can either make the choice to love your partner and do everything you can for your relationship, or just complain that “everything is different” than it was when you first met. Of course it’s different! The only constant in life is change, so you either need to adapt and grow, or move on. Hint: it will be “different” with the next person, too.
Plans don’t always come to fruition. There are often wrenches thrown into the best laid plans and no amount of foresight can account for things like a sick relative or a job loss. I think it’s important to have goals, but to also understand that time frames often need to be adjusted.
Compromise is an art. It’s not easy to compromise. Who wouldn’t want to get exactly what they want all the time? However, it’s simply not possible and if you choose to make everything about “winning” over your partner, then you will both lose. Sometimes, you need to do things that you don’t want to do in order for your spouse to feel good about accommodating you later.
JP and I often barter so that we can both be happy with the outcome and not feel resentful of each other. A recent example is that both of us wanted to go somewhere that the other didn’t, and we both wanted the other to come with us (a hockey game for JP and an aquarium for me). We agreed to be open to the new experience because each of us “got” something and felt valued (and we also had a kick ass day doing both of those things together!).
You need to make it a point to make each other happy. There are both big and small things that you can do to make your partner happy. Maybe she likes when you cuddle her and he likes when you make his lunch for work. Most things that make a big difference to someone and their well-being are very easy to do. Unfortunately, we often don’t make it a point to do those things for the person we love because we feel that we can get away with not doing it. Remember that I love you doesn’t mean that I will never leave you. If you can do something for your partner at no cost to yourself, why not do it?
You need to continue to “date” your partner even when you’re married and your dating days are long gone. Imagine how you treated your partner 6 months into your relationship. Are you still as sweet, considerate, romantic, passionate, and courteous? If not, you should be, and if it doesn’t come naturally, force yourself to do it until it does feel natural again.
Being too comfortable is not a good thing. Couples need to continue to keep the romance alive and not let themselves simply become roommates because there is nothing sexy about that! Having said that…
Sex is not the only measure of a marriage’s success. Sex is one of those things that ebbs and flows. When you first meet, it’s likely happening very frequently, and then that can change repeatedly throughout your relationship’s life cycle.
Comparison is the thief of joy. Other couples might look like they are “perfect” on paper, but trust me, they aren’t. If you are always trying to aspire towards an ideal that likely doesn’t exist then you will always be disappointed. It’s similar to trying to look like an airbrushed model – even the model doesn’t look like that, so how can you?
True story: I recently complained to JP that a couple we know is always going out and doing new (expensive) things. He pointed out that they still live at home, don’t have any bills, and they also don’t own three properties like we do. Priorities are different for everyone and comparing yourself to a couple who is still dating or in the very early phases of their relationship is not a realistic benchmark.