Marriage is everything and nothing like what I expected it to be. Some people will tell you nothing changes, and some will tell you everything changes; in my experience, they are all correct.
When I married Mike, we had been together nearly 6 years off and on, (but mostly on). We had been through our fair share of ups and downs like any other couple, although ours might have been a bit more unconventional. We had brought a beautiful baby girl in to the world together, lived together, shared bank accounts, shared bills and lived a life similar to that of a married couple. In that way, indeed nothing changed. After marriage, all of those same responsibilities existed and we continued along, business-as-usual.
But what I was unprepared for, was the unspoken shift. Because after we said our ‘I-do;s’, and returned home from our Mini-moon™, our relationship went through some growing pains. I was literally blind-sided by this, as most of my friends at the time were not yet married. And if they were, they failed to mention the challenges that can accompany being a newly-wed. I think maybe the idea of ‘forever’ sunk in, which was both awesome and terrifying.
Check out this Google search of ‘first year of marriage’. Pretty wild, right? Who knew?! I didn’t, that’s for sure. (I will say, that a couple of months in to our marriage when I originally searched the Googles on this topic, I was quite relieved to learn that everything we were going through was completely normal).
I think that there is a misconception that you get married, and then you can finally relax and rest on your laurels (for lack of better words). What I have found is quite the opposite. Marriage does offer a certain feeling of comfort and relaxation, but it is also the marker of the beginning of a whole new journey of growth and discovery and compromise. Marriage is a daily choice. It doesn’t feed itself and it certainly doesn’t evolve or flourish without diligent care and attention.
At the risk of losing your (my) attention span, I have summed up a few things I have learned about marriage, over the last 3 years. Or I guess more specifically, what I have learned about my marriage. (As always, this is my experience, and I am definitely not claiming to be any type of expert in anyone else’s life but my own. And I use the term ‘expert’, very loosely.)
Expect to have the same conversation over and over
This is in the number one position for a reason. Mike and I used to argue about our arguments. Seriously. Because one of us or both of us believed we shouldn’t have to have this conversation again. Wrong and wrong. What I have learned is, we will revisit many a ‘talk’, because we are human, and talking about something once doesn’t typically fix it or permanently change it. When we both finally reached this understanding, (took about 2.5 years), things got a lot more light-hearted in our home. (cue: ‘why didn’t we think of this sooner!?’)
Date Nights Are Mandatory
The power of a date night with my hub, still amazes me. Nothing kills your mojo like kids. Or bills. Or financial stress. Or piles of laundry. Or looming ‘honey-do’ lists. Or picking up dog poo. Catch my drift? It is very easy to become glorified roommates with your spouse, and taking a couple hours out of the routine to reconnect (over sushi), does wonders for a relationship. Date nights often remind me that I actually like my husband. They remind me that I chose him. Pro-tip: I have also found that the times that I feel like I don’t even want a date night with my hub, are the best times to plan one.
Sleep on it
I used to really believe that you shouldn’t go to bed angry, because isn’t that what everyone writes on those cheesy little suggestion cards at bridal showers? It’s total bull-sh*t, in my opinion. You know what is worse than going to bed pissed? Staying up late, arguing in a delirious state of mind and going to bed even more pissed. Sleep is golden, people. Sleep makes us sane. Learning to go to bed pissed has saved me from saying things that I would have surely regretted saying, by morning. There is a reason that people say ‘sleep on it’, when making a big decision. Sleep = perspective.
Ask for what you want
Hey so guess what? Your spouse isn’t a mind-reader. (Even if you believe that by now, he/she should be.) I have spent a lot of time in past relationships, upset that my significant other didn’t live up to my expectation of what my birthday/anniversary/valentines day/xmas/Saturday should look like. The thought process goes something like this:
‘I hope he gets me flowers. He should know that I love getting flowers. He better get me flowers. Of course he will get me flowers–he KNOWS I love flowers. Wait, he didn’t get me flowers? This whole day sucks. I hate my Birthday and I hate him because he didn’t get me flowers. The day is ruined.’
Insanity, I tell ya! Maybe you can’t relate to that at all, maybe you had this conversation with yourself recently. All I know is, when I set my husband up for success, ‘Our anniversary is coming up and I just want to remind you that I love getting flowers’, everyone wins. Expectations are ridiculous, most of the time. Life is not a John Hughes movie (unfortunately), and Jake Ryan is not going to show up with a Birthday cake at the end of the ‘movie’. (Jake Ryan, le sigh.)
It takes two, baby
I think the craziest thing about marriage is that two people from completely different back-stories and life-experiences, decide that they are going to share a life together and find a middle ground to live upon.
Stop and think about that for a minute.
It is the ultimate compromise, and everything that you have learned about survival and decision-making and adulting, is now in question. It’s not just about what exists in your own comfort zone, anymore. Marriage forces you to take an entirely different perspective in to consideration. It challenges you to consider new ideas and foreign thought processes. It asks you to set what you thought you knew aside, and consider another persons viewpoint and feelings. (Ew. Just kidding.)
The truth is, I am learning how to be a wife and how to be married, every day. I could write an entire book on the topic, but then I would probably have to go back and re-write it in a few years. So for now, I will leave you with this blog post, and some photos from our wedding day.
*Photography Credit: Sarah Field Photo