First, I’d like to start off with a disclaimer. I am not perfect. My marriage is not perfect. I do not know it all.
Second, I’d like to start a boycott of the term “ball and chain”. As you can see in the photo below, our photographer thought it would be funny to snap a picture of my soon-to-be-husband’s groomsmen trying to prevent him from running away on our wedding day. Why is this funny?
Why are the marriage jokes constantly adding a negative hue around this Holy Sacrament? Because, when I read about or watch interviews of couples who have been together for 50+ years, you never hear them breathe a negative word about their partner or their marriage.
My husband is my ray of light. He is my very best friend and someone who I trust completely to be there for me. He is, as they say, my other half. He knows more about me than the woman who gave birth to me.
After 11 years, I can say that our relationship has had some really high moments and some really low moments. I remember the low moments the most because it was when we hit rock bottom that we decided to figure out how to climb out together. The two of us are better human beings today because of the hard times we’ve been through.
So, I would like to strike down all of society’s harmful jokes and replace them with some best practices that my husband and I use to help keep our relationship going. I was young, dumb and in love when I got married – so I know how lucky I am that everything worked out. Hopefully my experiences can help bring to life the reality of marriage as well as point out just how special this life-time commitment is – in my opinion, anyway.
KEEPING MARRIAGE REAL… AND VALUABLE
When I was a kid, my Dad always told me, “Cis, one day you are going to look back on your life and you will be able to count your true friends on one hand.” I didn’t hang out with bad kids – Dad was just keeping it real. You can’t possibly commit 100% of yourself to the 800+ friends you have on Facebook. (Facebook didn’t exist until I was out of college, but you get the idea). Looking back now, he is so right. I have several acquaintances that know a lot about me, but only a select few that genuinely give a crap about me and what goes on in my life. I say this, because it took me a long time to understand the idea of a 50/50 relationship. So, while these best practices are regarding my marriage, I also use these same concepts in my friendships and family relationships.
- COMPROMISE – I know this seems obvious, but you are not the end all, be all. There are 7 billion people on Earth right now. What works for you, is not necessarily what works for someone else. When you decide to enter into a committed relationship, all opinions matter and must have a voice. Being the alpha-female that I am (is that even a term?), I usually end up making a decision and enforcing it on others. After all, we only have 24 hours in a day and no decision warrants spending countless hours pondering over options. 😉 Any other ladies out there share my frustrations? Ok, so – I’ve had to learn how to compromise (the hard way, of course) with my husband. I think this is the most important best practice. It forces a couple to sit down and discuss both sides and come to a middle ground. We’ve done this for very large decisions, like deciding to grow our family, to very minor decisions, like “what is for dinner?”.
- BE HONEST – Lies have no productive place in a marriage (or a relationship). Not only does it take communication out of the picture, but it leads to a lack of trust when the truth eventually comes out. And the truth always comes out. What I love most about being in an honest relationship is that I have someone who I can share with without feeling judged. Having an outlet that you can trust to be completely honest with is the very best feeling in the world. It is an awkward path to get to the point where you share these thoughts, but when you finally arrive it is the most freeing feeling you will ever experience.
- NEVER GO TO BED ANGRY – Long, over-fought fights are so unproductive and a such a waste of energy. Now, I am not saying that arguing and fighting is not necessary. Living with another person is bound to lead to tension every now and then. Add kids to the picture and you can quadruple the tension. I have quite the temper, and there have been some airborne frozen veggies and laundry baskets in our house every now and then. The past two years have been especially trying on my marriage – a multiple pregnancy, 10 weeks of bedrest, and two infants plus a three-year-old all at once. We are tired and we get on each others nerves. BUT, if we have a fight – that just means we will have to stay up later to clean bottles, feed babies and get ready for the next day. Which means we lose more sleep – no bueno! Once we get the emotions out – we eventually (sooner than we ever have before) get over our anger and come back together. For sanity’s sake!
- CONTINUE TO DATE – I am the pot calling the kettle black here. We have not been on our own in a long time. But that is just natural for our situation right now. Eventually, we will be able to leave our children with a sitter or family member and take a much-needed adult time-out. Side note – we are actually going out this Saturday night to celebrate our anniversary – YEAH! But, if you search YouTube for interviews of 50+ year married couples, they all say (in their own way) keep dating. I believe this is a common best practice because it reminds you to keep your relationship a priority. As you get older you are naturally pulled in several different directions. Learn to put each other at the top of the list.
- RESIST THE URGE TO VENT – Every now and then my man does something that really gets my temper going. I usually vent this frustration on the first human being willing to listen. This is a bad habit. Just remember – negative thoughts beget more negative thoughts. We make a conscious effort not to bad-mouth each other to anyone. Usually – if I am in the right state of mind – I will resist the urge to spout off something ugly about my man and replace it with a compliment. This helps remind me of all the things I am grateful for about my husband. And there are many. I am lucky – I know this. For example, if I harp on the fact that my husband is the SLOWEST HUMAN BEING ON THE FACE OF THE PLANET, I am completely forgetting that this is why I LOVE him so much. He helps slow me down and teaches me how to make rational decisions. He takes the time to do things correctly the first time. I was a hot mess in my early 20s – I am now a better human being because he taught me how to slow down and appreciate what is right in front of me instead of blowing past it.
So there you go. Take what you want from my rambling. I feel if I have done anything correctly in my life – it is that I have really worked hard at my marriage. Marriage is not for the faint-hearted. The love between a couple makes it easier, but it will not save you from experiencing really low moments. Setting your expectations too high will blind you from keeping it real and making it your purpose in life to be constantly aware of where you are as a couple so that you can see when the dips are about to happen. Working with the best practices I mentioned, as well as others you pick up along the way will help you be proactive so that when the low times hit, the blow is cushioned some because you are prepared for them.
Marriage is the most beautiful gift I have been given. Even more beautiful than the gift of motherhood. Marriage has taught me so much about the world and it has equipped me (and continues to do so) with the tools to discover how to be the best person I can be.
If you are in love, congratulations. If you are engaged, best wishes. If you are married, you are blessed.
Help me squash these terrible connotations our society has placed on such a beautiful thing. Marriage is AWESOME.