From the time we are young, we are taught that marriage equals happily ever after. Despite the staggering divorce rates and negative depictions we see of marriage on television in our teen years, we somehow think that we will defy all odds and ours will be different. Yet, marriage requires honesty, loyalty, dedication, maturity, diligence, compromise and so much more. A lot goes into maintaining a relationship that was once easy and carefree. So, to share a bit of my experiences and hopefully help you in the future – here are 10 things marriage has taught me, and how you can integrate them into your own life for a happy (future) marriage.
1. Love is NOT all you need
It sounds so romantic, but the idea that love is all you need is a joke. As said above, marriage is a multi-faceted relationship that requires many things – and re-figuring out what you “need” and “want” throughout. Love is a necessary foundation that you can build on, but it is not the be all end all. You don’t just choose your partner once when you say “I do.” You have to continue to choose to spend your life with each other every day, because love is a choice.
2. Perfection is an illusion
You are two imperfect people, so trying to have a “perfect marriage”, be a “perfect wife”, or have a “perfect life together” is unattainable. It’s easy to think things will be perfect once you finish school, or once he lands that high paying job, or once the baby is born or your house is bought. But life gets in the way, and there will never be a “perfect” time for anything. So just try to take it day by day, do your best, and live in the now.
3. Marriage WILL change your relationship
It’s hard to believe that one piece of paper will change what you two already have (especially if you are already living together), but somehow, it does. Suddenly, you have a sense of permanence – and a feeling of ownership over that person that’s stronger than when you were just his girlfriend, or when he was just your fiancee. New expectations pop up on both ends, and you both have to be prepared to deal with them and talk about them.
4. You can’t actually change him
There’s a saying that goes, “men go into a relationship hoping she’ll never change, whereas women go into a relationship hoping he will.” Sure, he will grow up and his priorities will change. His looks will change and he will develop new interests. But ultimately, the things you don’t like about him now aren’t going to change. You can’t make him or push him to change, no matter how much you think you can. So, it’s important that you accept him the way he is right now – not just dreaming of the way you hope he’ll become.
5. Kids don’t make things better
Hopefully you’re smart enough to know that the concept of having a baby to keep a man is ludicrous, but I’m not just talking about that here. As much as I love my children and wouldn’t trade them for the world, I definitely feel like we were happier before they came along. Don’t get me wrong, children absolutely bring happiness; however they bring many more challenges than happy moments (a ratio of like 10:1). Kids change everything, and it’s very hard to keep them from coming between you and your partner. Ideally, your marriage should be rock solid before you add kids to the mix. That way, you can set clear goals as to what you expect from each other in helping to raise them.
6. Marriage is hard work
Marriage is a breeding ground for resentment. You’re “stuck” with that person for better or for worse and sometimes you will feel like giving up. There are days where you will hate each other. There will be days where you will wonder why you ever thought getting married was a good idea in the first place. And there are days where you will crave the freedom and excitement of single life. That’s normal, and it doesn’t mean you have failed. You get what you put in – and it’s worth working through the little issues, no matter how big they seem at the time.
7. Fighting fair is a necessary skill
The two things married people fight about most are sex and money. If you are truly going to spend the rest of your life with this person then you need to learn how to fight fair. No name calling, silent treatment, blame game, or the kind of screaming matches where the neighbors call the cops. Try not to let your emotions get the best of you, and remember to treat him like you want to be treated, even when you’re mad at him. Don’t pick fights, or turn something small into something big. Always be willing to own your own shit (accept responsibility for your own actions) and don’t let negativity bog you down.
8. Never take him for granted
It’s easy to start taking him for granted when he’s there every day and putting up with your shit. But, the more you dish out that he takes without complaint, the less you will respect him as a man. Don’t let it get to that point. Treat him like you want to be treated and don’t let things fall off in the sex department. Remember, he married you because he loved you the way you were, and he truly didn’t expect his little slut to become anti-blow job the minute he put a ring on it. So continue to do the things you did when you were dating, and don’t take his constant presence in your life for granted. Even though that little piece of paper makes it harder for both of you to leave, it’s worth still being the wonderful people you were before you were married – and appreciate each other so that you want to stay together forever.
9. Communication is key
At their core, men want to please you, just like they wanted to make their mothers happy when they were little. If you are constantly showing disapproval, putting him down or complaining about how you aren’t happy, he will interpret this as a blow to his manhood. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want or expect from him in a straightforward and polite way (without nagging). Men can be very literal and communication is key, so be crystal clear in what you are asking for. Don’t beat around the bush. Want him to do the dishes? Say “Hey baby, could you help me out with the chores before snuggling on the couch?” Once you have put it out there, don’t nag him until it’s done. If someone needs a reminder – do it sweetly and directly.
10. Put each other’s needs first
If you both put each other first, then you both win. It’s important to pull your own weight – but also, to help your partner out, too! If one of you is selfish, or demands more in return that what you are willing to give, the whole balance is upset. Put each other first, but not to the point where you are compromising who you are or what you need. If he’s not meeting you in the middle, call him out on it.
Marriage can truly be a beautiful thing, but it is not to be taken lightly and presents a whole new host of challenges. I guarantee that you will learn and grow as a person when you make a lifetime commitment and try to stick with it. Remember that your wedding day is just the beginning, and that you have a long road ahead of you. Marriage is a marathon, not a sprint. You can achieve great things together if you are both willing to work for it and refuse to give up.