Something interesting happens when your relationship status changes from “in a relationship” to “engaged.” Parents begin giving you marriage advice. Marriage articles seem to pop up on your internet homepage. Married friends graciously bring you into the “club.”
My parents are divorced. It’s no secret that their marriage was anything but perfect. By the time I was 12 months old, my parents had finalized their divorce. By age 4, my mom was re-married. My memory of my parents together is like a barren hole. The only thing collected there is dust, not memories. As marriage goes, my step-dad and mom had a typical one. Love was plentiful, but fights were still common. As a blended family, the odds were agaist us tenfold.
The complete opposite rings true for Joe. His parents have been married for over 30 years. He didn’t experience the familliar arguments in a grocery store parking lot as my parents switched kids or the awkward moments when the holidays came around. But each marriage is different.
As an adult about to embark on one of the most santioned unions, my drive to learn the tricks of the marriage trade have become something of a slight obsession. My parents, particularly my father, simply stopped trying in their marriage. I don’t expect the road to be easy, but at the end of my life, I want to look back on that road and see a beautifully, tattered, well-worn road that my children will want to re-create for themselves.
1. Never speak poorly of your spouse. How easy is it to sit with girlfriends on a Friday night with a glass of wine and complain about your partners little annoying habits? I can’t recall ever saying something outwardly rude about Joe to my friends, but a quick comment about certain irritating flaws or couch potato tendencies may creep out of my mouth from time to time. Though I don’t find this to be extremely harmful, I think highly of Joe and would never want to slander him in anyway way.
2. Fight smart. I don’t believe Joe and I “fight.” I believe we disagree more than we fight. I view fighting as verbal brawls as each person takes low blows. I don’t expect our relationship to be fight-free, but it’s something we both have to work on. Two people are never going to agree on everything. I’ve always heard that fighting is healthy. It means you care enough to get angry about something. It means you’re willing to fight for something even though your spouse may think differently. It means that even though the two of you make a team, being an individual should still be a priority. One thing I try to remember during disagreements is to view the argument from Joe’s perspective. I can be completely irrational, so putting myself in his shoes may be the perfect solution. Another important thing I remember is to not bring in other disagreements. Focusing on one particular issue is the right dose of humility. Nothing says resentment like multiple arguments with no resolution.
3. Have a bit of humility. Or shall we call it shame? I’ve learned that bathroom habits become something of a public display. Bodily functions are daily tidbits of humility. Embrace them. Living with someone becomes a little bit easier when you lose a bit of your inhibitions and just let things loose. On any given week night, you can find us both in sweatpants, sprawled out on the couch, belching out tunes from our recent dinner. I’m not wearing a bra, my glasses are plastered to my face and I’m usually barried deep in a blanket because I’m always cold. No bra. No makeup. No problem. Plus, a small part of me believes we both actually enjoy this version of each other.
4. Make time for each other. It’s easy to get wrapped up in work, school, working out and errands. My Sundays are a prime example of this. I never make plans on Sundays because they’re spent making breakfast, running errands, picking up groceries, making dinner, and preparing for the week ahead. It’s rarely ever considered a day of rest for me. If this was everyday, I don’t know when I’d ever see Joe. Making time for each other is one thing that I’m learning to make a priority. For the month of December, Friday nights are Christmas movie night. Certain Saturday mornings are spent grabbing breakfast at our favorite spot and shopping together. These small acts really do go a long way.
For all the marriage veterans out there, what works for you guys? What’s your best marriage advice for us? I’d love to read all about them!