Wednesday, April 1, 2009

To Have and to Hold . . .

Sometimes I think we give our children the wrong idea about relationships. Now I love fairy tales and star-crossed lovers, like Edward and Bella or Romeo and Juliet, as much as the next person, but real-life doesn't work that way. Recently, Curly Girl has worn out her Taylor Swift Fearless CD, especially "Love Story." I love the song, I really do, but I'm torn between letting Curly Girl maintain her "someone will sweep me off my feet" attitude about love, as opposed to telling her the cold, hard truth. I know, she's only eleven. I should let her dream a little bit longer.

My husband and I certainly didn't undergo any pre-marital counseling before our wedding fourteen years ago; we just sort of lucked into this marriage thing. Assorted people tossed us tiny trinkets of advice along the way, but no one sat Patrick and myself down to tell us what to really expect. I do think all of us married folk should be more forthcoming about marriage with our engaged or soon-to-be-engaged friends and family members. Tell them the truth . . . It's not always easy. Now, before anyone panics and goes into a tailspin as they read this, all is well in our house. I am very content and happily married.

Here are the eight things I think we should tell a couple before they get married:

1. Marriage is hard work.

Married life isn't always fun. It's a lot of compromise, and sometimes just flat not getting what you want. After being married for a number of years, you can't just bat your eyes at your husband and get your way anymore. At a bridal shower, one newly-married friend did allude to this when she told me, "Marriage is great when you work together and accomplish something, but sometimes you get so mad at him that you never want to see him again." Thank you, Ansley, for giving me that great window into married life. By the way, I caught the bouquet at Ansley's wedding in December 1992. When I was home for Christmas break a week later, Patrick stopped by my house to say ,"Hi," and we started going out about two weeks after that.

2. Love is a choice, not a feeling.

I didn't actually come up with this one. Jane Schrum did, and it's the main thing I remember from a MOMS Group I attended. What Jane meant was that sometimes you have to choose to be the spouse you should be, rather than the spouse you want to be. Admittedly, some days I do not feel very loving or act very lovable, for that matter. If I always acted just as my emotions dictated, my marriage and myself would be in an awful lot of trouble. Sometimes we have to choose to act lovingly, even though we may not want or feel like doing so.

3. It's not all about you.

I know that popular culture tells us and encourages us to believe, "It's all about me," but once you're married, especially once you have children, it is certainly no longer about you. Believe me, I can act self-centered with the best of them, and some days it is all I can do not to act on that escape plan in my head (Thank you, Kelsey, for admitting that you, too, have hatched an escape plan from the domestic life.). Part of being in a relationship is balancing your personal desires with those of your spouse. It's all about give and take. My husband certainly doesn't like helping around the house (He would much rather zone out in front of ESPN or take a nap), but he cleans the bathrooms and irons because it deletes those items from my to-do list and, thus, makes me much happier.

4. Physical attraction is not enough.

I know; before being married you think you'll spend much of your married life in bed together (not snoring and reading, but doing fun, adult things). I hate to burst your bubble, but it's just not so. Real life intrudes; you get busy; you're tired; you're no longer the size 4, 100 pound gal you were you got married (Things expand when you have babies, and body parts just don't shift back to the way they were.) For all these reasons, you and your spouse had better have more in common than sex. All the sex in the world won't make up for a lack of similar goals and outlook on life.

5. Marry your best friend.

I'm not saying ruin your friendships by trying to turn them into something more. I'm saying that you had better be friends with your spouse and enjoy spending an awful lot of time with him or her. I am lucky enough to be married to my best friend. Patrick is the person I first want to speak to if something good, bad, or just interesting happens during the day. He and I have always had an easy manner between us; it's never been strained or weird. Patrick and I went out a time or two in high school. It was nothing exciting, though, aside from getting lost on MLK Drive one night coming home from the Dixie Classic Fair. Over the next few years, he and I would run into each other occasionally, and that was just it, running into each other. When we reconnected my senior year in college, it was so easy. Our first date wasn't really like a first date; it was just hanging out and catching up with an old friend, and it's been that way ever since. I am so thankful that we have that friendship to fall back on. Now that our lives consist mainly of child-centered logistics and activities, we (and many other marriages) would be in real trouble if we didn't have a genuine friendship undergirding our marriage.

6. Sometimes you must choose the right thing over the momentarily pleasurable thing.

We certainly all have things we think about, but must choose not to do for the health of our relationships. Whether it's holding our tongue to not say the hurtful comment on the tip of it or refraining from placing ourselves in tempting situations, we must always maintain a long-term view of our marriages. Just because you have a fleeting idea or feeling, doesn't mean you have to act on it. Think of how many people have been led down the road to ruin by acting spontaneously rather than thinking through a choice which could irreparably damage your relationship with your spouse.

7. Intertwine your lives so much that it would be exceedingly difficult to separate them.

His and hers no longer exists in our marriage (even though Patrick did make a snarky remark to a friend the other day that I have slowly gotten rid of all his things since we got married). At this point in our lives, everything is ours from bank accounts and friends to the activities we are involved in. Now I'm not saying lose yourself and your identity once you get married- no way! I'm even still a bit ambivalent about the whole name-change thing. What I mean is to intermingle every aspect of your lives so much that it is easier to stay together than it would be to try to separate it out to his and hers again.

8. Expect change.

When you get married, you have this grand idea of how your life will be. I have news for you; it will probably not turn out that way. If someone had told me I would be married to Patrick, live in my hometown, and be home with two children that I home school, I would have asked them what horrific thing had happened along the way to make these completely unforeseen events occur in my life. This was certainly not the plan I had for myself. But life is change; jobs change, goals change, relationships change. The trick is for you and your spouse to be willing and able to change with the circumstances and with each other.

What do you think of my "Things We Should Tell People Before They Get Married"? Anything you would like to change or add? I have to confess that parts of this post may give my husband and close family members a coronary. We'll see how it goes.

1 comment:

  1. To go along with #2, I've heard and like the sentence "Love is a decision."
    And in addition to #7, "Divorce is not an option."