Anyone who knows me knows how much I love being married and how blessed I feel to be able to experience true love. I will admit, however, there have been times when I've thought, “Uhhh, why didn't anyone tell me this?" But then I wonder, had I known then what I knew now would I still have married my husband? Absolutely. Think of it more like the book What to Expect When Expecting as it relates to pregnancy. Even though you can't prepare for everything, having an idea of what to expect helps you feel a little more confident and prepared when it actually does happen.
The same is true with marriage. When people ask me about getting married or marriage, I try to keep it real and I share what I would want someone to tell me – the good and the bad. I personally think it's encouraging to see other couples who are still together after experiencing the “awesome highs" and even the “difficult lows" of marriage.
For those who have been married for 10, 20, 30 or more years, I commend you because you provide an example of what it means to make it last and make it work. For those of us who have been married for shorter periods and especially for those who aspire to get married, are planning to get married and/or are recently married, let me share a few tips of what I've learned and/or what I wish someone had told me before I got married.
1) It's totally normal to experience “growing pains."
I used to ask myself, “Are we the only couple arguing about this type of stuff," until I realized that a lot of my married friends experience the same things and a lot of times we share stories and even laugh about a lot of it. Some people try to act like their marriage is perfect but it's all an illusion because nobody and no marriage is perfect. Although some may be more serious than others, everyone has issues.
Like any major change in our lives, there's always an adjustment period. Considering the fact you're around someone 24/7, it's inevitable that you'll find yourself arguing about some of the most irrelevant things like: toilet paper, the toilet seat, quirky habits, dishes, etc. Hubby and I are constantly reminding each other, "Don't sweat the small stuff." Whether big or small, you have to trust and believe that it will get better as each year passes, and when things get a little rough don't be afraid to reach up and reach out for help whether proactive or even reactive (e.g. counseling, books, peers, ministers, etc.).
2) “For better" or “for worse" doesn't always happen in that order, and every day won't feel like the honeymoon.
Just like seasons change, sometimes marriage seasons change. Our first year of marriage was literally one of the hardest years for us because of everything we dealt with: new marriage, new move to a different city, recession, lay-offs, death and grief, and more. Sometimes it's not always easy, but it's easy to think “what did I get myself into" once you realize things aren't going as planned. BUT GOD! Sometimes we have to fall down in order to look up, and sometimes we're just need to be more patient and trust God more.
Living in a city where we didn't have as many friends and family forced to rely and depend on each other, and God, even more. It drew us closer in ways that wouldn't have necessarily happened had God not took us out of our comfort zones. Sometimes God wants to know “did you really mean 'for better or worse' or were you just saying the words?" So, we have to continue to prove to Him that no matter how hard it gets we meant what we said and we're committed. That's why the “D" word isn't even allowed in our household when it comes to arguments and disagreements.
3. Compromise is just as important as communication.
People always talk about communication being the key to a lasting relationship, and that's true. But no one really told me how important it is to compromise. If we fail to compromise for each other, then we fail to harmonize together. Even though it's difficult, there are times when you have to sacrifice your plans or your wants for the other person. Someone once said, “If you really want to get to know yourself, get married because that's when you really learn a lot about yourself." It's so true because it's no longer just about you anymore.
A lot of what has happened in my life and in my husband's life has shaped us into the human beings we are, but what may have worked for us as single people may not work for a married unit. I think my husband would agree that we've both learned a lot about ourselves even as simple as the fact that he's a morning person and I'm not. Another example - my husband is the only child so he's learning how to be less selfish and more giving, and since I was raised without my biological father in the home I'm learning how to be less independent and let my man be a man.
We're also learning how to compromise when it comes to literal tasks. Because I work from home I pretty much handle most of the “domestic" responsibilities. However, when I have to travel for work, my husband is willing to step up and handle most of the domestic affairs while I'm away. That's what compromise is about – meeting each other halfway and making it work for each other so no one feels like the other is doing all the work.
4) Be aware of “right fighting" and avoid it at all costs.
I read one of the best articles about marriage the other day from Steve and Cindy Wright related to “Right Fighting" (“Marriage Tips from Proverbs"). “Right fighting" is when we engage in arguments focused solely on “proving who's right vs. working work to save the relationship." I'm guilty of this at times because of course I would rather be right than wrong and my husband, because of his experience and background, is trained to argue so there are plenty of times when I have to remind him, “I'm not on the witness stand." Simply put, listening, apologizing and choosing to move on are definitely more helpful than trying to have the last word.
5) Every person has different methods or opinions when it comes to cleaning.
My husband Eric and I definitely don't see eye to eye when it comes to our cleaning habits, but I've yet to meet a couple who both shared the same passion and thoughts about cleaning. LOL!! I can't even begin to tell you how many petty arguments Eric and I have had related to cleaning (or lack thereof). But we were reminded during a counseling session that we have to find simple resolutions to things like this. So, that may mean he may have to deal with the fact that I can clean for hours and I have to get used to the fact that he doesn't mind leaving random socks or other articles of clothing on the floor. Annoying at times? Yes, because Eric hates having to wake up early to clean and I can't stand random things on the floor, but it's still small in the grand scheme of things.
6) Each person gives and receives “love" in different ways.
I love the book “The 5 Love Languages" because it really gets to the core of how people receive and give love. I used to get so upset when I would give my husband a gift or something he really liked and he wouldn't react with the enthusiasm or excitement I expected to receive. However, I learned that “gift giving" wasn't necessarily his love language. Knowing each other's preference and love language helps provide a better understanding of each other, and it can easily be the difference between an argument lasting a few moments and an argument lasting a few days.
7) Just because people are married doesn't mean they're happily married, so choose your married friends wisely.
It's so important to surround yourself with other positive, married couples. I have found that sometimes if you're around other unhappy couples they will try to encourage you to be unhappy or trick you into thinking that marriage isn't that great. Every marriage has their ups and downs, but when you're going through a difficult season you need support from those who will encourage and sincerely pray with and for you; not try to tear you apart. Just like with any friendship, there are certain things you can tell certain friends and certain things that should only be kept between you and your spouse.
Furthermore, discern how much and when to tell others when you're going through certain situations. Telling others too much can result in giving other people too much control over your marriage. There are times when you and your spouse have moved on from a situation, but certain people – including your family – will hold grudges and still try to make you hold onto it even though you've resolved the issue and have moved on. Sometimes it comes from a place of care and concern but unfortunately sometimes it's simply because not everyone wants to see you happy and in love.
8) Women will try to get at your husband even more (and vice versa).
You thought your spouse was a catch before you got married? Well, the ladies or men will think the same about them even more after you get married. I found even when I got engaged, there were men coming out of nowhere or from my past trying to apologize, make-up, or reminiscing about what could've been. My husband always likes to quote a lyric from a song, “Don't get mad at me because you dropped your dime and I picked it up." On the other side, some women will see how good of a man he is to you and will be so desperate to have what you have that they'll try to take your man and share him with you. For some people if the door is cracked, they will kick it open. So, keep your eyes open – both ladies and gentleman - and do what you have to do (within reason) from leaving the door unlocked and allowing someone to creep into your marriage.
9) Don't become too complacent.
It's easy for us to become complacent in marriage. For men, it's easy to forget about things like romance, courting and doing things to make us feel special. For women, it's easy for us to forget how fun it is to dress up, how to keep it fun and sexy (in and out the bedroom), or the “wifey" things that we couldn't wait to do before we got married. Complacency is a synonym for satisfaction, so it can be somewhat of a compliment knowing that you and your spouse are fine and comfortable with your relationship. The conflict, however, can occur when one feels more complacent than the other.
Whenever things get a little too easy, don't be afraid to spice it up or revisit the things in your relationship that brought you together in the first place.
10) Don't compare your marriage to others.
As a follow-up to number nine, it's important not to look at others' marriage and say, “well why don't we do that," or “why don't you do that for me." Every couple is different and there is a difference between learning from other couples and envying other couples. Plus, you never know what's going on behind closed doors. While one couple may seem to have all the money and the glitz and glam, they could be missing the passion and fire, and while another couple may seem to have all the passion and fire, they could be broke and finances are driving them crazy. You just never know.
A Bishop once said at a marriage conference:
[Tweet "“Marriage is the collision of two histories, but you have to create your own, new history.""]
That means, our compromises and our marriage may not look like other peoples' marriage and it's okay to do things differently than what you're used to. Additionally, what may be the “deal breaker" for your relationship may not necessarily be the same for someone else. At the end of the day, you have to do what's best for you and your marriage because you're not married to everyone else.
Originally published on White Noize