Disclaimer: I am not an expert on marriage. I am however, half of a couple whose relationship has spanned almost 14 years with admittedly lots of ups and downs. And I mean real adult-sized-roller-coaster “ups and downs” where sometimes your stomach is left in your throat. I also unfortunately have witnessed several extremely close friends go through terrible, heart wrenching divorces. So, here is my advice to any and all couples contemplating marriage.
- Get off the hamster wheel and learn how to fight.
Fights happen. And this can be a good thing … If you learn “how” to fight, productively. Fights and arguments are a way to work through problems and differences together in order to get on the same page about real issues. The thing to understand is that we don’t always fight the same way, often leading to non-productive fighting, which is the same as being on a hamster wheel. The same problems and fights happening over and over again, without any forward progress. The goal of any fight or argument should be to be in a different place than where you started. It might not be over, you may not have the solution in hand, but ground should have been gained. And this is accomplished by understanding how to argue with each other, respectfully. For instance, I’d rather have a good, knock down, drag out fight immediately when the problem arises and then I’m over it when the conversation closes. My husband? Not so much. He likes to think things through first…and this takes time. We prefer to argue with much different styles and on different timelines, which used to lead to more frustration and anger until we figured out a system that works for us. Disagreements will occur and you have to find a system that works for both of you, because hamster wheels suck – and lead to emotional baggage as the number of unresolved issues and emotions begin to pile up.
- Beware the shiny toys.
Remember your favorite childhood teddy bear? It was soft, snuggly and oh so comfy. But over time, it became a little raggedy and a little worn. Then your 6th birthday came and you got that awesome new Peaches N Cream Barbie with that fabulous stole that you could style soooo many ways. You became obsessed, she was your Favorite new toy ever and not raggedy like that ugly old teddy bear. But then there was that really stormy night and the walls of your bedroom practically shook with the thunder. I’m guessing it was that raggedly old teddy bear that you reached for, and not that new Barbie, that made you feel safe and comforted.
Well, guess what? Your spouse can become like that old raggedy teddy bear. Your spouse is comfortable, knows everything (good and bad) about you, and sometimes can feel a bit “worn in” after fights about bills, potty training, and who stunk up the bathroom have taken their toll. New plastic shiny toys are still all around when you become an adult, except now they work with you or are at your gym. She/he doesn’t nag, is “fun”, and oh so exciting. This person is just like that new Barbie, but I’m guessing, when s*&t hits the fan, you are going to want that warm snuggly old teddy bear, not the Barbie with the hard plasticy pointy boobs. Lesson: Real life will not always be sexy or new, but don’t give up or ruin your relationship with the person who knows and loves you the most, for some Barbie or Ken doll who won’t stand the test of time. Although that affair might seem pretty tempting at the time, it is not worth the emotional havoc it will invariably cause. Save the fooling around until after the divorce if you so choose.
- You married an iPhone.
Okay, not really, but I promise there is a point to this. You know how the iPhone has all those software upgrades periodically and you never know when they are coming? Sometimes they are pretty minor changes, and you don’t even notice. And sometimes, those changes are major with all the colors now a little psychedelic and your phone looking and acting totally brand new. And then to top it all off, they change the outside as well – the shape, the size, and even the color. Well, when you walk down the aisle, you are marrying Spouse version 1.0. The next day this version no longer exists and is replaced with version 1.01, and so on and so forth. And this is a good thing. I don’t think any of us want to be the same person, without changing, or growing, or learning for the rest of our lives. Now, do I wish I had the same figure as my 25 year old self? Hells yeah, but I’m glad I’ve changed and “hopefully” become a bit wiser and yes, a bit older as well. You marry your spouse for their essence, not for the person that they are on the day you get engaged. Sometimes the changes are minor, some may be major, and you probably will never know when they are coming, but that is the commitment and promise of marriage.
4. Spouses before louses.
Maybe I shouldn’t compare children to lice and yes I know that the plural of louse is actually lice but a) children are a bit parasitic and b) you come up with something that rhymes with spouse. In other words, your marriage should always come before your children on your priority list. I realize Giuliana Rancic caught some heat for this sentiment, but I totally agree with her. Your children will absolutely benefit from a strong and respectful marriage, and marriages based solely on the children will never last. Because when your children grow up and leave your home, you will all of a sudden find yourself living with a stranger.
- Babies make the worst Band-Aids Ever.
Your thoughts regarding children should never include “we’ll talk about this later” or “maybe he/she will change his/her mind”. This is an important issue you have to discuss prior to marriage – whether or not to have children and certain aspects of how you want them raised. Because once you have that little screaming bundle of pooping joy, life becomes infinitely much more complex. Also, having a child will never, ever, ever fix a marriage, because see #4.
So good luck out there to all those young happy couples in love, I hope you at least think about some of this advice, and if in doubt, wait it out! A broken engagement is better than a broken marriage. And for the rest of us already married folks, you have to have the downs so you can have the ups, and it’s also nice to have a little reminder every once in awhile to love on “our old teddy bear” a little bit more and more every day 🙂