“I do!” “I will!” The promise is to love, to honor, I skipped the obey… till death do us part…. an exclusive proclamation of love, for life. Each time I witness a sacramental event, I wonder if the bride and groom have actually fathom the depth of their marital vows. For the couples who do understand, they are most likely more mature and have taken the time to get to know each other and take the commitment seriously. For the couples who don’t get it. Well, they’re in for a rude awakening.
Oh wow, talk about irony! As I’m writing this post, the Today Show is doing a “5-Minute Marriage Make-Over” segment.
Not taking for granted 23 years of marital bliss, I know that our marriage has been showered with blessings. That said a recent chat with “Robin” (not her real name), a fellow wife and working mom sparked this post.
Like me Robin and I often hear comments such as, “you’re lucky, you have a good husband!” “You’re lucky, your man works!” “You’re lucky, blah, blah, and blah.” We both agree that luck has little to do with it and that marriage is more about work.
Long lasting, healthy, and stable relationships don’t come by way of luck. They arrive through endless minutes, days, weeks, months, and years of commitment and a good dose of divine intervention.
At 23 years old and after five years of dating, my hubby and I tied the knot. We didn’t have a clue about our marital endeavor. Although he was two years my senior, like me, he was in the dark, but we shared a love and a passion for the other.
Looking back on our 28 year relationship, I can honestly say that they have been happy years. Were they perfect? Absolutely not! Trials, tribulations, prayers, laughter, tears, hand-in-hand, we plowed forward. We consciously grew together and are blessed to share basic core values. Those core values opened the doors to maturity and growth.
We have and continue to discover new things about each other and about our relationship. Both are consistently evolving; if the evolution stops, I will be concerned. Anyway, my conversation with Robin got me to thinking about what has worked for my marriage.
1. Communicate, communicate, communicate, communicate….. Before we married we talked about everything; religious beliefs, public school vs. private school, family size that we’d like to someday have and more. What person can really read minds? Hello, no one!! If hubby doesn’t explain what’s on his mind that leaves me to use my creative imagination– sometimes dangerous. One thought leads to another and another. Then I could “act” on what I “think” he’s thinking leading to disastrous results.
2. Give & Take. You can’t “win” all the time. Know when to walk respectfully away from a discussion, disagreement, or argument. “Winning” doesn’t accomplish anything, other than an ego boost and hurt feelings. Relationship preservation is more important than winning an argument.
3. Be realistic about your spouse. See the person for who they are. If the person is a slob, they’re a slob! Do what you can to work with the behavior to bring yourself sanity. Stop thinking that you can change him/her or that they will change. The only person you can change is yourself, and that’s conditional, providing that you recognize the need for change and commit to making the change.
4. Look in the mirror at yourself and be honest with what you see. I recognized very early that I was a hot head, a fire-ball, and like gasoline, was quite explosive. My easily fused temper was not healthy for our relationship. Early on and after a few outrageous incidents on my part, I realized that I was capable of destroying our relationship. On the flip side, hubby realized that he had a nut case on his hands and often walked away. The balance and contrast in our attitudes and personalities enabled us to work through it.
5. Know your emotional triggers. Take time to figure yourself out. Journaling is a great tool to do this. I’ve been journaling for over 15 years and it has and continues to be a positive way for me to sort through life’s challenges. When I’ve gone back and read entries, I am thankful that I wrote my feelings on paper and not said what I was feeling; my thoughts were rather twisted. I can laugh now.
6. Be nice and be a good friend. Hubby is friend first, hubby second. Our relationship evolved from a valued friendship so I try to keep friendship first.
7. Avoid manipulation and playing mind games. Thankfully, this has never been our style. If I don’t like something that he’s said or did, I tell him and expect him to do the same.
8. Settle disagreements in private out of the eye of the public, including family and friends, and our children.
9. Respect that men and women ARE from different planets. I don’t like to generalize, but this is true. There are at least two perspectives on everything: male & female. We think differently; don’t expect him to think like you and don’t try to think like him. It’s unnatural to do so; I just try to work with what I’m given.
10. Give credit even when it’s not do. Lol! I’m dead serious! It’s an ego thing and works well.
11. Don’t do anything stupid in the absence of your significant other. Translations? Before you decide to sneak around and creep on your partner, think about how they would feel when not if they found out. The truth ALWAYS prevails. If this doesn’t motivate you to do the right thing, then YOU don’t care about that person and should not be married.
12. Don’t seek or take advice from everyone you talk to. Not everyone has your best interest at heart. Misery loves company.
All I’m saying is that some things seem to be easier and simpler than they are. Have you ever watched someone do something and then you tried it, only to discover that it’s much harder than it looks? Well, marriage is one of those things.
I am not naïve. Some couples weren’t meant to be a couple; therefore, some marriages weren’t mean to be and should be dissolved. I also know that couples grow apart. A big part of the challenge is trying to figure out how to grow together and stay in sync. It’s not easy.
For the single folks reading, multiply all of your daily challenges time’s two adults then add kids into the mix. It’s work either way. By no means necessary am I complaining, I’m just trying to bring another perspective to the table. Marriage is work and just like most investments, if you do your work and stick it out, the dividends can be warding.
Before my father died, my parents were married for over 20 years. How many of those years were happy,? I’m not certain. I do know that much of what I saw was dysfunctional. So long before I married, I promised myself that I would never be a part of a marriage like theirs. My parents will never understand the valuable lessons they taught me about relationships.
It is often said that, it’s not where you come from, but it’s where you’re going that matters most. While my marriage isn’t perfect and I’m not delusional in thinking that everything is always going to be hunky-dory okay, I am in it for the long haul. You bet, he gets on my last damn nerve at times and I know that I can work his nerves, but that comes with the territory and we both accept that. I don’t know what the future holds for my marriage, but I stay positive and look forward to the best of times.
I’ll leave you with this brief story. Some years ago, when our daughter was in her early teens, hubby and I were engaged in a serious discussion and/or debate. No shouting or arguing going on as she was in ear shot range. She dramatically and tearfully screamed, “Oh my gosh, I wish you guys would stop arguing!!” Hubby and I look at each other and I burst out laughing hysterically. I’m thinking, “OMG are you kidding me! You think this mess is an argument??” She thought our serious toned debate was an argument. Man, she was living a fairy tale life and had no idea what a real argument is like.
Needless to say, I think we’ve done our job in setting an example for our daughter of a healthy and loving relationship. Thank God!
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