In a few days my husband and I will celebrate our 24 year anniversary.For the most part it’s been a pretty easy. That isn’t to say it hasn’t been work. All relationships require work. Don’t kid yourself into thinking they don’t.
And don’t think for a minute love is unconditional. No one should ever have to live in an unhappy, physically or emotionally abusive marriage to prove their undying love. There is a huge difference between being supportive, forgiving, patient and encouraging and being turned into a used up tattered rag.
I’m lucky I found my husband. I’m lucky he became the man he is today. As a young girl, I would sometimes think of marriage and the kind of man I would have for a husband, but I never made a list of “must haves”.
My husband and I were very young when we married. Like most young couples, we didn’t put much thought into how much work marriage would be because we were in love. Older married couples would tell us how much work marriage was. Work? If you are in love, truly in love, a marriage is no effort at all right?
Fast forward 24 years:
I have learned a lot. Over all, it has been easy – when compared to most marriages I’ve observed it has been a real cake walk. It has also been a lot of compromise and sacrifice and WORK on both our parts.
In reflecting on my marriage I decided to share a bit of insight about what has made my marriage work and hope that others may read and think about how they can make their marriages work as well.
Here are just a few things I thought of today:
Acknowledge each other
I get absorbed with my own personal agenda at times. I have the potential to become a bona-fide workaholic, focused only on what I need to do and forgetting about the simple needs of others.
A few years ago when our kids were very young I was busily cleaning the house when my husband came home from work. I was mopping and barely looked up from the floor to greet him when he got home. I continued to clean while he took the kids to the park. When he came home I was busy preparing dinner and probably carrying on with a few other chores as well. We went through the nightly routine of stories and baths and more cleaning. When we got into bed that night my husband said “You didn’t even say hi to me when I came home”.
Well, my first gut response to this was:
EXCUSE THE HELL OUT OF ME!!!!! Are you not an adult? I do a million things all day long, so sorry I don’t have time to acknowledge your presence when you walk in the door!
This is where marriage requires work. I could have easily blurted out my first thoughts. Then what? Hurt feelings, more hurtful words, grudges and eventually resentment.
Instead, I apologized and asked him how his day was and told him about mine. In the end, it really wasnt so hard. Since then, I always make an effort to stop what I’m doing and say “Hi, whats up? How was your day? Guess what I did today?” But believe it or not, this is sometimes a real effort for me. Not that I don’t care about my husband, I just get preoccupied with other things.
Everyone deserves a little Me time
My husband ALWAYS comes home after work. He never calls me to tell me he is going out with the guys. Not that it would bother me if he did,especially now that the kids are grown. But I know men who do that all the time, sometimes they don’t bother to call at all. Then they wonder why their wives are so pissed when they come home at 1 am with receipts for a $500.00 bar tab and glitter in their pants while she has been fighting homework battles and cleaning up puke. Once or twice a year? Cute, hope you had a good time, you are forgiven. Twice a week? – You need to rethink your idea of me time.
There is nothing wrong with getting together with friends to cut loose a little. And there is nothing wrong with a spur of the moment call – “Hey I’m gonna stop for a couple of beers with Larry and Moe after work” but it isn’t exactly fair to make a regular habit of this. Though it might hurt to tell your friends you need to get home – that is marriage.
I always found scheduled me time worked best, especially when there are small kids involved. It’s far better to let the other person know you have plans to do something on Thursday night so they can make their own plans too and not spring it on them last-minute. Not getting called at all? Well, we all know how that can end up.
You would call your boss to let them know you’re going to be late or not be in at all. You would never expect your co workers or your boss to put up with repeated tardiness or poor work performance – why would you expect your spouse to put up with it?
You are no longer single
I wonder sometimes why people get married. I wonder if they consider why they want to get married in the first place. To fill an obligation? To feel they are a real adult, a productive member of society? All the wrong reasons to get married.
Regardless of your reason for getting married, you need to realize you are married and there are certain things married people should not be doing. Coming home on a nightly basis at 1 am with glitter in your pants is definitely one of those things.
Sometimes, it will hurt to give up certain things or change a behavior – this is work. Get over it. When you decided to get married you may have thought life would go on as usual. It usually doesn’t, especially when kids are added to the relationship.
I’m in no way suggesting submitting to a controlling relationship, I am only reminding you that part of working at a marriage means there will be things about yourself you will have to alter if you want to make your marriage work.
The thing about money
We all know money is the cause of most fights. How do most couples cope with this issue? By spending more money of course!
Honestly, I can not recall my husband and I ever fighting about money. We went through some financial difficulties, but we were always on the same page about how to fix it. Unfortunately this is not the case in most marriages.
In our early years of marriage we racked up a lot of credit card debt; we were young without kids and we knew we were both equally to blame for the debt. After our son was born we realized we had to get a grip on our spending. It took a lot of work but together we got out of debt and managed to save enough money for a down payment on a house.
When most couples talk about cutting spending and saving more, I find they actually mean it’s the other person who needs to cut and save. In some cases one partner may be more of a spender than the other, but in many cases I have found both partners have problems with spending. How often have you heard of spouses getting back at each other for spending money by going out and spending more money? One person splurges on a set of golf clubs so to piss him or her off the other person purchases a pair of $300.00 designer shoes. And it goes on and on, leading to more resentment, grudges and debt.
As a side note – if you are fighting over who bought diapers last, you are really heading for trouble. Believe it or not I actually heard a married couple arguing about this.
Honestly, if your spouse wants something why can’t they have it? You should both be able to discuss it and listen to each other as to why the purchase can’t be made or what you will sacrifice to make it. Most likely you both work hard whether in the home or out, you both deserve to have what you want (within reason). There is usually a way to work it out; Save for it, sell things you aren’t using. If you can’t afford it, take a look around at what you do have and be thankful for that.
Which brings me to my next point…
Show a little Appreciation
There is no doubt in my mind that in most situations both spouses work hard. Sure I know of a few situations where one person might not work outside the home NOR do they work inside the home – they are plain lazy. If you are currently depressed because you can’t find a job, at least put your self to work at home, there is always something that needs to be done. (On the other hand, if you have a serious issue with depression, please get help.) But in most cases both spouses, regardless of what their job is, work hard at it and deserve to be acknowledged for that.
Don’t belittle your spouse because you think their job is so much easier than yours.
Don’t make your spouse feel inadequate because you don’t have the material things you want. Show more respect by being thankful for the things you have. Show appreciation for the things your spouse has provided or done for you. Take a look at what you have around you, chances are you will find something you once loved and had to have and maybe worked very hard to attain, don’t forget about that. Besides, if you want something bad enough you most likely have the ability to go out and work for it your self.
Accept that you may have to change
There are serious character flaws and personality disorders you will never be able to change in a person. Dont think for a minute you will change a philandering womanizer into a loving, caring, committed partner no matter how much he lies that you are “the one”. You can also be sure that the gold digging Barbie look-alike-wannabe will hit the road after she drains your bank account. Trying to change the other person will only lead to frustration, disappointment and self loathing.
Never, ever marry someone who displays any signs of having a poisonous personality disorder.
Instead of trying to change the other person maybe you just might need to consider it is you who needs to change. You may need to be more giving, more flexible, less demanding. While changing who you are is not something that should be required to maintain a relationship, changing how you react and respond and communicate can be important in keeping a marriage together.
It is very easy to be the taker in a relationship. My husband is a giver. His giving sometimes gets on my nerves. He often goes without something to give me what I want. Why does this bother me? Because he deserves to have his wants met too, it isn’t all about me. Doesn’t sound like the attitude of a taker does it? That’s because I recognize I’m a taker and make a very conscious effort not to take but to give. Making a conscious effort is work.
Actually I am not really a taker, I am very giving as well, but it is a real effort for me to take the time and put forth an effort to truly give. I enjoy giving, it makes me feel good, but I just sometimes forget to do it and really have to make an effort at it.
Being an only child I never had to learn how to share. Not that I didn’t share, I never minded it at all, but at home my space was mine, my time was mine. I never had to compromise much because for the most part I was always alone. There wasn’t anyone to talk to or who wanted to be talked to, it was easy to get lost in my own little world and only worry about my own needs.
I have learned a few things about myself in the last 24 years and why I am the way I am. I have worked hard to not let my natural inclination towards self absorption leave my spouse feeling neglected or taken advantage of. More importantly my husband has also learned why I am the way I am because I told him – I didn’t make him guess, which is the first key to a good marriage: communication.