I feel like this is something I need to express whether or not anyone reads it. It is a happy story, so make sure to read it all. 🙂
Ahh, but where to begin?
I’m an only child. My parents got married when I was one, and divorced by the time I was 12, remarried, and divorced again when I was 18. Since then my dad has remarried and divorced, and my mother is remarried and is doing just fine.
I distinctly remember all of the good and the bad moves they made during their marriage, because I was front and center and aware of my surroundings.
I got married exactly one month after my 20th birthday, and my husband was just 19. We were young, in love, and didn’t care about the approvals of our family or friends. It was the best naive decision I ever made.
I had no idea what a marriage truly took, I didn’t understand what it meant to “work” on a marriage or relationship. Prior to that I had short-lived high school relationships with guy friends. I. Had. No. Idea.
Well, I had one idea… I loved this blue-eyed crazy kid that made the world seem like our own. Through his eyes I was able to see things in ways I never had before. I was in love with everything about him. He pushed me to be someone I didn’t know I could be, and he had the biggest heart and greatest sense of humor. He was the whole package.
Then…we turned 20 1/2. 🙂
And marriage got hard.
Today, 10 years after I first met that crazy kid we are happily married, struggling like everyone else with one trial after another (that’s life) and we take it in stride, and we take it side by side.
Some of his habits still drive me crazy, but I choose to let it go because it doesn’t change who he is or how I feel about him. Sometimes, he teaches our kids things that I just taught them not to do (burping the alphabet) and I just have to shake my head and be grateful that they think he is hilarious. Because I think so too…but for different reasons. 🙂
But it wasn’t until after I was married that I truly understood a few things about love. My perspective and expectations changed, and so did my capacity to love. Today, I’d like to share 6 lessons I learned about love, from my marriage.
Lesson 1 – What kind of marriage do you want?
At the end of the day, the marriage I always wanted, I have. When our marriage got hard, I made the choice to step back from my trivial frustrations and write down what I wanted in a marriage. It included things like “Active lifestyle with my husband,” “I want to travel a lot,” “I want to have kids,” “I want to date my husband,” “I want to be able to stay home and play games,” “I want to live my religion,” “I want to make eachother laugh,” “I want to be complimented and give compliments regularly,” “I want to share hobbies,” “I want to be independent,” “I want couple friends and my girlfriends,” “I want to build a home together.”
These things weren’t just my marriage, they were things I wanted from my life. And now my life included this amazing husband. But they also weren’t traits of my husband. I realized that my marriage isn’t based on his perfection, it is based on our mutual goals.
It was impossible to create a list of the perfect husband, because it wasn’t about my husband. It was about my marriage…and any two people can have a marriage if they want the same things and values.
I realized that I couldn’t have the perfect husband (because I certainly wasn’t capable of being the perfect wife) … but I COULD have the perfect marriage. Because the perfect marriage was whatever we wanted it to be. I asked my husband to make a list too of the perfect marriage…NOT the perfect wife.
We quickly realized that we couldn’t change the other person, but we could change our marriage. Through doing things for our marriage, we were doing things for each other and ourselves. Doing things for our marriage left no room for being selfish, because we were gaining from our marriage just as much as the other person was. No one was losing out.
Our marriage goals pulled us together, rather than allowing our differences to push us apart.
Lesson 2 – Don’t take offense
At 20 years old we didn’t understand how to really communicate our feelings when times got hard. But we had a crash course and quickly realized that feelings are a person’s right. Doesn’t matter on factual information, if they feel a certain way, we needed to respect that regardless of intentions and facts.
By taking a step back and not taking offense, we were able to understand that the only fact that mattered was that the other person was hurt, or frustrated, or confused. From that one simple fact, we could change it, even if we didn’t understand it. (This was mainly on his part – he didn’t know why in the world I was emotional half the time- poor guy) 🙂
But he took the time and tried to fix the situation, not fix me… but the situation, even if he didn’t see it or agree with it. He put our marriage before himself, and it ended up helping us both. I
Feelings matter, and compromise is sometimes the only solution to complex situations.
There have been times in our marriage that I did NOT want to talk to my husband about what was on my mind, what challenges I was facing, and what doubts I was having. I didn’t want to know his reaction or have to work through it… it seemed like too much work. Yet, I got over myself, and I confessed my concerns and weaknesses. And at the end of the day, he didn’t take offense, he didn’t get mad at me, he just listened and helped me get back to feeling in a safe place or overcoming whatever personal struggle I was facing.
Sometimes I think having the courage to say outloud what you don’t want to, is the hardest trial. Telling my husband that I’m struggling as a mom, or as a friend, or in any roll I fulfill, is tough. But I have never regretted a single conversation I have had with my husband because when I can’t give my all I know he can, and vice versa.
Lesson 3 – Respect
People looking in from the outside sometimes think we are controlling to one another. I laugh at them.
Whenever I am invited to do something, I always respond and say “I need to check with my hubby”. He does the same, always checking with me. It has absolutely nothing to do with control, but everything to do with respect.
99.9% of the time we get to do the plans, but we communicate to find out if we already have prior commitments or we decide together to do something else. But out of respect for the other person, we check with the each other.
If I didn’t care what my husband thought, or what he did, I would just do my own thing and never check in with him. I would make plans and fill him in on my schedule if I felt like it. But I do care, so I tell him, not because he demands it from me, but because I love him and therefore his opinion matters to me.
TANGENT – I once heard a story about a husband and wife who went out to dinner. The wife and he were discussing their meal choice and agreed that the husband would order for them both. When the waitress came to their table the husband ordered for her. The waitress was appalled and said “Are you REALLY that controlling that she can’t order for herself?” Simply because a wife had asked the husband to order for her, the waitress assumed he was controlling… quite the opposite… he was ordering so she didn’t have to do it. He was doing something nice, and yet the world sees it through a different perspective. (It’s a good thing that waitress wasn’t serving me)
Lesson 4 – Compliments Matter
If you were to share every positive thought you had about other people, how much better would your life be?
When you live with someone, sometimes you get out of habit of verbally acknowledging things you admire and love about them. This doesn’t make those thoughts and admirations any less real, but to the person they are about, they never existed until they hear it from you.
When you are proud of their accomplishments, you tell them. When you think they look attractive, you say it! When you appreciate their sacrifice, you acknowledge it. “I love you” doesn’t cut it in a healthy marriage. You gotta get real, and you gotta get specific.
This may seem silly to others, but every single time my husband is away for work, I send him a reason a day about why I love him. I try not to list things that are physical, about his parenting (unless it is something more than “you’re a good dad”), or about his work ethic. I try to tell him why I REALLY love him. He loves when I do it. It is something fun that makes those 6,700 miles feel a lot smaller.
Lesson 5 – Celebrate Differences
Do things that you love.
I fell in love with my husband for many many reasons, but one was because he was unlike anyone I had ever dated before. Seriously…
He is his own person and he lives who he was without apology or excuses. When we first met, for everything we had in common, we had 10 things that made us different.
10 years later, those traits are still the same. They are apart of who we are as individuals. He understood this better than I did. I expected us to do everything together, to change our hobbies to be the same, to become…a couple.
After a while I realized that being a couple isn’t what we fell in love with. We fell in love with each other as individuals and unless we allowed ourselves to pursue our own goals and hobbies we would suffocate.
He has his athletic, competitive, and crazy sports. His hobbies are more extreme than mine and sometimes he isn’t allowed to tell me about them because they give me anxiety. (True story).
I have my creative outlets and hobbies. When I try to tell him about them, he doesn’t even understand what language I’m speaking. But we try to understand, we support, and we cheer each other on. Because those differences are what make us two individuals that make up our marriage.
Lesson 6 – People Change
The last crucial lesson I have learned in my 10 years with this great guy is, people change. And thank goodness for that! Because I don’t know if I could still be in love with that 18 year-old punk I met 10 years ago. Now days I probably wouldn’t even hire him to do my yard work. 🙂
He may not be the same guy I met 10 years ago, or married 9 years ago. I know I am not the same young girl he asked to marry him. But we still have the same goals for our life and our marriage.
Jobs change, kids happen, and trials are a lifetime staple. At the end of the day, I understand him and he understands me. We may have changed our majors a few times in college, moved around a little bit. We were told we couldn’t have kids and then ended up with three (kind of throws things off too). 🙂 But I know we can make it through, because we know how to talk, and we know how to love, and we know how to help our marriage before we help ourselves.
We have had our hard times, every relationship and marriage does. I’ve seen a lot of heartache from my parent’s marriages and others who still struggle with their marriage. But I hope that my lessons learned might be able to help another. Our marriage isn’t perfect, because we aren’t perfect, but I feel like our understanding of how to have a semi-healthy one is pretty good. 10 years down…forever to go.
Now… I need to go un-teach my kids how to burp the alphabet. 🙂