First of all, If you’re married or about to be a newlywed, congrats to you both on taking such a huge step together! If you haven’t already been bombarded by “advice” on how to plan your big day, faced unwarranted opinions about how many kids you should have/what religion to follow/whether to wait until the big night to do the horizontal tango/etc… you will soon enough. Oh, and future newlyweds? You’d better be on good enough terms with your future in-laws, because you’re gonna be marrying them as well, by the way. Really. I’m serious.
Anyway, it’s perfectly normal to be nervous or feel challenged. This is pretty much a legally binding contract, that you two will have to uphold everyday, every hour, every minute of the rest of your lives. No sweat, right? And don’t let my snarky introduction to this entry make you get cold feet or have second thoughts – chances are if you’ve gotten this far together, there’s not much left in this world that could cause your bond to break. That being said, marriage and love is definitely not as easy as those fairytale Disney princesses make it look. Even before the decision was made to tie the knot, there was investment of time and energy into the relationship that made a commitment like this possible in the first place, amiright?
I wanted to share my short experience as a somewhat-newlywed person to help anyone after me get through the rough patches. And yes, those will happen. How you both choose to handle things and support each other will make all the difference in the world, and prevent you from becoming the 40-50% of married couples that divorce (in the US).
Sound good? Great! Then let’s begin…
1. You must choose to love your spouse, even when things get hard.
Remember what I just said about investing time and energy into this marriage thing? Marriage is work. But the rewards of such labors of love are so worth it. I have my husband to help me through this crazy journey of life, and he has me to help him through it as well when things get rough.
Also, it’s not always likely that both him and I will be in a fantastic place in life at the same time – it’s usually more of a see-saw type of thing. I’m the strong one when he gets down, even when it hurts me. Then he will lift me up to the best of his ability when it’s my turn to get the crap hand in life. We tag team problems and issues we face and don’t let those things try to wedge us apart.
2. Marriage is teamwork, not a competition.
Newsflash: you’re both human. Neither one of you are perfect, so don’t expect perfection out of your partner, either. Don’t set up high expectations of how you want the other to be, or you will end up utterly disappointed and resentful. Both of those things can be catalysts for divorce proceedings to take place.
When Dan and I first started dating, we would play Army of Two on the Xbox 360 at his place together. If you don’t know what that is, it’s basically a third person shooter game that is totally dependant on your ability to work together in a cooperative enough way to destroy all of the enemies in your path. You literally cannot beat the game unless you find a way to work together. Like the game, life has these pesky obstacles to throw at you – working together to overcome these things is not only crucial to marriage, it is also oh-so satisfying when you prevail.
3. Make date nights a priority, and continue learning about each other.
Guys, expecting each other to stay exactly the way y’all were when you met is seriously unrealistic. Get that through your head. There will be seasons of life that will challenge you, test those around you, and things in your environment will inevitably change, which can affect you and your significant other. Whether that change is a job, a newfound taste in music or food, or a sudden urge to be social or become a hermit, embrace that change with them. I’ve learned to fall in love with my husband so many times, over and over again.
Dan’s changed a lot since I’ve met him – from an amazing and supportive boyfriend who would bend over backwards to see me smile, to an exceptional father and role-model for our daughter. I am truly blessed and privileged to be able to experience every version of this man for the rest of my life. He definitely keeps me on my toes, in a good way.
4. Find a way to connect every day, even if it’s just a few minutes.
The hectic and demanding work schedules we both have can make it easy for us to just become two ships passing each other in the night. And there are some nights where we are both just so exhausted that it does happen; I’ll end up passing out at 9 pm and he won’t come home until after 11 pm, which means he’s not going to bed until 2 am. We know that this too is temporary, and the season will slow down and allow us to breathe soon. In the moment though, it can be stressful and lonely for both of us to experience.
A good thing that comes out of this though is that it makes us miss each other, and we do get to catch up with each other over a cup of coffee in the morning, or over a glass of wine at night, depending on how the day went. Whether it’s for 30 minutes or 5 minutes, I always look forward to reconnecting with him and spending that time together. It’s the little things that really matter. Really.
5. When the grass seems greener on the other side, water your own damn grass.
Comparison is the thief of joy. Especially when you’re scrolling though Facebook or Instagram and get bombarded with “perfect” relationship pictures and sappy messages of love and commitment. Guess what? These people have problems, too. You just may be too busy focusing on the flaws in your own relationship to see the challenges others may face.
Every relationship is wonderfully different for a reason. Practice gratitude daily and embrace the good things you both bring to the table.
6. Marriage is 100/100.
Divorce is 50/50. In marriage, you give the best of you that you can to each other, and you never give up on each other. Forgive each other and lend your ear as frequently as you can to your spouse. (Sometimes people just need to vent to someone!) At the same time, own your own mistakes and treat your other half with the same respect that you would like.
I’m definitely not a perfect wife. I’m not the best mother, either.
But I am enough for my husband and my daughter. And that’s what really matters at the end of the day – that we have each other, always.