Marriage Lessons #1

photo credit: studio kibo

It’s been six months (minus three days) since Will and I got ~*married*~! Time really flies, huh?

I think it’s easy for people to view older couples as jaded. Like once you’re a certain age, it’s easy to lose interest in your partner. Some people feel that a successful marriage doesn’t last forever. There is a Humans of New York post where the subject said, “If you talk to most people my age, and they’re really being honest, they’ll tell you that they’re dissatisfied with their partner. But then they’ll shrug their shoulders and say: ‘Where else am I going to go?’” That painted a really depressing picture of the future for me. It’s not that I disagree some people’s relationships may get exhausted over time. But to assume that the majority of marriages go downhill is super discouraging!

When I was working as a Costco vendor, though, I had the privilege of meeting some really fantastic older couples. You can really tell when two people are happy together. They have a special type of rapport that outsiders might not fully understand. There’s a way they smile and look at each other, even when talking about boring things like what type of cheese to get. Once couple started telling me about their marriage once. I had told them I was about to get married. The way they were so nostalgic and excited when looking back on their relationship was so encouraging. Even more encouraging was how joyful and content they were in the present. I could tell they were still going strong.

Not that I’m an expert or anything, but I’m sure everyone can agree that a successful marriage doesn’t follow any single specific formula. People are different. The way people communicate isn’t always the same. Circumstances change. You can’t account for it all. It’s really easy to judge what you think other people are doing wrong in their relationships, but my gosh, when it comes to YOUR relationship? It’s so easy to believe you’re always right! Your partner is wrong! And why can’t they just agree and listen and follow what you’re saying?! This goes for both men and women, by the way. Basically, everyone sucks.

My biggest takeaway from observing and chatting with other couples is that relationships should be ever-growing. If a relationship isn’t growing, then there’s no room for it to strengthen. With no room for strengthening, the foundation of a relationship becomes weak. And a weak relationship can only live for so long. Relationships are meant to be challenged, to grow, and to change for the better, but only if you let it. So, anyway, here are 3 big lessons I’ve learned so far, that I wish I’ll keep in mind in hopes of a successful marriage:

Vocalize your appreciation and love for each other more often

I don’t feel like Will and I have fought with each other that much. But we’ve definitely had a few war-like back and forths between us. And during those times, he would sometimes ask me if I still loved him. In my mind, it was a silly question, and I always thought to myself, “Well duh, of course! How can you even ask me that?” I would also get frustrated with this question because it would usually be followed by, “Why do you love me?”

Maybe that shouldn’t be a hard question to answer when you love someone, but for me, it’s really difficult to answer when I’m feeling displeased and frustrated. To begin with, I’m already not an articulate person, so when I’m focused on what I’m mad about, it’s hard to think of the good stuff. It felt unfair to be asked that because I always know that I love him. In those angry moments, though, I could never think of why; it really hurt me not to be able to answer as much as it hurt him to not hear my reassurance.

I have learned that I need to think of these reasons during times we aren’t fighting. Furthermore, I need to tell why, so he doesn’t have to ask me “Why?” anymore. Granted, it’s been a while since we’ve had a big fight, so I haven’t been asked in a while. It can be awkward, but I think it’s best to tell your partner reasons why you love them right when you think of them. In fact, I think it’s good to articulate your “Why’s” as often as you say “I love you!” Examples include:

  • I love that you do the laundry because you know I hate doing it.
  • You encourage me to be better every day.
  • Thank you for being so patient whenever I’m being mean and hangry (I get pretty angry when I’m hungry).

The first time I put this into practice was at an airport in Vietnam, and Will was playing on his phone. It can be awkward, but it will be less awkward if you put it into practice. I still need to work on this more myself.

Listen, acknowledge, and apologize

I’ve mentioned the importance of apologies before. It’s really a difficult lesson to learn. I remember being really frustrated during one particular argument. I felt that Will didn’t understand what I was saying and that he just kept talking over me. But he, too, felt the exact same way. We kept going back and forth, stubbornly trying to get the other to understand where we were coming from and how we were feeling. We weren’t really fully acknowledging each other, and all the other wanted was an “I’m sorry.”

If the other person is hurting, it’s important to apologize. It’s important to realize that, regardless of our intentions, our words and actions can sometimes be hurtful. When you’re married, you’ve vowed to someone to protect and defend their emotions! Their feelings are your feelings. That does not mean you sulk and wallow alongside them, but it means to take time and work through those feelings together. And if you’ve made your significant other feel bad, the first step to working through those feelings is to apologize.

Will and I have had marital arguments where there was a point in the conversation that I thought, “What am I even talking about anymore?!” For me, I feel that’s a pretty good indicator that I’m being stubborn and that it’s time for me to humble myself. If you ever find yourself thinking the same thing, it’s probably time to start putting your better foot forward.

Don’t bring up a resolved argument into a new argument

Will and I had a series of big arguments that were all sort of related. We had one fight, and then a few weeks later, a bigger fight about the same thing. And then a few weeks later, an even bigger fight, still about the same thing! It’s as if we would half-resolve this same fight every time, only for it to blow up into a worse argument later on.

I think a huge part of a successful marriage, or any relationship, is learning how to move on from the past. And I don’t mean sweep problems under the rug. I mean, talk it out, resolve, and move oooonnnn!!! Learn to strategize – What are things you need to resolve? What are things you can change to be better prepared for next time? Is there room for compromise? If the same issues are coming up over and over, they were probably never resolved in the first place.

We finally agreed not to bring back past arguments again. Kind of like how you can’t go back to court for the same case twice. I also feel it’s important to learn how to be more forgiving because change isn’t always instant. I think there was impatience on both our parts after our first fight. Neither Will nor I actively expected the other to be perfect. However, we didn’t actively take time to acknowledge that change takes time. The same situation came up again; I became frustrated because I didn’t see improvement, and Will was frustrated because he felt more attacked.

Alternatively, checking in with each other is a positive thing. I think the key is to not argue about the same things. But staying accountable with each other is a whole different story! Check in about resolutions you and your partner have prioritized and continue tweaking your goals to grow as a couple!

There’s still a lot more I’m going to learn in the next hundred years of being married, which is sort of daunting, but also exciting. And even though I was able to list out these three lessons, I’m definitely still actively learning them every day. Let’s see where we’ll be in another six months!

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