From the Series: What Nobody Tells You About Marriage (explaining the truths behind the dumb comments people make)
Don’t get married too young.
I actually heard this from a professor I wholeheartedly revere. An astoundingly intelligent man, he gave me “just one” piece of advice on marriage one afternoon over sushi.
Sushi afternoon was also when I learned he had been married once before. You’d never guess! Because he’s the ideal human being and thus my idol. The paragon of excellence. He would tell me not to say it, but it’s true.
Anyway, he had married young and divorced young. No details provided, just nonverbals of regret. He delivered his marriage advice during a conversation about how my summer was going and if I was seeing anyone (I was) and if I thought it would go somewhere (I did). Hint: I was seeing Husband.
Let me stop here and preface this conversation by explaining how awkward it was for me. Before catch-up sushi, all my professor and I had talked about was phenomenology and communication and Heidegger and theories on everything spectacular in this world. We only talked about these things because it was my dying wish to impress him with my intellect. My personal life, uninteresting as it was, never came up.
So, anyway, he put his chopsticks down and looked me in the eye and told me the single greatest thing I’ve ever heard.
Professor/Idol: “He had better be a good one!” (he = man in Brooke’s life)
Me: *tomato face blooming* “He is!”
P/I: *nodding and smiling as dark, doubtful eyebrows arch high up on his forehead* “I mean it,” he said. “You’re one of a kind, you know.”
Me: *crimson face staring at ironed napkin creases, willing him to stop talking before I die of embarrassment/happiness*
P/I: “I’m going to take my ‘uncle’ moment now and tell you that he had better be the best thing to walk the planet, and I mean it. Because you just can’t settle. You are too bright and too interesting to marry anyone who isn’t an absolute complement to you.”
Me: “He is! He really is.” I whisper/shout. My chest clenches my lungs as they try to suck my vulnerability back in. “He loves me for the same reasons I love myself,” I exhale.
P/I: “Good,” he nods, swooping up his chopsticks. “If I can give you one piece of advice, I would urge you to wait to get married. I should have waited. It was short-lived because we were wrong for each other. If anything, wait a little longer to be sure,” he finished, squeezing a squishy rice circle with his sticks and smearing it through wasabi.
Me: *nodding feverishly at everything he’s saying because he’s brilliant*
I haven’t seen him since sushi afternoon, but Professor/Idol’s words rang in my heart for months. Many times, when I felt like I wasn’t being treated like the princess I was, I would
warn remind Husband that I was perfect and deserved my own Prince Charming.
Not realistic, and SO not good for a relationship. It took me a while to stop criticizing Husband for being imperfect. The fact that I did so shows you how imperfect I am.
As great as Professor/Idol’s marriage advice was, it was incomplete without an explanation. He didn’t give one at the time, probably because of my feverish nodding. Plus, I knew what he meant.
Now that I’m married, I realize that I had no idea what he meant.
Question: what is the longest stretch of time you’ve gone without screaming in your head WHO AM I?!
If you’re like me, self-reflection is your favorite pastime when you’re not busy over-analyzing everything to feed your penchant for discovering what the meaning of life is. If you and I are twins, your longest stretch of knowing exactly who you are and what you want is a blissful two weeks. Tops.
Truth #1: The more time you spend on this planet, the more ideas/people/things you encounter that will change your mind about ideas/people/things. The younger you marry, the less you know about the world and life when you’re committing yourself to one person forever. Marry too young, and you’ll make a lifetime decision when you’re a completely different person than you will be a few years later.
MOST important thing you can learn about in the world = yourself.
Nothing will ease your angst and facilitate healthy communication/relationship growth like knowing yourself inside and out.
I had no idea I was an introvert until I was, like, 22 years old. What an incredible day that was. Now that I know my tendencies, I no longer agonize over why I don’t like going out on the town or why I avoid my friends. I’m a happy hermit because I know I am one. If I had married while I was a “wild party animal,” then my party-animal husband probably wouldn’t like me as the hermit I really am. And I might come to despise my party-animal husband (most definitely).
I change my mind about “the way people are” all the time. It’s not easy to maintain, but I try to stick to the goal of discovering all the ways the world can be different, just so I am a well-oiled difference-spotting machine.
To me, it is important for everyone to realize that the world as we know it is as we know it because of our physical location and who fed us when we were little.
Did I believe this before I went to the glorious GVSU? No! Thank heavens for college.
I knew myself and Husband very well when I decided I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him. We had dated on and off for about a decade before we wed, so we knew each other in all sorts of lights. I was aware of his best and worst qualities, and I blindly accepted some I knew I hadn’t uncovered, yet.
But, knowing yourself and your partner really well STILL isn’t the number one reason why you should wait to marry.
Truth #2: You should wait until you’re older to marry because being married is 90% work and 10% fun. Those variables change like Michigan weather. It often feels like 100% misery.
No one can explain to a soon-to-be or newlywed that being married is nothing like being “together” or being “engaged.”
I’ll try anyway.
Marriage is when you take the fun part of dating life and smoosh it into real life.
When you’re dating/engaged/not living together, you see each other by choice. It is these times that constitute “dating life.”
Real life is when you go home and slip into your ugliest sweatpants and pay your credit card bill.
Real life is when you go shopping for milk and eggs and scrub your toilet on Sunday morning.
You spend a lot of time looking really unattractive in real life.
Married life = real life + dating life. Realdating life. Datingreal life. Deal life. It is kind of like a deal, a handshake between the two existences.
When you’re married, real life happens with your sweet heart by your side. It’s a complicated world to navigate at first, because you still want to be adorable and pretend money isn’t a problem and all you need is love.
I think one of the biggest obstacles newlyweds face is expecting their soul mate to make the not-fun parts of real life, fun. By introducing snuggle muffin to the boring world of 401-Ks, the boring world of 401-Ks will automatically be more romantic and cute.
Soon-to-be or newlywed fantasies:
Oh! It will be so much fun to clean the house together. I’ll get a cute chore board for us!
Oh! I can’t wait to watch our favorite TV shows together every night. I love snuggling with him/her.
Oh! We can cook meals together and talk about our days over the dinner table.
Oh! We can go shopping for bathroom decorations and bookcases.
Oh! We will wake up beside each other every day. I can’t imagine a better life!
These ideas would be kind of funny if they weren’t so soul-crushing.
Some of these ideas are fun/true in the beginning. Perhaps it is the novelty of co-existence. Plus love makes everything rosy.
At some point, you’ll find yourself silently complaining that your spouse never sweeps the floors.
You’ll notice that you spent your first month together struggling to “meet in the middle” with a TV show neither of you really liked, until one day you finally decided to watch TV in separate rooms. It took you weeks to assure yourselves this didn’t mean your relationship was doomed.
You make dinner together once every other month, and you criticize each other’s chopping skills and disagree on what to cook.
The woman does all the decoration shopping. The man might care about decorating at first, but he soon changes his mind when he realizes how much more the woman cares.
Your spouse snores/hogs the bed/blanket and it drives you crazy. Being robbed of sleep turns one into a gremlin. A gremlin with a vengeance. Your 3AM-bloodshot-eyes-snoring-symphony-beside-you self is your meanest self. Murders are contemplated in alarming detail at this time of night.
And that’s marriage. Deal life. The deals you make with your spouse for the TV remote. The deals you make with yourself for being nice to your spouse. The deal you’re dealt when you combine dating life with real life.
I once fantasized about my marriage being a perfect union, with over-easy eggs on Saturday and joint trips to the grocery store.
I later took my disappointment out on my spouse. (Self-reflection takes backseat in the marriage Jeep.)
It took months for me to realize that deal life wasn’t like dating life at all. And it took months more to accept and be satisfied with it. Months of resenting Husband for not being housemaid. Months of arguing over money. I would have laughed myself to tears if you’d told me I’d be fighting with Husband about how much life insurance we need or whether we should buy organic chicken.
Marriage is full of surprises!
If you marry too young, you might marry someone you aren’t so inclined to love through their dingy t-shirts and lip-smacking at the dinner table.
If you marry too young, you might marry someone you won’t love after they complain about your wardrobe choices and correct your eating mannerisms.
If you marry too young, you might marry someone who doesn’t love you enough to love you if you change your mind about who you want to be.
If you marry too young, you might think your partner will be the same person forever, and you might try to prevent him/her from changing when he/she is brave enough to change. The worst thing you can do to someone you love is stunt their growth.
The longer you hold off on taking the plunge, the greater your chances are of knowing yourself well enough, and being mature enough, to handle the disappointments of shattered fairy tale dreams.
And, the longer you wait, the more likely you are to marry the right person.
Previous in the WNTYAM Series — There Will Be Times You Will Wonder Why You Even Married Your Spouse.