From the Series: What Nobody Tells You About Marriage (explaining the truths behind the dumb comments people make)
Just make sure you’re marrying the right person.
This one is important, which is why it’s so annoying when people who don’t know you/your relationship say it to you.
I married Husband when I was 25 years old because I knew he’d love me no matter who I wanted to be. My head is in the clouds most of the time, and even though he sometimes thinks I am kind of batshit, he treasures my odd perspective. Which is good, because it’s permanent.
I knew I would love Husband no matter how crass his world views became or how rowdy his inner cowboy could be.
But it wasn’t the lessons we learned from our decade-long past that made us a perfect pair. It was something else entirely.
Truth: Right person = person you will be able to forgive for anything.
Your perfect mate is the person you won’t abandon after he/she does the worst thing you can imagine to you. Who will you love even if he/she absolutely breaks your heart? Your answer = person you should marry.
It sounds like the recipe for an abusive relationship, but stick with me here.
You must love someone a whole lot in order to be able to forgive them for breaking your heart. You also must think they didn’t really mean to crush your soul when they did.
I am convinced it is these two things that keep a marriage’s heart pumping. Compassion and benefit of the doubt =
world peace wonderful marriage.
Newlyweds or soon-to-bes are not considering these things, because in la-la honeymoon phase, these things aren’t required. They come naturally. You don’t have to try to give your partner the benefit of the doubt because they’re perfect, duh.
Anyone who buys an engagement ring or says “yes” already knows he/she’s marrying the right person.
Tingly spine? Check.
Impromptu flowers/chocolates? Check.
Great sex life? Check.
Incessant texting? Check.
Perfect half of future spawn hybrids? Check.
Love birds are too busy flying to realize that one day, one of them will fly the other straight into a brick wall.
The checklist above details what we love about fresh/new/revamped relationships. These things are what make falling in love such an addictive experience.
The foundation of marriage includes none of these things. To a married couple, any one of them would be a nice perk.
A new romance needs very little wind to float its sails. A marriage requires constant redesign and daily, tedious brick-laying in order to have a shot at surviving.
In marriage, communication is key. Obviously. Communication is key in everything.
Not minute-by-minute texting or hour-long phone conversations. The communication marriage requires is more open, scary, and potentially disastrous. In marriage, it’s all about feelings. The kind of feelings you don’t share with your spouse because resentment/exhaustion/fear.
I love talking about feelings. Husband hates it. Everyone does.
Sadly, we aren’t raised to “talk about our feelings” and “explore our emotions.” We certainly aren’t coached to “analyze how sometimes the things we’re fighting about aren’t actually the things we’re fighting about at all.” Which is serious shame. These things are tickets to the good life.
They are seldom practiced because it feels so horrible to practice them. Who wants to spend an afternoon spreading their emotions out on the floor just so their spouse can decide what to think about them? It’s that naked-in-a-crowd fear. If I expose my feelings to you, I’m basically asking you to judge me.
I know it’s hard. I know it makes us extremely uncomfortable to talk about our emotions. And I know that’s why we avoid it.
Oh god. Feeling talk approaching. Flee! Flee! – Husband.
These unbearable feeling talks are the bricks I mentioned earlier. If you don’t lay them out daily, your marriage fortress will grow flimsy. Every time you avoid talking about how ____ made you feel, you create a tiny crack in your wall. The cracks spread and create holes where things-we-don’t-talk-about squeeze through. One day, you both wake up and wonder why your partner feels like a stranger and your fortress is so cold.
Lay your bricks!
We all have emotions. And we all feel 100% of the time. Get smarter about your own emotions and the confidence to share them will follow. Self-reflect! I’m a broken record, here, but the song is so important.
Practice makes perfect. And more emotional intelligence will make you happier. I won’t include any research findings to back up my claim here because Google will do it for me if you look it up.
Communication helps develop emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence improves communication. Open communication about emotions is the stairway to marriage heaven.
The right person will work with you to improve how you two communicate.
It’s important to improve it because it’s the only way you two can understand each other. Husband apologizes for hurting my feelings even though he doesn’t mean to when I explain that revealed intentions don’t make the pain go away (but hearing he’s sorry for causing it does).
Which brings me back to the point I’m trying to make about soul mates being forgivable.
The right person for you is the person who gives you enough strength to pull yourself out of that dark, looming hole of divorce. Strength = reason. Forgiveness is essential, here.
Divorce = a way out of the maddening psychopathy that is marriage. You can’t help but be drawn to it in moments of spousal-murder-contemplation.
But, if you’re like me, which you most certainly were at one point, divorce is not an option!
Until it is. Then, you throw that D-word out there like the life vest that it is.
I did, once.
What! Don’t judge me! Everyone does it!
Fine. Emboldened outburst comes from remorse, not anger, because I regret tossing divorce on the table. And because Husband and I got through it. And because now I love Husband more than ever and the idea of leaving him in the dust is unbearable.
It was once very bearable, though. And I’m sure it will be again.
I pulled myself out, though. And, after the war had abated and only smoldering embers remained, Husband said something so wise I’ll never, ever forget it.
“Let’s promise each other something. From now on, we can’t let divorce be an option. Because if we do, it will be the best option every time.”
My little sage Husband.
This is brilliant advice.
If you don’t have the option of walking away, then you have to go on together. You have to figure out a way to repair the relationship. You both have to stop being bonehead dinosaurs and try to put your resolution pants on and be nice.
Sometimes, the only way to stop being a bonehead dinosaur is by talking to yourself. Strategically.
The mantra “I’m never getting divorced” (with the “from Husband” part slyly removed)is very, very effective.
You can totally hate your husband and still refuse to get divorced. These things sound nonsensical and desperate, but they are vital to marriage. Pathetic strings of hope/stubbornness are the only thing holding people together, sometimes. And, weak strings are better than no strings when it comes to the person you loved enough to marry.
After the fight, Husband and I came up with a plan: whenever one of us reached the breaking point of wanting a D-word, the other would stop being an idiot and convince the other to stay.
It sounds ridiculously vague. But for us, it works.
There have been times we’ve relied on each other to salvage the marriage. Both of us had reached a point of wanting to pack up our crap and leave.
In each instance, we stood facing each other, valiant and mighty and righteous atop our tall horses, staring at each other through angry eye slits.
Then, one of us moved to bolt. For real bolt. For good.
And somehow, in that moment, reality smacked the other one upside the head and knocked him/her off the horse just in time for him/her to catch the leg of the bolting horse and stop it.
Forgiveness is necessary if you hope to grab the leg of a running horse. You can’t stop someone from leaving you if you still hate them for wanting to leave you. You have to forgive them first.
This is why you must marry someone you can forgive for anything, even if they try to abandon you.
The undercurrent of many continued unions, I am convinced, is forgiveness. Not the kind of forgiveness in saying you’re sorry and meaning it, and not when you accept an apology. It’s the kind that comes from recognizing your partner is another bumbling human on this earth and forgiving them for it.
Forgiveness, as we learn it when we are young, is all about power.
I ask for forgiveness because I am indebted to you until I get it.
And I only forgive you if I agree you are worthy if being freed from your regretful-idiot chains.
We use forgiveness as a tool in elementary school, and we carry it into adult life. We use it to retain the power we think it gives us. Refusing to give it or ask for it means we have the power to refuse. Since we’re all just animals plagued by the awareness that we will one day die, power is EVERYTHING to us.
To forgive in marriage is to relinquish that childhood-induced power feeling so you can learn how to forgive someone the proper way: with your heart instead of your words.
Forgiveness in marriage is the most challenging kind, because you’re already drowning in the vulnerability that comes from loving someone. When you throw all of your love pennies into someone else’s bucket, it can be nearly impossible to forgive them when they let you down.
Marrying the right person means marrying someone you can spar with and still love if they accidentally stab you. You must also marry someone you can recognize as the vulnerable baby deer fawn they are. When they say things that upset/anger you, they are most likely trembling on their little deer fawn legs. We shout when we want to cry, sometimes. And we project inward weakness on those we love. We project a lot of our feelings on those around us.
It hurts to be projected on, and that pain makes it difficult to realize that it’s the projector who is hurting.
When I scream out of frustration, I am actually crying for acceptance. Love me!
Humans are so adept at disguising their vulnerabilities.
Marry the one you can forgive for their myriad, ever-changing facades.
Up next in the WNTYAM Series — Marriage is Hard Work. Harder Than You Can Possibly Imagine.