From the Series: What Nobody Tells You About Marriage (explaining the truths behind the dumb comments people make)
Marriage is hard work. Harder than you can possibly imagine.
Even if this comment is said in the most fun-loving way, it is still demeaning. You know nothing about marriage. I work really hard on my marriage which makes me better and wiser than you and fit to give you advice about it.
Love is love. I once had a psychology professor tell me that every single relationship is unique. The partnership will never be recreated again. Each of you brings your unique selves to the fore and, together, you create a snowflake in history. Obvious, yet not until you hear it.
His point: it’s silly to compare your relationship to others’. All marriages encompass similar hardships and difficulties, but no one’s is easier or more challenging than another’s.
So, back off, “wise” married people! Everyone’s working hard.
Husband and I have an at-times tumultuous relationship. We always have. And we knew we always would, so we felt super prepared going into marriage. Silly us!
Newlyweds are clueless. Just like us, they think they have it all figured out.
The #1 reason marriage is such hard work is not because you have to take the trash out all by yourself or because you have to vacuum up twice as much dirt.
Truth #1: Marriage is harder than you can possibly imagine because every single day, you must consider your spouse.
Seems so easy, I know! Chocolate birdie nugget is on my mind 24/7, already. Walk in the park!
We’re human, which means we’re innately stuck in our own heads. We forget other people’s heads all the time. Not good when the head you’re forgetting is the one seething on the pillow beside you.
Marriage requires constant special attention. It’s like raising a pet and growing a plant and building a house and remembering to feed yourself all at once. You have to nurture your relationship and make sure your spouse feels loved and accepted and listened to. Every. Day.
AND, in marriage, anything you want to do that disagrees with your spouse’s desires must be acquired with utmost caution.
If you’re exhausted and your spouse is annoying you and you want him/her to just GO AWAY, you have to be a ninja about it. You have to scheme and plot your lover’s way out the door with words of silk. You have to compliment, plead, explain, lie, coax just right to get them to leave the house without offending them whatsoever. Seems so easy, at first. But then you get married, and you suddenly realize how many things you can say the wrong way and how offensive you can be without even trying.
Getting your way in marriage is a CRAFT, I tell you.
You are successful each time you get to do what you want without offending your partner.
In fact, you are successful each time you don’t offend your partner in a thirty-minute conversation.
What this means in marriage is that, whenever you want to do something selfish, you have to work overtime. Like, four times as hard. WAY harder than you have to work to get over it when you don’t get your way. That’s why so many spouses just “give up” and cave in their marriages. It’s not ball-and-chain defeat. It’s laziness!
Most newlyweds spend their time offending each other a lot and brawling it out and making up passionately afterward. Because they’re young and they’re newlyweds and love is in the air and everything is intensified. Arguing is actually kind of fun in the beginning. You remember, don’t you?
Soon enough, though, it loses its luster.
One day, you’ll come home from work, and you’ll step right over those work boots in the middle of the floor. The work boots you usually can’t wait to rage about. You’ll just step right over them. Because, hey, who cares if you live in a pig sty, right? Not Husband, that’s for sure!
You swallow that gallon-sized droplet of pride and say some unpleasant things in your head and then shut up.
Why? Because you’re tired. From work. And from arguing with your spouse. Though the boots drive you crazy, it takes so much time for the fizzling anger ignited by your boot comment to fizzle out. From both of you. Because you hate incessant commenting as much as your spouse hates hearing you nag.
Overstepping boots is the first step to a harmonious marriage. It marks the germination of that planted seed that will one day grow into the Tree of Chosen Battles. Choosing your battles is HUGE in marriage because:
- You have more energy to battle for something you really want
- You demonstrate how long you can go without asking your partner to stop leaving their boots in the middle of the floor.
Partner thinks: Gee whiz, she hasn’t asked me to do anything in a while. She must really want this one.
You think: MOVE THE *!*$*#! BOOTS.
When you stop spending all your time arguing with your lover, you have more time to do things like the dishes, which are kind of fun to do because when you do them your partner squeals with happiness.
This marks another monumental change in marriage!
At some point, everyone realizes that, the happier his/her spouse is, the happier he/she is.
When Husband is happy, I don’t have to worry about what’s upsetting him or wonder what I did to make him so snippy. When I’m happy, Husband is relieved to not spend his afternoon analyzing my nonverbals to determine what set me off.
Accidental/purposeful offending happens a LOT in marriage. Necessarily, you must learn how to carefully navigate your way out of a tsunami of spousal anger. You’ll get good at it even if you don’t want to (because it’s not even your fault!).
One day, you discover that the best way to prepare for an accidental offense is to do the dishes so your spouse squeals like a gleeful piglet.
Happily married people frequently do things to MAKE their spouses happy. Because the higher you float your snuggly bumble bee, the more time you have to catch them when you kick them in the head on accident. Happily married people are proactive in love.
Happily married people are also content being proactive in their relationship. It takes a long time to be content with doing things you’d prefer not to do just to make someone else happy.
THAT’S WHAT MAKES MARRIAGE SUCH HARD WORK! It’s nearly impossible to do what you don’t want to do ALL THE TIME. Like cleaning up after your spouse and watching TV shows you don’t like and stuffing that snarky boot comment deep down inside.
Do you think husbands want to acknowledge the feelings of their wives when their wives throw away their favorite pair of jeans? Do you think wives want to “sincerely” apologize to their husbands for throwing away the most hideous pair of jeans on the planet?
The reason newlyweds seem unable to grasp the hard work required in marriage is because newlyweds haven’t had to make huge, personal-comfort sacrifices for their partner, yet.
When I feel fat, ugly, and stupid, I want to sit in the darkness in my living room like a troll. But sometimes Fat Days coincide with days Husband wants to go do something. It is hard work pulling myself off the couch and beginning the process of making myself presentable to the world. It’s even harder work enduring a social outing that is zero fun for me. The hardest work of all, though, is when I return home from a night on the town that I did not want to attend with a tipsy hubby who proceeds to scold me for an “offensive” comment I made earlier that day. The amount of work required in holding myself back from morphing into a Tasmanian devil and rhetorically destroying Husband is supernatural. Because, in that moment, every cell in my body is chanting DO IT DO IT.
But, I don’t. Because it’s a stupid fight when it’s a drunk fight. And if it’s a drunk fight, it’ll take hours, and I’m tired. And if it’s a drunk fight, it’ll be more painful and harder to recover from in the morning. And maybe the only reason I’m so mad is because I resent him for making me go out when I felt like a troll. But I did go out, so I should probably just get over it. Working on it. And maybe that comment I made earlier today wasn’t very nice.
SO, even though he did this same stupid get-mad-at-me thing last time he forced me to be social, I am not going to battle him.
What I’m actually going to do is apologize for my offensive comment. I’ll say sorry with my words and toss him into a croc-filled swamp with my mind.
I work very, very hard to avoid the fight, and it feels so unfair.
Soon, he is snoring happily beside me while I lie in the darkness, indignant.
HARD WORK = choosing not to drunk spar with Husband. Because drunk sparring means saying things would never say if we were sober. Sober married people know when it’s a bad idea to say something stupid. Drunk married people think it’s a GREAT idea.
The number one thing that makes my marriage so difficult is my own stupid EGO.
Which brings me to the second truth as to why marriage is so challenging.
Truth #2: Marriage is harder than you can possibly imagine because it feels so unfair.
And you can’t do anything about it! You can’t “find a way to make it fair,” because it never will be.
Getting married is like going back to preschool. You have to learn to wait your turn. You have to learn not to call your partner mean names. You have to learn that you’re not allowed to throw things at your partner, no matter what he says to you. You have to learn that if your partner didn’t push his chair in, you have to. It’s just as unfair in preschool as it is in adulthood.
Your world, your rules. Until you get married. Then you have to learn to like someone else’s rules more than your own. I know, impossible, right?!
I think the hardest work of all in marriage is figuring out when you don’t care as much as the other person so you can let it go.
I didn’t say figuring out when you don’t care, I said figuring out when you don’t care as much.
That’s what makes figuring it out so hard!