I am sitting down to write this blog post on about a total of 15 hours sleep over the last three days. No one said it would be easy, this momming thing. We are on day 24 of operation single parenting and man oh man I knew it would be tricky and very much exhausting but I wasn’t prepared for the sheer shenanigans that has become my life over the last few weeks and that I’m sure will spill into our final few weeks. My better half has left us for what should lead to a clear pathway to a promotion, and when reviewing the ever present chaos that my days always seem to deliver as compared to his seemingly happy-go-lucky existence in temporary single soldier world, I have to admit that my heart hardens just a bit. I feel a sense of resentment toward him that he does not deserve thanks to an assignment that is through no fault of his own. And at a time when we should be celebrating 10 years of marriage, I am still wrestling with what marriage means to me and what I’ve learned from it.
I will admit it. I was like many other young women when it comes to fantasizing about marriage… I was caught up in the mythical fairy tale that our childhood stories tell us. Marriage will be this magical time when two souls come together and forge an unbreakable bond that will survive on love alone. What a beautiful sentiment it is to believe that this is the reality. And I’m sure there are several out that for which this sentiment rings true. But for the rest of us, marriage can be this mysterious maze that brings two very different people together and forces us to live in a harmonious union, blending two very different lives, beliefs, and backgrounds into one unified force. And for most of us, this is the goal. But it takes so much work, so much work, to get here, and regardless of how long you’ve been married, I am not quite sure that it ever really gets to perfect.
So to keep you from getting too bored, and to get me to bed on time, here are some of the top things I’ve learned from being married for 10 years (jeez I feel so old now)
- Marriage is not an equal partnership. As women, we’d want to believe that in 2019, all things in marriage are equal and that two people come into a union with set of responsibilities that are equal and fair. This couldn’t be more wrong. Early in our marriage, and sometimes currently, I feel very overwhelmed of the sheer weight of the responsibility that I have as the woman and mother in this family. Most of the brunt that comes with child rearing is on me, the care and maintenance of our home is on me, and I also pay my share of bills and and other expenses. Sometimes, I look at my husband and think “how lucky is he.” Murphy’s law only tends to exist for women I think because in all the time we’ve been married, he’s never had to deal with a sick child in the ER, or stay up all night with a baby who won’t stop crying, or have to use all his leave for a child’s medical needs. It seems as though men have it easier in the marriage than women, and that’s because they do. We as women were created to carry much of the burden without any of the glory because we are made stronger and more resilient than our male counterparts. So don’t be dismayed. Your marriage will never be 50/50 but as long as it equals 100% effort, I’d say you’re in a fair deal.
- Know when to speak your mind. This was, and still is, a hard one for me. I’ve always been anxious about people taking advantage of me. I’m a people pleaser and hate confrontation so it’s always been easier to just let things be. But in my personal relationship with my husband it isn’t so easy. In the beginning, I had been burned before and I often used that as my ammunition against this poor man. I nitpicked at everything… it’s a wonder he even stayed around. And even now that I have learned to pick my battles, it is still a challenge figuring out what is worth the potential argument and what is best left alone. I believe that it is so important to learn how and when to speak your mind. Being passive isn’t the right way to be, but neither is being a constant lit stick of dynamite. Here’s what I do. I analyze the situation to determine whether this issue is something that will bother me for more than two days. If whatever was done or said has the potential to bother me for a few days, then I will say something about it. But the key here, especially with men who in my experience tend to be naturally defensive, is tone and intent. I have learned that with Norman, I have to ensure my tone and posture is that of concern than of attack. My words need to be kind and reassuring. And using “I notice” language often leads to a conversation than to a fight. Taking the time to assess the issue at hand is often all you need to do to ensure communication doesn’t go astray.
- Have realistic expectations. You spouse loves you and will probably do just about anything for you (mostly). But he or she will let you down. Guaranteed. They are human beings. That’s what we do. We mess up. We get selfish. And sometimes, we hurt the people we care for most. The person you marry will change throughout the course of his or her life, as will you. And the mistake people make is thinking the world of their spouse… thinking he or she can never do wrong. And then when it happens, it can be very disappointing. I recently apologized to Norman for expecting way too much from him. It seemed at first that I was being passive aggressive or something like that, but then I explained that I had unfairly put him into this box of can do no wrong, and then whenever he’d disappoint me, I’d become very frustrated and angry. Your spouse will piss you off. Guaranteed. But as long as you know they are not perfect and expect those disappointments from time to time, you’ll be better able to handle it. Of course, this is not code for take a whole bunch of shit from someone who’s supposed to love you. Again, intentions here are everything. And for sure, you should never tolerate anyone deliberately disrespecting you and mistreating you.
- Getting help doesn’t mean your failing. Do not be afraid to get help for your marriage. This shit is hard, and as I said before, I don’t care how long you’ve been married, I don’t think anyone has fully figured out how to do this thing right. And that is why God created marriage counselors. Don’t be afraid to admit that you need a little help figuring out how to have a more successful marriage. There are a lot of things in our daily lives that can steal away from how happy we are in our unions… from children, to jobs, to personal habits, and others. Being able to acknowledge that there is room for improvement is a strength to be celebrated. Getting help doesn’t mean you are a bad spouse or that your marriage is just about over. It means that you are willing to do what you need to do to keep it fresh and exciting. And that is a recipe for success.
- Put your marriage first! This one is for us with those little people running around our house who share half our genetic code and who make our lives so um… fulfilling? I think I’ll stick with that since some of you reading might be a little put off if I say what I am really feeling (remember how I am single parenting right now… so be kind!) Children are a blessing and really help to round out a family. Our children will carry on our traditions and our legacies. They depend on us for survival and God, how we would do anything for them. But in this adventure that we call parenthood, we sometimes forget to care for ourselves, let alone our marriages. In all the time and attention our children demand of us, we sometimes forget that there’s another person there who needs our time too. And especially for women, this can feel so overwhelming. Always the caregiver it seems, and never the cared for. But it is so important to ensure that we are taking just a little time to care for our spouse. I’ve had to advocate for myself on several occasions. I had noticed that Norman was struggling with finding time for me and relished all his attention toward the kiddos and into his own hobbies. There was a time wherein I felt as though I was simply an obligation to him. And I am sure he will testify that I have abandoned him in other ways as well. Being clear on what you need from your spouse, and being able to speak to that puts that power back into your marriage and suddenly you’ll find ways to give back to your marriage. One of my sorors has done such a good job of ensuring that her and her husband find time to escape. And although not everyone can afford a trip to Europe or the Carribbean, finding time for your marriage is more about how many miles you can earn over a period of time. Sometimes, just taking the time to have a good conversation about something else other than children is just the caveat it takes to relearn each other again. On our tenth anniversary, Norman and I will be separated (thanks Army). But I am determined to find some kind of way to celebrate us when he returns. Children can and should be a major part of your world, but they are not yours to have and hold forever. They belong to the world, and I know that after my three are out on their own, I still want to be able to hold an interesting conversation with the man I married.
Despite having a few years under my belt, I still have a long way to go toward being the best wife I can be. Marriage isn’t about being right all the time, or trying to change the other person. Marriage is truly about compromise and choosing to accept the other person, warts and all. So happy anniversary to us, and to anyone else celebrating an anniversary in the coming or previous days. Let’s hope the next ten years bring us even more ups and downs!
I still wouldn’t mind a trip to Italy or something, though…