Lessons learned the hard way.
I might not seem like the go-to person for marital advice, considering my own marriage fell apart just shy of our tenth wedding anniversary.
But in those 10 years of wedded not-always-bliss, I learned a lot about what goes into making a marriage work.
Here are ten lessons I learned the hard way about what it really takes to make your union go the distance…
1. Know who you are before you get married.
I was pretty young — only 25 — when I got married. Maybe some 25 year-olds know exactly who they are and what they want, but I definitely didn’t. And if you don’t know yourself, how can anyone else really know you?
2. Your partner can’t make you happy.
It’s a cliché because it’s true: no one can make another person happy. It has to come from inside. A good marriage can bring you lots of joy and happiness, for sure, but if you are fundamentally unhappy, find out why and work on fixing it. Don’t look to your partner to do it for you.
3. That ‘in love’ feeling comes and goes.
Research says the infatuation phase of love lasts just 18 months to three years, but I don’t quite buy it. I was very much in love with my husband when we got married, just over two years after we met. I still had butterflies. But after we’d been married several years, I loved him even more. It was a deeper, more comfortable love, and the occasional butterfly still fluttered through. I don’t think infatuation ever has to go away completely.
4. Every relationship is different.
It’s tempting to use your friends’ marriages as yardsticks by which to measure your own. The grass is always greener, and all that. But it’s not a good idea. I’d have been better off working on my own marriage than feeling jealous of my friends’ seemingly perfect unions. You can’t know what really goes on in anyone else’s relationship — so don’t judge yours according to theirs.
5. If you don’t ask for what you want, you won’t get it.
I picked plenty of fights with my husband. I wanted him to get rid of clutter. I nagged him about housework. I resented his penchant for taking naps. But I never brought up the deeper things that really bothered me. The result was a stew of simmering resentments that eventually destroyed our marriage. If I’d had the courage to ask for what I really wanted, things might have been different.
6. Hard conversations are worth it.
Asking for what you want can feel hard and scary. But avoiding that conversation isn’t going to lead anywhere good. You’ve got to be courageous if you want your marriage to be good. Find a way to have those hard talks. Your marriage will be better for it.
7. Marriage shouldn’t be hard work all the time.
Sure, hard conversations are necessary in marriage. But so is having fun together. Marriage shouldn’t feel like a grind. There should still be plenty of room for goofiness, laughter, fooling around, and just loving each other. If it’s a constant slog, why bother?
8. It takes two to make a marriage work.
You can be willing to ask for what you want, go to therapy and yoga and church and whatever else makes you feel happy, but if your partner isn’t on board, it’s probably not going to work.
9. It’s not the end of the world if it ends.
Sometimes you have to know when to throw in the towel. When it’s hard work, no one’s laughing, and you haven’t felt a butterfly in years, it might be time to think about moving on. I loved my husband, and I don’t regret our years together, but getting divorced is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I haven’t regretted it for one second.
10. Marriage can be amazing.
“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. Marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death.” I mean, come on. Who wouldn’t want that? So my first try didn’t stick — it doesn’t mean I don’t believe in the institution. Besides, I’ve got ten years of experience. I’m ready to knock it out of the park next time.
Image via tumblr.com.