A Great Marriage is Not as Tough as you think
I was 9 years old and I had my life planned. I was never going to get married, I was going to live on the beach with my Dog (I obviously did not know the life expectancy of golden retriever). I even knew what car I would have…a Jeep (CJ5 or 7). It never occurred to me that I would ever want to get married. After all boys have cooties (duh!). My mind was never affected by Disney non-sense. I was not a reader and the Brady bunch and Muppet show were the only things I watched on television. Thankfully the ideas of a 9 year old do not go the distance (I still want the jeep though).
Everyone has an attitude about marriage. Too many girls today think that marriage is way out of something. A way out of their fathers house (Ariel in the little mermaid, or Cinderella), or a away to be saved (Snow-white or Sleeping Beauty). Since I never saw any of these movies I had no ideas about marriage accept that I thought it should be fun. Interestingly enough my marriage is pretty fun most of the time.
However, I see lots of people around me who are not having fun. They are by all accounts miserable in their marriage. Usually this miserable feeling stems from the being let down by our own expectations. This can be verified by most women/men who had preconceived notions about either marriage or the person they married. People think that their spouse will be instantly transformed into the person they want by the “I Do” kiss. This is never the case.
Long time married couples will confirm that their spouse for the most part never changed. Personalities are ingrained in us. Often we marry someone with traits we do not possess but, admire. The idea of changing someone is not good. People grow and hopefully become better through their learning experiences however, if you were to change a person chances are, you would not want that person anymore. The idea of molding someone into what you want them to be is wrong. If that persons faults are not something you find endearing, then you probably should save yourself a lot of time and not marry them.
People grow up in different households with different ideas. When you take two people from different backgrounds and throw them together they either learn to work together or they clash. Those are the only two options. My grandparents had an amazing marriage. My grandmother had funky taste in things. Over the years they got to the point that my grandmother would actually buy her own gifts at Christmas, wrap them and it was my grandfather who was always surprised at what he got her. It became a family joke. When I asked her why she wrapped these gifts she said it was for us kids. Their way around him buying her something she would not like was to just buy it herself. It’s these little situations that a couple learns to maneuver that make their marriage work.
Compromise is a very powerful word. Some people feel that compromise means you lost some ground in the relationship. That is a sad thought when most people have no problem compromising with total strangers, yet when it comes to their spouse they resent compromise. Part of this is the attitude each person carries. I will say if something is really important to you, you might want to try harder to let your spouse know that. The other thing is we all have to analyze what is important to us and why. Are we fighting for something that has value to us?
IT’S THE LITTLE THINGS
It sounds crazy but it’s the little things that tear down a marriage. My husband had the habit of taking off his shoes and leaving them beside his side of the bed. This drove me crazy because I would walk into our room and see his shoes piled next to the bed. I asked him to start putting them away but, he is a creature of habit. Finally I switched sides of the bed with him so that his shoes are on the other side of the bed where I don’t see them. Now it doesn’t bother me at all.
Little things start to add up in a marriage even though most of it means nothing on the grand scale of life. The next time you feel something small getting to you ask yourself this “will this thing still be important in five years?” chances are it won’t be remembered or important. The little things don’t mean anything.
My husband is a superhero, we call him procrastinator man! It is a family joke because my husband puts things off until it is an emergency. This has always been true. You would think that I would go crazy nagging him, but I don’t. When he puts his mind to something I know it will get done the right way, and I know he will get to it in his own time. No one likes to be nagged.
Years ago I had a friend who was an at home mom. She spent all day with her three kids. Her house was almost never clean because she was playing with her kids. Her husband would come home and get irritated that the house was not completely clean. Why? The house was not disgusting, it was not detailed clean either. He did not see the value in her spending the time with her children verses reorganizing cabinets. Where did he get this idea? He got this idea from his June Cleaver mother who kept the house miserably clean all the time. Miserably clean is when you make a person miserable with the level of clean that is expected.
Don’t get me wrong I like a clean house, and I have been known to detail some things, but extremes can be damaging. Nagging makes another person feel like they are not good enough. If something is tremendously important to you, I say do it yourself. Then you don’t have to nag. If it is your goal in life to have towels folded just so, do it yourself, if the lawn is long and bugging you, go mow it. Basically anything that you feel is a priority you can do it yourself. Keep in mind if you nag too much you will have to do all these activities alone anyway, because that person is going to leave you.
JOBS, JOBS, JOBS
I have had more than one friend whose spouse was reluctant to even look for a job. Many of these friends were frustrated and on the edge. All of them were working themselves already. I am all for people pursuing their dreams. By that I mean if a man/woman always wanted to be a firefighter, help him/her reach that goal, if he/she wants to be a lawyer be supportive. Together you can accomplish career changes and help each other reach your potential. This is a give and take situation.
Being a doctoral student and working full time was not easy. In reality I have almost completely stopped cooking. It’s a good think my husband likes to cook. That simple adjustment has saved me so much time that my schedule no longer feels compressed. By the same token my husband took a job he hated for a year and now we will be making a huge move so he can have a job that supports his career goals. When a person feels like they are working toward something meaningful to them, they will work harder at it.
For most of us who did not have overly ambitious parents, money is always an issue. The best thing I can tell you is that money problems come and go. Stick together, work it out together. Sometimes big adjustments have to be made. The important thing is that you have a roof over your head and food on the table. The rest is extra.
Those oh so beloved in-laws! When you get married you are to cleave to one another, the end. Unfortunately too many people continue to cling to their parents or other family. Let us remember that this is your marriage, not your mothers marriage not your fathers marriage. I am continuously shocked by the amount of people who allow their spouses to be belittled by family members. I am also shocked at the amount of people who find it necessary to down someone’s marriage. Opinions of a negative sort should be kept to ones self.
Here is a scenario for you; Daughter marries a man the family doesn’t like, they have several children. The family gets in the middle of the marriage and rips these two people apart. Where is the wife going to go with these kids? Back to mom and dads house that’s where. In other words let you kids handle their own stuff unless you want your grand-kids living with you! Parents always want what’s best for you however, it is your life. Be responsible and let your family know that their concern is appreciated but, you don’t want to hear it.
Whatever you do in your relationship, do it with love. The simple attitude that you are doing something out of love makes a huge difference in a marriage. When you do something for your spouse do not expect anything in return, do it out of love. As you get older and practice this concept becomes easier. Interestingly enough you become more thankful for each other and are nicer to each other.
Love is the closest emotion to God. We all want to be loved and love someone. With the right idea and some practical notions any marriage can survive. Wanting to make your marriage a good marriage is the first step in achieving the marriage you want. Making changes in your own attitude will greatly shift the position of your spouse. After the entire goal is not simply to survive this life together… but to enjoy the time you have together.
I encourage couples to envision the life and relationship they want. The vision should be their GOAL. Good marriages take work, they do not just happen. All the behaviors in your marriage should revolve around achieving your goal. See what you want and then make it happen. Recently a woman came into my office and said her husband was sleeping in the spare room because he wanted her to clean up some items in their room. She adamantly refused to clean the room stating that he was being difficult. When I asked her what her marriage ideal was she of course stated that "I want a loving relationship". I asked her, how can you have a loving relationship if you intentionally do things to push your husband away from you. She stood there for a moment and then said "you are right, I will clean up my stuff". Live the goal, be loving, and have a happy marriage.
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