- Gender and Relationships
Ignoring the Stereotypes About Marriage
I know marriage is a scary prospect for many people, especially for those who have been in really bad relationships before.
You've heard all of the rumors. After marriage, girls supposedly get fat, lazy and ugly as they stop taking care of themselves, start to nag, and stop wanting to do anything in the bedroom but sleep.
Guys supposedly also get fat, lazy and ugly as they don't have to impress their women anymore, they start to ignore their wives, stay away more often, drink and start looking to fulfill their needs elsewhere.
I'm sure this wouldn't be the stereotype if it hadn't started somewhere, but this truly isn't the majority of marriages. If these stereotypes were the absolute truth, couples wouldn't be announcing new engagements and excited about getting married every day.
But Divorce Rates?
I realize that divorce rates are climbing every year, but this isn't why. The reasons for this may prompt an entirely new article.
Now I need to point out that as marriage is not the stereotypes you hear about all the time, neither is it roses and peaches all the time. Marriage, especially good marriages, are by no means perfect.
We're talking about two completely different individuals from two different backgrounds, with different experiences, and putting them in the same household together for the rest of their lives for better or for worse.
Let's be honest. There are tons of better times, but life is tough. There are many worse times too. The real trick here is learning how to stand together as a team as face the tough times together.
Let's look at some of the most common topics discussed when it comes to marriage and look at the truth.
Were you, are you, have you ever been nervous about getting married?
In the beginning, with my husband and I, you couldn't have put two better people together. Regardless of our circumstances, we were deliriously happy together. Times were tough, but we made it through. Then life started getting in the way.
As he became busier with school and I struggled to find my way here at home, stress creeped in, and because we weren't communicating as well anymore, frustration and miscommunication found their way in as well.
We started reading alternate meanings into eachother's words and started the argument cycle we all find ourselves in eventually. We truly were just not listening to the other person. It got so bad over the course of a few months that we knew something had to change. We weren't happy.
We weren't happy. Although we loved each other, we wanted to make our relationship work, and we wanted to be happy again, so we went to marriage counseling. We only went to a handful of sessions, but boy was that the best decision we could have made!
We were both terrified going in that she would pick us out and tell us what was wrong with us an individuals. Neither of us wanted it to be our fault. However, she simply showed us how much we really did care and how silly we were being.
Marriage is a roller coaster. There are good times and there are not so good times. Hopefully you're up more than you are down, but the key is trusting that the other person loves you and wants you to be happy.
I love my husband and it killed me to argue with him. I would never hurt him on purpose, but he was scared and didn't know for sure. He had been hurt so many times before that his instinct was to guard himself, and I was doing exactly the same thing.
Once we saw what was happening, and put our faith in each other again, we haven't had a repeat experience. Now we just make it a habit to be completely truthful about our feelings, and yet be conscious of the other's feelings as well. We have been together for five years now and are still working hard on this every day.
We've already talked a little about conflict, so now we should talk about what's truly happening. You already know the background about arguments. If you don't, most issues are not related to the topic at hand directly, but stem from experiences that have happened in the past.
Your sub-conscious instinctively tries to protect you from repeating a painful experience again. So when it senses the same thing happening, you get immediately defensive. But there's more to it.
In relationships past, you didn't really have to worry about the future. If you decided you didn't like the other person in the relationship anymore, or got fed up with them, you just left. Much of the conflict in your arguments was probably more of a competition of who could hurt the other person worse. It just can't be like that in marriage.
We learned that lesson early as well. I personally learned at an early age how painful names, cursing, and taking advantage of vulnerabilities could be in an argument, and vowed never to do that to anyone else. This was not so for my husband, as he had siblings to spar with.
One thing that really saved us in the thick of the stress was reading together and discussing what we read. This specific book was one of the many we read at night together before going to sleep. I would highly recommend it to any married couple struggling or not.
The Lessons We Learned
When we were arguing in our early stages words would just come flying out of his mouth. He said that all he could think of was that because he was hurt, he wanted me to hurt as well, and knew those things would do the most damage.
Now that he knows the truth about what was really going on and how much damage he was really doing to our relationship, he's been super careful ever since not to bash me when he's upset. Now he knows that he can simply express his feelings and needs knowing that I want to take care of him.
We really love each other and want to have an incredible relationship, so we try extra hard to take care of each other, especially during our "growth spurts." Conflict is normal and healthy, but it can also be really destructive if not handled correctly.
In marriage, there's no need for that competition or defensive anymore, because you're ultimately trying to stand together and support each other. Conflict is then about helping the other person grow, being willing to see your own faults and work on improving them, and helping the relationship to blossom.
This is definitely one area that suffers dramatically in marriage. When you are single, your time is your own. If you want to play video games for five days straight, be a workaholic and never come home from work, or even party all night and come home drunk and half naked, that's your business.
If this was truly what you wanted, you wouldn't be considering marriage.
At the beginning of any budding relationship, it's new and exciting, and you want to spend every waking moment with the other person. You think about them 24/7, it's only natural to reflect that desire in phone calls, emails and in person.
However, eventually, your life and the time you need to devote to it will feel the strain.
Returning to Real Life
When you're married, it's not that you don't desire to spend time together anymore, it's just that you have to return to real life at some point. To make good grades, you have to actually study and do homework. To excel at work, you have to actually be there, focused, and giving 100%.
If you're not careful, you'll let these things take over your time like when you were single, and you're relationship will start being neglected.
This is probably when those stereotypes start slipping back in, spouses start hearing the nagging about time together and after a while start staying away so they don't have to face the problem anymore. (By the way, this makes it worse.)
This is why married couples schedule regular date nights, schedule time to relax when they get home from work, and schedule time to catch up and talk before they go to sleep. At least this is what you do if you want to keep your marriage happy and healthy.
Communication, conflict, and time aren't the only important areas to discuss when it comes to marriage. In fact, this might just be one of the more important topics to discuss. Just like you have to make time to talk and spend time together, you have to make time for this.
Studies show that couples that are regularly intimate (this also means hugs, holding hands, rubbing shoulders, and grazing touches) sleep better, are happier and healthier, communicate better, and are more successful in all of their endeavors.
If you stop to consider all of the positive chemicals (and positive feelings!) that are released in these moments, it will all make complete sense.
Endorphins help you to sleep and make you naturally happier. Adrenaline helps you to be more productive and burns more calories by increasing your metabolism. All of these things make you appear more capable and confident, along with making you want to do a good job, leading to more success.
It also helps to ease muscle aches and pains as well as getting rid of headaches. Yup! The next time you consider skipping a night because you're tired or have a headache, imagine how much better you'll sleep, how much better you'll feel, and how much more productive you'll be tomorrow because of it.
Marriage is tough. It takes work, it takes you being sensitive and aware of another's feelings, and it requires you to take a look at your own faults and fix them. Yuck!
It's easy to get away with not doing these things if you're not in a relationship, but is that really what you want? Being married can actually be more satisfying and fulfilling than you've ever imagined.
Trusting another person with your heart, deep down fears and most intimate feelings, and knowing that you took a part in helping someone else to be happy and fulfill their dreams is liberating. Having someone by your side to weather life's troubles and share life's joys is invaluable.
And that's the truth about marriage.
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© 2013 Victoria Van Ness