This memorial weekend I was lucky enough to see my cousin and her now-husband exchange their vows. Watching my cousin get married felt strange. Then again, I suspect the first wedding I attended (no matter whose it was) after my divorce was to be somewhat odd to me. Ultimately, words cannot describe how happy I am for my cousin and her new husband. To see the way they look at one another is to see love, freshly bloomed.
Given the amount of discussion about marriage that often swirls around weddings, it is not surprising that I ended up writing what ended up being advice I wish someone had given to me. Maybe it would have changed things (okay, so it definitely wouldn’t have; I’m a stubborn ass and I don’t like being wrong, but I like to pretend). So… I guess if you want some really random advice or commentary on marriage (and relationships in general), keep reading. Otherwise, well, ah… go eat some pie? Actually, eat pie either way.
When you come up on a wedding, you have no shortage of people telling you about your own relationship. Always let the woman do the cooking! (Because if he’s well fed, everything works out?!) He’ll never be able to find anything on his own! Insert gender stereotype here! Marriage is something that people say changes everything, but then don’t forget that it’s just a piece of paper. All that changed when I became a married woman was what box I checked on paperwork. That’s it. There wasn’t any magical change in my actual relationship. On top of it, all of those people giving the advice aren’t any more qualified than the ones receiving it. We just listen to the ones who talk loudest and sound the most earnest about what they’re preaching. Basically, you can be full of shit so long as you sound good doing it.
On to the actual advice. One of the most important things I’ve figured out about marriage is that being a team matters. In this case, you’re a legally recognized team – which can be really fucking scary. That doesn’t mean you have to be on the same team anytime there’s a games night. Then you should be trying to crush one another (lovingly) for bragging rights. Come on. But be a team for the big stuff. Back each other up and support each other. Here’s another vague, completely open-ended statement that could be about almost anything. Sooo helpful, right? Okay, so here are some concrete things.
- Don’t trash talk each other. That doesn’t mean you can’t be frustrated, or that venting to your friends isn’t okay. Talking about your relationship is completely okay! But when you paint your partner in a bad light, odds are good that whoever you’re talking to will form a lasting impression.
- Assume good intent and miscommunication. Wait, assume miscommunication?! That can’t be right. Welp; actually it is. Because it is a good idea to check in before moving to deliberate trust breaking or ‘screw you I’m what I want’ as a motive. Usually communication had a hiccup. Maybe you’re on the same book but a different page, or you’ve got different books but the pages don’t match.
- No matter what it is, you can be a team. Seriously. One of you ‘accidentally’ ran over the world’s most beautiful sand sculpture? Great time to work together & problem solve! Let’s be real though, that would not be a problem. That’s a sign that your true calling is sculpturing; as a team. Go revolutionize the entire world of sand.
Even during an argument, you are a team now. Both with the job of understanding and recognizing the other’s perspective in order to come out that much stronger for having done the work.
Not to contradict myself, but each of you must also remain individuals. A partnership relies on two complete, mostly-functional, people choosing one another. Be two people, not one entity. Disagree about some things. Have separate activities. Exist when the other is away on a trip, or otherwise unavailable. No matter how much you love someone, or how happy they make you, no one person should ever be your whole world.
You’re probably thinking that this isn’t very romantic, or that I have a strange way about advice. Well, you know what? Sometimes me-first is how you’re a good partner. That’s something crucial I wish I had known a long time ago. Think about it, when you first fall in love with someone, it isn’t with a 1D snapshot. The special person who you love isn’t a snapshot – they’re a fully dimensional human. When you’re in a longstanding relationship it can be easy to slip into having things that are both of yours, letting the rest fall away. Only… those individual things are the same ones that make you each love the other so truly and completely.
So be your own people. Because you love each other. Also, keep dating. Each other, I mean. Most of you probably aren’t poly, which would make that cheating (If you are poly, keep dating in all the ways you’ve agreed to!). Cheating bad. Continuing to have date nights, flirting, and making each other feel attractive, good. Everyone likes to feel sexy. (Well, okay, I’m sure some people don’t, but I haven’t met them. That’s strange to think about. Back on target.)
If you only listen to me about one thing… well, first off, I’m not sure why you’ve been reading this only to ignore it. Then again, I do that all the time so who am I to judge. Anyway, if you only take one piece of advice from me on this whole marriage (or relationships) thing, I hope it’s this. Over-communicate. Talk to each other about all of it. From things that seem too small and insignificant to be worth mentioning (what do you call each other?) to something so huge it could very well come alive and devour you for daring to think its name. (I cannot even begin to list all of the things that start wriggling to the surface with this one.) Even the stuff that is somehow too trivial, yet also totally terrifying.
Over-communicate about it. That doesn’t mean you have to ‘fix” anything, or that something is wrong. It doesn’t even have to be a negative item on the agenda. Just keep each other in the loop.
My favorite way of doing this is not mine. I’ve just grown up seeing it happen. Every day when both of my parents first get home, they go to the Big Chair (basically a love seat). the next half-hour or so is theirs, and they spend that time discussing the day, what’s coming up, and whatever else suits their fancy.
So find your own Big Chair. Whatever that may be for you – maybe there’s a secret calling you need to discover for group painting – and talk about everything. Explore your lives and the world the two of you are building. Together.
Welp. That’s all I got. Relationships aren’t easy, but then most worthwhile things aren’t. Man, I give really good advice that I definitely also would have ignored. Also probably will forget to follow again in the future because that’s how I roll. Hopefully it was somewhat amusing or enlightening (dare we hope for both?) to whoever got stuck reading it.