Wednesday, May 04, 2011

What have you learned from being married?

One of the women in my office is organizing a wedding shower for a woman who gets married in a couple weeks. The shower is tomorrow afternoon.

The organizer decided, just for fun, to ask three couples who have been married different lengths of time to answer the question "What have you learned from being married?" She chose Nick and me as a recently-married couple, and asked us to answer the question separately.

She said it could be serious or funny, however we wanted to approach it.

It was more difficult than I anticipated. I approached it a variety of ways, deleted one after another, and ultimately, here's what I said:

What I’ve learned in 2 3/4 years of marriage:
With marriage, the two of you are working towards something bigger than yourselves. And it is work. I don’t know if I thought marriage would be a piece of cake, but I didn’t actually anticipate how much work it would take to build and maintain a healthy, solid relationship. I believe that you get out even more than you put in, though.

It’s rarely even – one of you will carry more of the load for a time, and then the other will, or you carry it in different ways, as you have different strengths. Sometimes you are tired and resentful, and sometimes your partner will make you so angry that you go to bed mentally dividing up the furniture, but you still wake up with the certainty that you will spend the rest of your life with this person, and you are lucky for it.

For those of you who are married, if asked (and I'm asking), what would you say?


  1. I completely agree with what you've said. We've been married 3 years now, and it is HARD. I had a moment after we got married where we had a fight and i thought to myself "my god, i'm legally bound to this idiot now!?"

    I think it's important to let people going into this know that sometimes it will suck. And it will be hard. Because I think that can be the biggest shock (at least I know it was for me!)

    I heard a good saying recently that could be applicable, "Just when you're thinking of giving up, think of why you held on so long". Good for those nights you're dividing up furniture :)

  2. Learn to hold onto the blankets for dear life if you are married to a blanket hog.

    Yes, that is the worst part of my marriage. Everything else is blissful so I'll take the horror of being married to a blanket hog any day of the week.

  3. this is tough; we’ve been married 8 and a half years, and the boy is rapidly approaching two, so, we were married much longer than we’ve been parents who are also married, but I have to admit that we are one of the oft-referenced yet elusive “couple who is better off and better to each other after producing offspring”. honestly, it is work, but it is fun, too; the best part is having someone who always has your back, off whom you can bounce ideas and cockamamie things you come up with (which it sounds like we both have), who is your best friend but would never ask you to give up a friend in need…wow, can’t seem to shut up, can i? point being, since becoming first married and then a mother, i have learned to be patient (yeah, still working on that one), to put others’ needs first, and to really listen when people are talking. on the other hand, i have become more independent, confident, and fiercely protective than i was both pre marriage and pre baby. so, um, there you have it.

    alternatively, you could just tell the people in your office “compromise” and “wine” and leave it at that…

  4. and also what tempest said, about the holding on versus giving up...

  5. I love your points and the ones that others have added. I was completely unprepared for how hard marriage would be some days.

    I would add: NEVER NEVER cash out your vacation time. USE IT! Use it to get away with your spouse. It helps reconnect and remind you why you love each other :)

  6. I like what Tia said - Keep the spark alive by making time for each other as a couple. Invest in yourselves. Especially after the kids come (if they plan on kids).

    Also? You're going to learn that the person you're married to has flaws. And so do you (and your flaws will be pointed out to you occasionally). But you still love each other, and though you can't change the other person, you can do your best to improve yourself.

  7. Be nice.

    It's kind of simple but it ain't easy. It also works like you wouldn't believe.

  8. I'm married 19 years now. I think for me the part that took the longest to learn was that he is not me. I would say so often "I would never do that to you" Until one day I heard myself and thought He is not me. Maybe he's not pissing me off on purpose. And you have to remember where your spouse came from. It wasn't the same family you came from (unless you are from Arkansas)so he's not going to think like you and your family or solve problems like yours etc. Oh and it's really really hard. But if one person absolutely refuses to ever get divorced, the hard times get less and less. And it gets really good just about the time your body starts to fall apart. Thank God.

  9. it's the hardest and the best thing I've ever done (I reserve the right to change that after I birth the fetus)

  10. Oh that's a tough one. I've been married for 3 1/2 years. I had to learn to let go of the "honeymoon" phase, when we first met and thought the other could do no wrong and never fought.

    Then we started having things to fight about and I went through a lot of "why can't it just be like it used to?"

    So along the lines of what others said - accept you are marrying an imperfect person. And as long as the imperfections aren't on your dealbreaker list (cheating, etc.), just learn to live, happily, with them.

  11. 10 years in September. Two things: 1) There are only two ways to deal with built-up resentments: clear the air as when they manifest, or let 'em go. 2) In every conflict, ask yourself which is more important to you: being right, or being happy?
    Looking forward to ya'll's 30th anniversary.
    Love love love big wet Jordan kiss,

  12. coming up on 2 years here... i'd have to say that if you marry the right person it's so much easier than you think and that there's so much truth in saying "i love you" every single day - you never know when the other person might just need to hear it and sometimes it's just a good reminder for the person saying it about why you put up with so much.

  13. I've been married 4 years this month. My advice is to aspire to edit and filter your angry words (at least until you have a clear head), and apologize when you hurt eachother.
    - Michelle

  14. In my 3 months of marriage, I have learned:

    - Even though he sleeps with his elbow firmly planted in the back of my neck and his knees in my kidneys, I can't sleep when he works the night shift.
    - He sweats A LOT at night because he has our king size comforter from our queen size bed wrapped twice around him, leaving me with a spare corner.
    - You cannot have a real knock down fight and test boundaries and get truly angry with each other when you are supporting your elderly grandmother (who lives in the same household but will THANKGOD be moving out in less than a month) because she is in the background egging you both on and you just end up mad at her.
    - You can't use the restroom in peace! The restroom was my escape from the kidlet and know I have a grown man banging on the door to tell me he is hungry or barging in and flushing the toilet while I'm in the shower.
    - You become a different person and you may not like yourself sometimes. He tells me to let him know what I need him to do to make life easier for me and I have realized I don't mind asking for help or telling him I need him to do something, but I do resent him and hate myself when I have to stoop to nagging to get it done.

    But I have to agree with you, you wake up every morning knowing that he has got your back.

    I don't go to bed mentally dividing up our furniture, but that is only because everything we have was mine to begin with. He came into the marriage with nothing and was actually homeless and sleeping on a friend's couch.. And I love him too much to let him go back to something like that. Plus, he is a very patient man and no one else could possibly deal with My Crazy™ (like when the A/C went out and I was getting sick from having the windows open because of allergies and just generally miserable and cranky and he just let me be, even though he spent months during his childhood without any electricity or water at all).

  15. What I learnt from being married?.... was that if I ever get married again I will listen to my gut instincts when they scream 'dont do it'

    Oh and listen to your friends, they know you best so if they dont think you are a good match, chances are you are not.

  16. I have learned that:
    - Compromise and respect go a looong way.
    - Communicating doesn't mean comprehending.
    - Everyday requires a 30 second hug and a minute long kiss. At minimum.
    - And like Lynn said, understanding that you are both two different people with different backgrounds and intentions, and to not take everything so personally.

  17. Tempest - I love the think of why you held on so long. That's exactly right.

    lacochran - Our issues differ vastly from yours but I believe you. And think you are lucky.

    Coleen - We'd only been married for a month and a half before I was pregnant, so before a year was up my dad had died, we'd moved twice, and then we had a baby. Nothing was normal or remotely peaceful after we got married, and I often wished we were younger so we could've had pre-baby TIME. But I think that we work well as a baby-having couple, and it's pretty hard to remember us as child-free (except once in a while, very nostalgically).

    Also: compromise and wine: yes.

    Tia - I think this is GREAT advice. We barely spend time just the two of us, but when we do, we love it.

    Luna - You are so right. We are both flawed, and it's so easier to see the other person's - until yours are pointed out to you! And yes, you're the only person you can change, and you're worth working on.

    Jennie - It is crazy how simple that is, and how hard that is sometimes. But it's amazing advice.

    Lynn - Oh, my god. That's something I've never thought of, and something that makes so much sense. Of course you come from very different places and don't do things the same way - and sometimes it's so hard to understand WHY. Thank you for this comment.

    Hillary - I'm going to imagine the birth/motherhood thing will be, but we'll see what you say.

    frugalveganmom - It's funny, but true - there is this "why can't it be like before?" but there's the fact that life keeps changing and you keep evolving and it just can't. And yes, we're all flawed, and as long as they aren't dealbreakers, we have to figure out how to live with them.

    texpatriate - You are so absolutely completely right. And I love that our anniversaries are the same! Love love love to you all!

    jen - Marrying the right person and realizing how much work that is, I cannot imagine marrying the wrong person and trying to make it work out. And the I love you cannot be oversaid. It really can't.

    Michelle - Yes yes yes. I try. I don't always succeed, but I try.

    Jenn - This: "You become a different person and you may not like yourself sometimes" is so true. I never thought of myself as a nag, but I really can be. But then you can also be the best, most comfortable version of yourself and that's amazing. And finding someone who can deal with your particular crazy is invaluable.

    Go-Betty - Listening to your gut is HUGE. It took me a long time to trust it. Your friends, also very good to listen to.

    K-Tee - Those are all so true.

  18. We'll be married 5 years in a few weeks. I feel like what I learn changes depending on the time.Things like sometimes going to bed angry is better than saying a lot of things in exhaustion and frustration. Things like find ways to touch each other in small, non-sexual ways to remind you that you are connected. Things like learn to laugh at the other's quirks rather than get irritated, unless it's leaving hair all over the sink when he cuts his hair because COME ON. Ahem.

    But I always kind of come back to what my grandmother told me before we got married. You don't want to complete each other--you're complete as individuals. You want to amplify and enhance what is already there. Marriage is a bonus, even when you annoy the crap out of each other, a way to spend your life with someone who makes it better more often than not.

  19. I like what you said! And the comments. I'd add/agree

    - You don't always have to be right
    - Let go of the little things
    - Go out and do something once a week, just the two of you. Pre baby this used to be dinner, now its more like a stolen moment when the baby is asleep!
    - Always have a time away planned. Or something to look forward to so its not just every day the same stretching out before you! Especially true after wedding and honeymoon is done!
    - My husband's parents (married since 1966!) say you should (and do) hug each other 5 times a day. I like that!
    - Learn to compromise but not lose sight of who you are
    - say thank you

  20. Someone above said just tell them "Compromise" and "Wine" Perfect. If you'd like to be more wordy, tell them know when to let things go, but know what you WON'T let go. This is your life together, so while it's never even, be sure it isn't too one sided, either. (I "yes, dear"-ed my way through the first year of marriage. Don't do that.)

    Know that this is not a fairy tale. There's a country song that says "Hey, Cinderella, how's that shoe fit you now?" Funny, but true! It's work and it's hard and sometimes you'll wonder what the hell you were thinking (and so will he), but it's worth it.

  21. I am very lucky. I've been in a bad marriage and now that I'm in a good one I can't imagine how I was ever in that bad one. I am very grateful for my current husband and don't tell him often enough. So, as we approach 10 years of marriage, aside from the blanket thingy, I'd advise gratitude when it is rightly deserved.

  22. Your friends have already said what I'd have said, in various ways.

    Some days your partner makes you feel like you want to jump off the fucking roof. Other days your partner is the only thing keeping you from jumping off it.

    I saw a Julia Roberts interview where she said a friend of hers gave her the best adivce: "If you want to have an interesting life, stay in the relationship you're in, because if you stay in it long enough, it will get very interesting." And I'd like to splice a quote from your friend Lynn, above, right on to that quote: "...the hard times get less and less. And it gets really good just about the time your body starts to fall apart. Thank God."

    Oh, I loved that.


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