I’m not sure what I expected when I walked down that aisle. Almost 3 years ago we took our vows, and we’ve been an “us” for nearly 7. In hindsight, “For better, for worse” seems a little insufficient. I think what they were going for was vague; you don’t know to be scared when you’re not sure what’s coming.
My husband and I, well… we go rounds. We aren’t the rowdy type, we don’t scream, or shove, or break. But I swear, sometimes it feels like we’re at war. I didn’t know you could fight with someone you agree with. That you could be mad about a kind gesture. That having everything would never be enough. That you would never want another, but there’s times where you’d look at your spouse and be certain you could do without.
I want to talk about the worse today, because I don’t think people do that enough. The better is why we do it, and it’s immeasurable… but no one tells you that the difficult will have you asking more often than anyone admits, what am I doing here and is it too late to get out?
If you’re feeling like this, I want you to know: It doesn’t mean you’re a bad wife, it doesn’t mean you’re with the wrong person, and it doesn’t mean you’ll end up divorced. It just means, you’re married.
Here’s some things I’ve learned from my time on the inside.
For better and worse doesn’t mean death, cancer, bankruptcy, and unemployment. The worse is not reserved for tragedy. It is not some unlikely calamity that you can avoid, that hits everyone else’s marriage, but your own. The hard times in a marriage aren’t always marked by loss and disease, they happen monthly, weekly, and sometimes daily. Raising children is hard, saw that coming. But no one could have prepared me for the torture of listening to my spouse eat everyday. We need to normalize wanting to kill each other.
Being married means looking bad. Like, my husband makes me look REALLY bad. He makes me look selfish, hypocritical, arrogant, close-minded, messy, and lazy. He’s not trying to point out my flaws; it’s just that when you spend this much time with someone, they’re impossible to hide.
When the same issues repeatedly pop up, you have to take a hard look at yourself and say, geez… this is how I’m contributing to our dysfunction. Your spouse might donate a great deal to your problems, but focus on what you can do to improve your relationship. Be a catch; be someone they’re lucky to have. Take stock of who you are and if it’s not someone that would be difficult to walk away from, make changes.
I used to think I did a lot and my husband didn’t do enough. For instance, I can count on one hand how many times he has cleaned our bathroom. And you know what I do really well that he’s just so-so at? Cleaning the kitchen. I’m meticulous, and he leaves grease prints on the microwave. Here’s the thing though, I’ve never mowed our lawn and if you asked me to clean the gutters I’d pretend I didn’t hear you. I don’t pay our bills and I barely fold my laundry. I do a lot, but he does just as much. If you focus on everything they’re doing for your family, you’ll probably realize scrubbing his shit stains off your toilet is kind of a vacation in comparison. You’re entitled to be annoyed about it, but check yourself before it turns into “they’d be nothing without me. I keep this ship afloat.”
You can be right. Or you can be happy. This is a tough one for me, because man do I love to be right (see the above list of flaws my husband has pointed out). Those team metaphors for marriage are cliché and accurate. When your spouse loses and you win, you both suffer. Learn to concede and apologize (and then come teach me how).
There’s some ridiculous old school advice that says don’t speak negatively about your spouse. Just because you don’t say anything about your misery, doesn’t mean you’re not miserable. It means you are suffering alone. Cool? No. It’s ok to talk badly about your spouse. It is, I swear. But there are some rules.
First, reach out to someone you trust, someone who is pro-marriage. None of those people who are all, “you deserve to be happy. Even if that means you have to leave.” Get out of here with that. That is not advice or support, that is lazy. I’m not anti-divorce; I’m anti jump ship just because Jimmy doesn’t want you to buy an Escalade. Oh the oppression. Talk to someone who is rooting for your relationship. Secondly, if you’re opening up about the difficulties in your marriage, make sure it is constructive. Meaning, you’re not bashing your spouse just for sport, without making an effort to work through your problems.
Date nights don’t save marriages. A few weeks ago my husband and I spent an embarrassing amount of money on a night out, we also spent the duration of that date asking each other a series of soul baring questions. We had a good time and it had nothing to do with spending our daughter’s college tuition on dinner. The week before we stormed out of a concert over a misunderstanding. The lesson is obvious, communication matters. No amount of dinner dates will help if you aren’t having quality conversation. We’ve all sat silently and awkwardly with the person we love, don’t panic. Whether you have a lot of time together, or very little, it’s important to be conscious of how you’re spending that time.
Don’t forget the person you married. Some days I swear I hate my husband, I’m unsure of how we ended up together, how did someone so genuinely evil trick me? When we are in the throws of an argument my husband will earnestly look at me and say, “What hurts me, is that you know me. You know the person I am.” And he’s right. He’s not inconsiderate, sexist, dishonest, or unkind. I wouldn’t be with him if he were. Don’t let your spouse’s mistakes or moments when he is acting out of character define him.
You might not always be in love with your spouse, but as long as you’re committed to your marriage, you can be again. Too many people walk away from their spouses when they fall out of love, but I assure you, you’ll never have a lasting marriage with anyone if you let love dictate it’s longevity. Love is an essential part of marriage, but commitment is what will ensure it will survive.
Marriages aren’t self-sustaining. Everyone tells you they take work, which is an easy warning to dismiss when you’re in a period that doesn’t, when you’re sure those rules don’t apply to yours. It’s easy to feel like it might be doomed when it fails to measure up to everything you thought it’d be at the beginning. When you start to wonder if it’s supposed to be this hard, remember: your marriage doesn’t have to be easy to be a good one; and it’s ok to say that it’s imperfect out loud.
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