A few of my favorite blogs have been talking about the best advice they could give to newlyweds. It got me thinking about the best advice about marriage that I had been given.
During our first year of marriage there were some forces outside of our control that added immense amounts of stress to our relationship. Those of you with blended families will likely understand immediately what I'm talking about. Those of you who are not should know that step-families are challenging even in the best circumstances and when everyone has all their oars in the water. (At some point I will do a post on step-families in general so you understand where I'm coming from with this.)
I tried for months to bite my tongue on an issue that I felt like I needed to let Hubby handle on his own. I didn't want to nag him. I didn't want to fight. But I also didn't want to be angry and resentful and that was the road I was heading down.
I went to my mom for advice..and maybe to bitch and complain and be told that I was right. My mother has raised four children. She's survived the step-family dynamics. And she and my step-dad have been married for almost 20 years.
There are a few things you should know about my mom. She's no nonsense. She doesn't put up with pity parties. And she will not tell you that you're right just to make you feel better. She also has the kind of marriage that try to model my own after.
She and my step-dad got married in the height of their children's obnoxious years. Their newlywed stage coincided with teens, tweens, and overall brattiness on behalf of me and my brothers. I'm sure we didn't make it easy for them. Blending two families is never easy. Except they made it look that way.
They made it look like everything was easy. And I don't mean that in a bad way. I mean that it was apparent then, and it still is now, that they love each immensely, they love all of us children immensely, and that they could weather anything because of that.
Looking back now through the lens of my own step-family experience, I'm sure it wasn't easy. I'm sure there were lots of things in my self-centered youth that I missed and took for granted and just generally had no clue about. But more than anything, what I remember about that time is how obvious it was that they were in love.
As simple as that sounds, you don't always see that in parents (your own, your friends, strangers on the street). It was so obvious that we used to tease them and I was complain about how "gross" it was that they held hands when we went to the mall. Because there is nothing more embarrassing to a teenager than having to admit you have parents at all...let alone parents who would dare to hold hands. IN PUBLIC!
The reason I'm telling you all this is so that you understand why I would put so much faith in my mother's advice (outside of her being my mother and all).
So I went to visit her and complained. Poor me. Hubby won't do it my way. Hubby won't do EVERYTHING my way. If it were me, I would do it this way. Why didn't he just KNOW to do it this way?
And she may have (gently) pointed out that I had never mentioned any of this to Hubby. I'd just expected him to know how I would do it and do it that way. Wasn't that what it mean to be married? You just knew what the other person wanted. Right? Right? Oh. I see.
Not only did I have to be willing to tell Hubby what I was thinking, I had to be OK with disagreements. I had this idea in my head that couples who were right for each other never fought. Now I know that couldn't have been further from the truth. Couples who really care about each other and their relationship don't just disagree from time to time, sometimes they flat out argue or fight. Sometimes they do it in a mature way. Sometimes they do it in, ahem, less mature ways (like storming out the house and going to Target to hide).
Couples who really care, care enough enough to disagree with each other. They care enough to speak up when something isn't right. They care enough not to let things slide that will eat away at them later. They care enough to fight because sometimes fighting is the harder thing to do. They care enough about the marriage to constantly strive to make it stronger and to not just take the easy way out.
I went back to Hubby later and told him what I really thought. And we argued about it. And eventually we reached a solution that worked for us. Was it comfortable and easy? No. I'd have rather just come home pretended everything was fine and watched a movie. Was it the right thing to do for our marriage? Absolutely.
We were able to take a situation that could make or break a young marriage and use it to make our relationship stronger. And we really are a better team for it.
I try to remember that advice when the big things creep up. I'm not talking about the pile of clothes on the floor instead of in the hamper. Oh wait, those are mine. I'm talking about the BIG stuff. The stuff that eventually defines a marriage. The stuff that you know you won't sleep that night if you don't do the right way. Those are the things not to short change your marriage with by at least trying to talk it out.
Do I get it right every time? Not even close. But I keep trying... because I want to have the kind of marriage where my children complain about how gross and in love their parents are too.