Planning a wedding is such an exciting time. Choosing your bridesmaids, your color scheme, where to have your reception – it’s all so much fun.
And that fiancé of yours…isn’t he a catch? You probably get butterflies in your stomach when he kisses you, or as soon as he walks in the door. It would be so awesome if you could always feel this way about him.
But you won’t. I know it’s hard to imagine now, but that man will drive you nuts.
My husband and I were together for seven years before we got married, and at our pre-marital retreat, we were given an assignment to write a list of the things we didn’t like about each other. Afterward, we had to talk about those things and discuss how we planned to accept or change them. Things like me not speaking up when something was bothering me; or him not calling when he said he would. I think I may have written about five things about him on my list.
Today, I have 50. Or more.
He doesn’t wash his whiskers down the sink. He leaves his soda cans on the counter for ME to pick up. He leaves his socks on the floor exactly where he took them off after work — and when he DOES decide to pick them up, he puts them on TOP of the laundry basket lid instead of INSIDE of it.
When money is tight, he can buy a couple cases of beer on the way home, but I’m not supposed to buy a new dress? He just had a fancy business dinner last night while I ate grilled cheese with the kids, but a friend called and asked him to go out tonight and he said yes because “Last night was a work event”? EXCUSE ME??
In our first seven years of marriage, I probably shouted “divorce” ten times….or more. I would get so frustrated that I couldn’t think about anything else but how much easier it might be to live on my own (or back at my parents’ house). But after 14 years, I can now deal with the 50+ things on my list, and some of the reasons I got so mad in the past seem not so bad now.
I’m so glad I didn’t give up, and I want to share a few things that might help when you feel like you might want to call it quits.
Maybe it’s not just him…
Don’t get me wrong. I am on your side, girlfriend. When he’s annoying and disrespectful, and clips his toenails right there on your carpet, it makes it easy to assume that he is the one that’s not making this work. But when it comes to marriage, sometimes the only way to accept his faults is to admit that you are (come close….closer…..shhhh…) not perfect either.
I stay quiet when I’m upset….at first. I don’t say anything, and then I get madder and madder and then I EXPLODE! If I could just say in the first place that I would rather he not go out tonight because I wanted to watch a movie with him, it would save wasted time being angry. The thing about guys is they can’t read minds. You can think he just knows you want to spend time with him, or that you wanted to go out with your friends, or that you really wanted a big box of chocolates for your anniversary, but he has NO CLUE whatsoever. The sooner you know that you have to speak up, the easier time you’ll have.
I’ve backed my van into things a few more times than I care to admit. I could probably wait to start handing out fruit snacks and cheeseburgers and juice cups to the kids until my van starts moving forward.
I start projects and don’t finish them, and sometimes I don’t take my husband’s advice.
A few years ago, I was really tired of the wooden spindles in our entry way. I felt like every time someone walked in, I was peeking at them through jail bars. So even though we were in the middle of a kitchen renovation and he told me that we would tackle that project later, I didn’t wait.
My friend came over one day after preschool, asked how badly I wanted them down, and I said REALLY badly. She went into our garage and found a circular saw, put on a pair of Fisher-Price goggles and revved that baby up. She sawed the spindles in half, then we yanked them down. The only problem was they had been nailed into the wall above, and there were now huge holes that had to be filled and painted over. I am not a caulker, and I am not a painter. And when I tried to do both of those things, it looked like crap. He was so mad at me when he got home from work. Why hadn’t I just listened to him? Instead, it was a problem that he had to fix. Let’s just say that wasn’t the only time I’ve done that kind of thing. I always have the best intentions to take charge, but something always happens and he has to take over. I’m starting to realize that he doesn’t like that very much.
With our kids, when he’s already made a decision and has told them no, I sometimes step in and say “Well I don’t see why not.” I want the kids to be happy, but my undermining him doesn’t show them that I respect him much, so in their eyes, why should they?
What I’m saying is that sometimes, admitting that you’re wrong is the hardest thing, but once you do, it opens up a whole new avenue for fixing things. And understanding that you have faults makes you a little more empathetic to his.
The grass is not always greener…
When things aren’t going so well between you two, it’ll be easy to look at someone else who seems happier, and wonder how you can have that. Maybe your friend’s hubby rubs her back when you’re all out to dinner. Maybe your co-worker’s boyfriend is always sending her flowers. Maybe the guy you see at Starbucks every morning is looking better and better each day.
But know this: No one is perfect. No relationship is perfect.
Ask the girl who gets her back rubbed if things are perfect at home. I doubt it. Ask the girl whose guy sends flowers if he ever has bad breath. I bet he does. And that guy at Starbucks? He probably farts in his sleep too.
In our years of marriage, I have seen people run away from each other to find something better — to get those butterflies back — and a lot of times, they end up wishing they had stayed. I know there are lots of cases when couples really just aren’t meant for each other, and they find true love with someone else. That’s great. But if you go into this making it want to work, it’s best to know that flawlessness is not going to happen with your guy or with anyone else.
Look to the wise ones…
I am not an expert. But I would call those who have put up with each other for 30, 40, or 50 years experts. Listen to what they have to say — how they made it work.
One time, about five years into our marriage, my husband and I had a terrible fight (it must have been REALLY bad because I can’t even remember what it was about now!). That was back when he traveled internationally, and he was leaving for a two-week trip. It was a stressful time because I was taking care of two babies. On his way out the door, I swore that when he got back, the boys and I would be packed up and gone.
The next morning after I had cooled off, I checked my email and found a message from him. I opened it up and this is what it said:
“Liz, I sat next to an elderly German woman on the plane ride here. She asked me if I was married, and I told her yes. She said she just lost her husband of 52 years last month, and the only thing she wishes she could do is get back the time she wasted arguing with him about leaving the cap off of the toothpaste and other silly things like that. I don’t want to fight any more. I’m sorry.”
I don’t know if that woman was an angel placed on the plane from someone up above or what, but since then, every time I get mad about one of those things on my “list,” I think about what she said.
And I know it’s hard to take advice from our parents, but sometimes they can give great insight. If they’re not still married, they can tell you what didn’t work so you don’t make the same mistakes. Mine are together after 40 years, and I’ve recently started exploring why.
My dad is not a tidy person. He brings in groceries and unloads everything but leaves the plastic bags all over the table and floor. He keeps papers piled high in his office. One day I asked my mom, “How can you stand his messiness?” And she gave me a piece of advice that I remember each time I’m upset.
“I decided a long time ago that anger is a choice,” she said. “I can choose to live with him and all the things that aren’t that pleasant, or I can choose to live without him. I choose to live with him, and with all the things I do love about him.”
It makes so much sense! If your husband is a wonderful father and would rather play catch with your boys than manage the weeds creeping up around the yard, think about what’s more important. If he’s good to you and respects you even though he flicks water on the bathroom mirror when he shaves (and doesn’t wipe it off), would you rather live alone with an unstreaked mirror? Probably not.
Remember that you’re individuals….
Becoming a part of someone else’s life is hard. You have to make “you time” and “us time” and “girl time” and he has to have “him time” and “guy time.” And then when you have kids, most of your time will be “family time.” It’s easy to forget that you started out separately, and that you each still need to feel independent. Don’t be jealous if he needs to go chat with a friend — because you will need the same thing in a day or a week or a month. Spend the day with your mom — she was your best friend before he was. Go for a run – it helps to clear your head.
Sometimes, when you spend time away from each other, the little things that bother you seem so much smaller. You might look around and see the other “options” that are out there, and realize just how good you have it. You forget about what drives you nuts — and start to remember why you decided to get married in the first place.
I wish you the best of luck, the strength to get through hard times, and many, many happy years.
Wonderful, Elizabeth! Great read, and very well said!