I'm only a year into this marriage thing, so I'm hardly an expert, but let me tell you, what a year this has been. We all learn from the hard stuff, and in my life, marriage tops the "hard stuff" list.
The night before I got married, I was ecstatic about marrying the love of my life. Like most brides, I had no idea what I was in store for but I didn't care.
If I could go back to that night and share some wisdom with myself about marriage, there's so much I would say. But I don't want to overwhelm you, so I boiled it down to these six most important things:
1. You better learn how to apologize.
I had NO clue how bad I am at apologizing until I got married. Man, I suck at saying sorry. As a recovering perfectionist, admitting my mistakes drives me absolutely bonkers. Sometimes I have to mouth the words "I'm sorry" a few times before I can actually get them out.
But you must learn to get the words out. Marriage doesn't work very well when one spouse sucks at apologizing. Trust me. Instead of solving problems together, you'll waste all your time arguing about who was right or wrong. I'd send my single self this article on how to apologize if I could.
2. Marriage is a decision, not an accomplishment.
I believe marriage is absolutely cause for celebration, but nowadays it seems more like a rite of passage that many people covet. Don't get me wrong: I remember the days when I would watch Say Yes to the Dress and flip through engagement photos on Facebook, wondering when my turn would come. This is normal single-girl behavior when kept in check. But in the midst of all my pining and drooling, I started to view marriage as an item to cross off my to-do list, rather than the risky, serious, and beautiful decision that it is.
Here's what we should be celebrating: staying happily married for five years...10 years...15...20. When we make it to any of those milestones, bake us a cake or throw us a party. Until then, we haven't really accomplished our goal. So I find it best to view marriage as an ongoing decision. A daily one.
3. It's not all about comfort or security.
Marriage provides many comfortable moments. Giggling together after farting in bed is not something I do in the presence of most folks. There are times when my husband and I share feelings of closeness that feel so amazing, I want to wrap myself in them like a blanket.
I married my husband eager for that exact feeling of unending security that I was sure marriage would give me. Then one day during an awful argument, I realized that I married a wounded, broken, and wonderful person (and so did my husband). That's why it's problematic to marry for security or comfort: No relationship is 100 percent safe or predictable. Humans are imperfect and therefore incapable of offering us perfect behavior all the time. This makes marriage risky, and you have to be willing to work on maintaining trust and finding comfort through all sorts of hard times.
4. You will have to deal with all those issues you tried ignoring for 28 (or however many) years.
I'm a control freak. I'm selfish. I'm insecure. And before getting married, I had no real incentive to actually deal with any of my issues. In fact, I had gotten really good at pretending my issues are actually non-issues. (Did I mention that another issue I have is perfectionism?)
Well, now I have a husband—someone who reminds me on a daily basis when I'm being crazy/driving him crazy. Now I get it: My husband needs me to work on my issues because so many of my decisions, large and small, affect him. For instance, when I regularly go to Bikram yoga, write in my journal, and go to therapy, I am indirectly showing my love for him and making our marriage better. Being a crappy version of ourselves will only result in a crappy marriage for the both of us. So we love each other enough to both work on our issues.
5. You will never laugh so much in your life.
Laughter is probably the best part of my marriage because I'm married to one of the funniest men alive. And on the days we really struggle, it's good to know we always have our sense of humor to rely on. Laughter can be the greatest medicine, if we let it. I just might end up with a laughter-induced six-pack by our golden anniversary.
6. Being good to him starts with listening to him.
In relationships, seek to love more than you seek to be loved. Before my wedding day I thought I would be good at this, but a year of marriage has shown me otherwise.
Being good to my husband doesn't mean treating him how I think he wants to be treated, or even how I want to be treated. Being good to my husband means treating him as he wants to be treated. And the only way to know that is by listening to him—and I mean REALLY listening to him.
Since I can't go back and tell my single self all these tips, at least I can tell you. It's taken me a year to learn some of these lessons and others I'm still working on. I love my husband. Most days, I think he's the cat's pajamas. Still, I would have never guessed how difficult being married to him would be.
Whether we want to admit it or not, I think the first year or so is hard for a lot of people. No one fully knows what she's getting into when she gets married, and I think that's part of the beauty of marriage. Each day two wounded, broken, and wonderful people get a chance to recommit, regardless of what happened the day before. It's nothing short of a leap of faith. So each day I leap, trusting that my husband will not catch me but rather leap with me. We've definitely got our work cut out for us. But I'm grateful to be with someone who seems up to the challenge