This Monday’s writing prompt is from Absolutely Bananas and man, is it a doozy. Are you ready to hear about REAL LIFE marriage? Excellent, then take off your rose-colored glasses and let’s get started.
First of all, I’m not an expert on marriage. I’ve been married for 18 1/2 years and though we’re very happy now, we have traveled down some really bumpy roads to reach this level of happiness. The advice and experiences I share with you are my own – every relationship is different – but if you learn anything from my advice and/or mistakes, then my job here is done. 🙂
The Prowl – Stage One
Though not technically in the marriage realm, searching for a
perfect suitable mate is crucial to a happy marriage. And for those careful readers out there that noticed I crossed out “perfect?” You get a gold star for the day. *slaps a gold star on readers’ forehead*
Repeat after me: There is no such thing as a perfect mate.
Did you say that out loud? No? Then do it now … I’ll wait.
Excellent. Now let me explain. Potential mates are human. Potential mates change over time. Potential mates assume a persona when it suits him/her. Potential mates are moody. Potential mates …
Well, you get the idea. Everyone has “days.” When you’re on the prowl, you must accept the fact that your potential mate is very, very, VERY human and he/she will have faults – it’s guaranteed. The question is, can you LIVE with those faults for like, the rest of your life? Choose wisely, we’re talking about your future here. If you can’t live with this person’s faults? Break it off and look elsewhere. Seriously. It’s not WORTH being saddled with someone who makes you unhappy – move on to the next potential mate candidate.
And just for the record? People may change their behaviors over time, but overall? People do not change. If he’s a deadbeat boyfriend while you’re dating, you can pretty much guarantee he’ll be a deadbeat husband/father. Is that what you really want?
And for Pete’s sake, if you can’t laugh with the man/woman, then move on. Because later on, down the marital road when the passion ebbs and you’ve settled into a comfortable existence, humor is the only thing that keeps you going.
(Case in point from my past: I dated my “best friend” in high school for a time. We certainly got along well and I was comfortable being around him. BUT, the guy had no sense of humor at all – none. And in fact, lost his temper over the stupidest things. After a while, it depressed me and I couldn’t stand being around him any longer. But rather than stick it out with him because I was worried that no one better would come along? I broke it off. And guess what? Someone better DID come along and I thank God for him every day).
The Early Years – Stage Two
Congratulations! You’ve found someone you love; someone you can be yourself with; someone who makes you laugh and who shares the same interests as you. And you marry. And it’s a glorious day – one of the best in your life (as it should be). The first two years are (typically) the best years of your marriage. You’re in that euphoric stage where everything is “cute” and seemingly nothing bothers you. The fact that he kicks his shoes off wherever he feels like it? Adorable. The fact that he drinks the milk straight from the jug? Sweet – now you can share even more germs together. How romantic.
Enjoy these years. Enjoy each other. And remember this happiness because you will be forced to draw upon those happy years, perhaps even analyze them later, in your marital life. (This is assuming, of course, that they are happy years to begin with. If they are not … well, that goes beyond the scope of this post. But keep one thing in mind – if the beginning years are not happy, chances are, later years will be worse. There are exceptions, but the vast percentage is not looking good).
You’re laughing, you’re having a good time. Live it up.
The Children – Stage Three
(This is assuming you have children. If you choose not to, or it doesn’t happen for whatever reason, then you can pretty much skip the next few stages).
Here’s where it gets sticky (or stinky, whichever applies).
Pay attention: CHILDREN CHANGE EVERYTHING. They change who YOU are. They change your STATUS. They change your PRIORITIES. They change your MARRIAGE … they REALLY change your marriage.
Having children is not like having a pet. When they are babies, they will suck every last ounce of strength from you. They will tire you out. They will demand your attention. They will command your heart. They will be the center of your universe for a while.
That’s normal. But in the meantime? You have a spouse. A person who was used to your attention, your energy, your presence BEFORE the kid came along. It would really behoove you to remember that, AND to share each other’s strength. You will both need it.
Children are worth the pain, the sacrifices, the adjustments. And both you and your spouse will absolutely, positively HAVE to support each other, both physically and emotionally, during the children’s early years. You’re both adjusting and trying to juggle several things at once. In addition, your sense of self has just split into a whole new existence – you’re now more than YOU, or someone’s HUSBAND/WIFE, you’re now someone’s MOTHER/FATHER.
You can not be selfish during this time period. You can not be lazy during this time period. You must pick up where your partner has left off or someone is going to be left out in the cold; it’s just a fact of life.
Men – your sex life will change. Accept it. If you will support your wives during this VERY TRAMATIC emotional/physical shift in her life, it will be worth it. She will appreciate you in more ways than you can imagine.
Women – though he didn’t give birth to the child, he’s still struggling to handle the change. He’s not sure what to do with this little person – be patient with him. A lot of men aren’t programmed with the maternal instinct. You must teach him what to do. You must ALLOW him to do things his own way. You must respect the fact that he’s confused and feeling awkward. Belittling him, chastising him or goading him will only drive him further away. He will help, if you will show him how to help.
Again, I’m speaking from experience here. And don’t forget, you have a sense of humor buried under the diapers and fatigue – find it and use it – use it often.
The School Years – Stage Four
Things tend to level off at this stage. Your children are beginning to develop their own interests and don’t need you quite so much. (Note to parents: this is normal. LET GO).
You now have the energy and the time for you and your spouse. Use it wisely. Plan a weekly lunch/dinner date. Spend some time together. Get re-acquainted. I’m betting you’ll be surprised by the shift in attitudes and interests while you were consumed with your babies/toddlers.
The trick, at this stage, is to adjust to these changes in attitudes and interests. As mentioned, people change over time. What once used to bother them, doesn’t anymore. Or vice versa. Whether you agree with these changes is rather a moot point. Your spouse is interested and you must respect, and support that. (Assuming of course, it’s nothing perverted or potentially dangerous – use common sense, for Pete’s sake). And above all, never, ever, EVER, tell your spouse that his/her ideas are stupid. Trust me – NOT a good move. In essence, you’re calling that person stupid for feeling/thinking that way. If you disagree, say so, but don’t belittle him/her.
Again, speaking from experience here.
The school years are another time you must make adjustments. They may not be as big as the children years, but trust me, you will be forced to adapt to yet more changes. Be flexible. Be fair. Be respectful.
And don’t forget that sense of humor thing!
The Middle-Age Years – Stage Five
The kids are now teenagers, and though there are still problems and issues that must be addressed, they are problems and issues that will most likely involve your teenage children. THESE are issues and problems you can address together. However, be careful. You must agree on these issues and solutions to problems together or your very clever teenage children will use that disagreement as a wedge to pry you apart.
Do not let them.
You must remain a united front at this stage. It’s crucial for your marriage and it’s crucial as parents.
However, life has now become more comfortable. You’re still responsible for caring for your children, but not on the same levels as before. (Hence the beauty of cell phones and Facebook accounts – you can keep track of your offspring without exerting all of your energy. *grin*)
But your relationship has mellowed by this time. You’re now quite used to each other and your comfortable being around one another. You finish each other’s sentences. You develop a sixth sense and find yourselves calling each other at the same time. You start thinking alike and your sense of humor becomes a private joke that leaves outsiders scratching their heads.
Life is good once more. Your relationship has developed that soft, supple feel to it – like a wallet that has been carried around in a back pocket for years. It’s comfortable. It’s fulfilling. And your happy.
Be careful not to allow things to settle into too much of a routine. Shake things up once in a while. And I’m not just talking about in the bedroom. Write an occasional love note and stick it in your spouse’s purse/wallet/car. Tell each other that you love one another – a lot. Show your appreciation for the things he/she does around the house.
And laugh – a lot.
The Twilight Years – Stage Six
I’m afraid I must stop at this stage; we haven’t reached it yet. Therefore, I do not have any wisdom to share with you. But my marriage so far? Has been WORTH the sacrifices, worth the good times and bad. My husband is my lover, my best friend and quite possibly the only man on this planet who had the balls to put up with me through all of these stages.
I thank God for him every day; I truly do. And I pray each and every one of you find the happiness that I’ve been blessed with, too.