I just celebrated 8 years of marriage with my husband. For our anniversary, we left the kids at Grandma’s like we do every year and went off to enjoy a couple days alone together.
Little getaways like this are something we both look forward to all year. Not just to escape the stress of parenting, but because we really love our time together. And with no one else around, we can completely focus on one another.
During the weekend, we walked the beach together, swam together, paddled along the coastline in a 2-person kayak, and ate at a couple nice restaurants. But mostly, we just talked.
We talked about our marriage and how we think it’s going. One consensus we came to: it has never felt like “work”.
Maybe 8 years of marriage doesn’t give me enough “cred” to talk about how NOT hard it is. Some people could say we are still in the newlywed stage. All I can say is, I’m tired of all the negative messages we send to young people about how difficult marriage is when it definitely doesn’t need to be.
Work is something everyone hates doing.
What image comes to mind when you hear the word “work”? I picture a line of dirty, axe-weilding men trudging along to get to the mine.
I imagine a lot of people think of their day jobs and something along the lines of this:
Not the most pleasant associations. Pretty much everybody hates work. Does everybody hate marriage?
When I met John I was 23 and going to grad school. My friend and roommate was a dental student who had recently divorced after a brief marriage. I remember asking her about it, bracing for a heavy-hearted response about how difficult marriage is and how much she regretted it.
Instead, she said “I loved being married. You get to live with your best friend and do everything with them! It’s awesome.”
Kind of ironic that a recent divorcée was the one to give me a more positive impression of marriage. Makes you wonder why conventional messages about marriage are so negative (including the ever-popular “marriage kills your sex life!”, which I take issue with in this post.)
Work is hard, being with the one you love is easy.
You want to know what takes a lot of hard work? Parenting.
Babies need you to do everything for them. Feed them, change them, dress them, bathe them. Wash their clothes, pick up their stuff. Lug them around all day. Comfort them to sleep all night.
If anyone wants to tell me that having kids is hard work, I’ll wholeheartedly agree.
Marriage doesn’t require any of that. My husband takes care of himself. I do things for him sometimes because I want to, and because he does things for me. But it isn’t hard. Being with the person I CHOSE out of all the people in the world to be with is the easiest thing there is. If I had to be apart from him, that would be hard.
Let’s rewrite the script: marriage takes consideration.
So if it doesn’t take work, what does marriage take? Marriages fail all the time so it’s not like they run on auto-pilot. There are tons of how-to and what-not-to-do books out there about how to have a successful marriage. In the interest of simplicity, I would boil it all down to one thing: consideration.
- Be considerate about your partner’s preferences, likes and dislikes. My husband likes order; I am organizationally-challenged. I’m considerate of him and clean out a closet right at the last minute before his head explodes. He is considerate of me and realizes that trying to clean with small children around is like trying to brush your teeth while eating Oreos.
- Consider the other person in your decision-making and how you spend your time. Girls nights are fun, and I hate to ever say no to an activity involving wine. But trying to do bedtime with a 1 adult to 4 kid ratio is a cruel exercise in futility. So out of consideration for my husband, I’ll try to wait until 1 or 2 kids are in bed before leaving. That way he only has to play bedtime whack-a-mole with a couple of them.
- Be considerate about their goals and objectives in life. This should be a continual topic of conversation between the two of you. What are your hopes and dreams and how can I support you in achieving them? Where are we headed together as a family? Do we want the same things? Are we on the same path? How many more of these insane short people can we handle before one of us gets a procedure?
- Consider their feelings. Ok this is like toddler-level basic, but don’t fight dirty. If your spouse is upset, hear them out in a productive way instead of being defensive or assigning blame. Ask yourself the question, do I want to be right or do I want a happy relationship? Approach arguments from the viewpoint of improving the relationship, not convincing your partner to see things your way.
A note about managing expectations
Here is one trap I’ve fallen into in the past (and ladies, please let me know I’m not alone with this one). Expecting your husband to be a mind reader. Why do we do this to ourselves?
“I’m not going to ask for what I really want, because he should just know and then he’ll surprise me with it!” I can’t even think of a better way to set yourself up for disappointment.
Or how about: “how could you neglect to do that thing I never told you to do but just assumed it would magically get done anyway?”
Where are we even coming up with these expectations? Some character from our favorite rom com?
I’ve avoided a good amount of disappointment since I started managing my expectations. I appreciate what my husband does for me, instead of imagining things I WISH he’d done. When I think of him as a partner, I don’t compare him to an image of perfection. Instead, I compare his efforts to my own. Is he doing the best he can just like I am? Then I cut him a break like I want him to do for me.
It doesn’t need to be a fairytale.
My married life is good. It isn’t perfect, and it doesn’t need to be. We are happy together, and when life gets tough we have each other to lean on. Being married doesn’t feel like work, it feels like living my life with a partner instead of alone.
Weigh in! Do you agree or disagree that marriage takes work?