Five Things I’ve Learned in Five Years of Marriage

Going into marriage can be a scary thing. It’s life changing, after all. After signing those papers, you can never go back to being spinsters or bachelors if it doesn’t work out. Now, you’re divorcees. Most of us want to do it right the first time, and while my own marriage is still a fledgling in the grand scheme of things, I’d say I’ve learned a lot and and we’ve done pretty alright.

We are all on the road of life together, and we’ll never live live long enough to make even mistake there is to make on our own. We can learn from others too. That said, I thought I would share five things that are unique to my learning experience with you guys.

Communication is more than just talking.

It isn’t surprising that when we find real connections in life, we want to hold on to them, and seek advice on how to do it. It is no secret either that among the top pieces of advice usually given is communication.

Communication, Communication, Communication

Okay, But Is It Effective?

Even though most of us are well aware that communication involves more than just verbals in other areas of life, how many of us remember that variations in types of communication also apply within our relationships? Do we remember that verbal communication can be oral or written?

Or that communication can also be non-verbal? Silence, for example, can convey indifference, shock or anger. To recoil from or rebuff your partner’s touch is also communicating just as loudly, if not louder than with words. So too can pitch, tone and the like during verbal communication.

Perhaps even more than just communicating, is the importance of communicating effectively. Have you ever wondered why speaking to your partner can seem like you’re speaking to a wall? The truth is, people’s personalities differ. If that is the case, you can communicate until you are blue in the face, if your partner isn’t receiving same in a way they can process, it won’t do you a lick of good.

It takes time

I also learned that communicating, truly communicating takes time. And when you have a lot going on, sometimes, the heavy stuff is not what you want to focus on during times of intimacy (not sex, intimacy.) So, about two years ago, included among my husbands gifts was a marriage journal.

I had thought about it and liked the idea of writing down our thoughts as a way to keep up with each other’s feelings when life gets hectic and/or the mood may not favour just catching up. Each month at the end/start, we take a few minutes to reflect on the month past and write down how we felt overall, pointing out particular areas or feelings of concern that we want to share.

That way, we avoid the rogue ‘Are you Happy?’ questions that shock the wits out of someone on the toilet because the other person can’t bare to go a moment longer without sharing. It’s more intimate than one can guess, and a way to share without prodding, poking or put on the spot. It’s a beautiful way to share unencumbered, and to really listen to each other.

Marriage and Love is a Perpetual Decision

We often think that once you make the decision to marry a person, that’s it. Then you have to fight tooth and nail to keep the love alive. What I’ve found is, it’s not that way at all. It is a decision that you make over and over, everyday from the day you say I do, to be married. To Stay married. To be committed. To be in love. To continue to participate, even when there is a lull in passion, or you are so tired, sex is but once a week, for the sake of keeping the bond. It’s like a hot air balloon, needing deliberate applications of hot air applied to keep it afloat and letting the air cool means the whole thing will come down.

The second you are passively rather than actively participating in your marriage, space is created for you to grow apart. But if you are diligent, and you like your spouse (not just blindly in love and lust, but truly like who they are), I believe you can weather the lulls just as well as you do in those seasons where the heat picks up and you look at them in passing and the fire in your belly makes you want to drag the meat off their bones 24/7.

Marriage is NOT 50/50

I KNOW it sounds great, but no marriage is always 50/50. That’s a fallacy. In any relationship, and certainly in mine, we cannot pull half the relationship ALL the time. There will be a time when you or your partner is going through something and one of you or the other must carry the union 75/25 or 80/20 or… wait for it 100/0. That’s right, I said it. As much as you are a couple, you are individuals too, and you will come upon things in yours lives where one of you finds better footing in handling or coping with a situation mentally and emotionally (possibly even financially) than the other. Maybe they lose a family member, or become ill, or have an accident.

In my own marriage, it was first pregnancy. For more than half of my pregnancy, I was really and truly useless. Morning sickness and peremptory exhaustion wracked my body in ways I never thought possible. I would wake up with barely enough to time to get ready for work, unable to take more than two sips of ginger or mint tea.

After work, I’d fall into bed so completely, in the mornings I woke up the same way I got home from work, only minus shoes. My husband, even with his demanding profession and starting postgrad studies carried me and and our home squarely on his shoulders. Laundry, food (what I could eat) cleaning, everything.

A few years later a swap was made. Our daughter was born, and suddenly he was a resident, and new father, with major exams coming up, struggling to find the balance when it was just us two. I washed, cooked, cleaned, took care of our daughter, sometimes without breaks on nights when he had to work throughout, then come home to study. All while bearing the pain of a back strained by the pregnancy and healing from a c-section. It was hard, but it was my turn.

The saving grace is, no one person should be carrying the relationship all the time. As your lives go on and seasons change, so too should the weight and responsibilities.

The Best Possible Chance you can have, is 50%

50% of marriages end in divorce.

How many of us hear that constantly? As a statistic, or as the reason some people do not want to be married? What many of us do not seem to realise is, 50% is a good number. A high number. No matter what you do, even if you play all your cards right, that’s all you get. You marry for love. You take your time getting to know one another, you communicate, you are in sync, you share morals, and if you are religious, you put God at the centre. Even after all that, the best possible chance you have, is 50% and not a percent more. That is the gold standard as you hope you are on the right side of that pie chart.

But as we all know, life happens. And things happen that creates circumstances that creates conditions no longer conducive to couple leading their lives together. Even if you factor in the ‘Big F‘ (Fidelity, or a lack of it) there are many a things that can happen. People can grow and realise, they want more (or less) than previously decided and discussed with their partner, and that is perfectly okay.

People can change their minds and decided that want something now, that they didn’t before and that thing may be a non-negotiable for their spouse. People can grow to become different people who are no longer compatible, or lead lives cannot continue to be parallel and person must or chooses to go off on a tangent. Whatever the reason, as life applies itself, your odds can either increase or decrease, but at the start, you only get 50.

The trouble is though, most of us, don’t actually start with that 50% chance at all. We stand at the altar with way less. Sometimes oblivious because we really believe we are starting at 50, but the only person you can control is yourself. There are those of us who get married because we wanted the wedding and not necessarily the marriage, or because we think our intended will somehow change.

There are those of us who get married because we think we’ve been together long enough and ‘it’s time’ or ‘may as well’. There are those of us who get married because the other person wanted marriage, and rather than be honest and let that person go, we decide to go through with it. Those that marry to fix an already ailing relationship. There are those that get married to ‘do the right thing’ by a spouse or a child/children or for financial stability or opportunities and the list goes on.

No matter the reason, 50% odds are the best you can ask for when placing bets on humans.

It’s Okay to be Co-Dependent

For a long time in our relationship, I wanted to stay independent. I wanted to stay at that safe place not the fence where, if my heat got broken I could slide and cruise away non the worse for wear. So when my husband would ask me what my expectation of him are, and I would say something like;

Nothing. I expect nothing. You nah mek expectations kill me off.

(If you aren’t Jamaican that means, I don’t want to be disappointed by expectations.)

But as our relationship grew and strengthened, I realised that it wasn’t true. I fully expected him to be someone I can count on, I just hadn’t wanted to admit it. But I did and do count on him. I do trust him. I do depend on him and it’s okay. We are living our lives together and half assing it was’t going to get me the results I wanted. It certainly wouldn’t stop me from getting hurt, If anything, riding the fence would only help to prevent our marriage from working. We set goals together, so it is okay depend on each other. We often only ever hear the term co-dependent with negative connotations, but as a couple, if that is your reality, there is no reason you should be told it’s unhealthy.

I hope you guys have gained something in this experience with me. What about you? How did your marriage fair? Did it work out? What have you learnt? Share in the comments.

2 Comments

  1. Lovely piece! Really enjoyed it. Marriage is a beautiful thing. It’s the coming together of the two worlds and that it involves constant work and care to keep it going. As a person who has gone through a divorce, I can truly say we didn’t work out because our life goals weren’t aligned and our family didn’t mesh. I’m happy I took the leap and got a divorce. It’s probably the best decision I made however lots of people were disappointed I did but it’s my life. Truth is I will remarry again especially knowing what I know and the person I have become.

    As a therapist and marriage counsellor, I emphasize to my clients about communication in all aspects of it. I also emphasize creating shared interests and a friendship. Without shared interests individuals can be living two separate lives but together and friendship makes space for genuine authenticity in a relationship.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for that perspective, Simone. Life goals being parallel is absolutely one of those ‘magic’ ingredients ended for sustainability. I love that you’re willing to give it another shot. Starting over from experience as opposed to zero and building true companionship will definitely go a long way. Wishing you all the best!

      Like

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