There is so much expectation around marriage, and very little instruction. The messages we hear are, just be in love and love each other through it all. Let down your guard. Be open. Be honest. Be transparent. Practice vulnerability. It’s easy. Just do it and you’ll stay married. Yeah right. It takes a lot more work than that. Here are 5 hard truths about marriage you don’t want to hear. These have helped us in countless ways, and I know they can help you too. We didn’t want to hear these either, but once we started paying attention, everything changed for us. There’s hope for your marriage too.
When Jason and I are in: conflict – I could have said argument, fighting, screaming match, full on war, but let’s stay with the word conflict because we all know that’s more pc- We know what a certain look means, or when the other person will lash out in sarcasm. We know all the weaknesses and vulnerabilities of each other.
We can take each other apart quicker than anyone else on the planet. Why is it so easy to do? The person we chose to marry, the person that we were starry eyed in love with when we walked down the aisle, suddenly becomes the one person we can rip to shreds. Somehow they became our enemy. We blame the years of our relationship for that. Somehow they have ‘changed.’ They aren’t the person they used to be, it’s not you, it’s them. News alert, you aren’t the same person either.
1. You chose your partner in the beginning. Are you choosing them now?
We also forget that underneath the daily grind, we love each other. We are choosing each other. We chose each other a long time ago. It’s so easy to not choose. When we don’t choose, things fall apart. We get conflicted, we question, we wonder, am I missing out? Did I marry the wrong person? It’s a daily choice as we are learning. Daily. Either we choose ourselves and our marriage, or we don’t. Either we engage with each other, or we don’t.
Did you marry the wrong person?
It’s up to you to decide if you married the wrong person, but I’m here to tell you that it’s highly likely that you did marry the right person, you just have layers of your relationship history to work through. If you just read that, and thought, ‘yeah right, I chose the wrong person,’ then you are very likely not choosing your partner (see #1).
Don’t say in an abusive relationship. Get professional help if you are, or think you are. Please know I’m starting from the premise that you are at least semi-functional and I’m not a professional. These are my opinions only and I speak for what has worked for us, not giving medical advice.
If you are choosing not to fully engage with your partner because you think they have changed, that is a choice. No matter how evil you think your partner is. Because the truth is, they might not be evil. I’m not being judgmental. I know it’s not so simple just to choose them, especially when you’re having deep problems that might seem unsurmountable. Give yourself some grace if you want to see the way forward, but can’t. Just know that there is hope and that it really does start with choice. There have been times we didn’t believe that either, and that’s ok. Sometimes you might need the help of a professional to start untangling these difficult emotions and really sort out what’s going on. There’s no shame in that.
Jason and I are totally different people than when we first married, but we are still the same underneath it all. If you’re married, you know what I mean. He fell in love with me because I am fun, confident, and also deeply emotional and a deep thinker. I fell in love with him because he was a hot 22 year old (I seriously did think that was so cool at the time, I was 18 when I met him), he was kind, funny, open, and pretty emotionally intense.
We loved each other truly and sincerely. Everyone around us knew it. Our wedding we a crying event, every single person in attendance cried that day. Happy tears, that is. We had so much support in the early days. Jason and I were tearful as we said our vows, because we KNEW. We have always known we had something extremely special. We still do. That reality has gotten lost a few times along the way, but underneath it all, we still do have something special.
We’ve changed and matured over the years. Some things in good ways, and others in unhealthy ways that have required work. We are both still all the things we were in the early years. Now we have life history, a family, careers, and life experience. All of that has shaped us. Our good times, bad times, and the truly bone shaking wild ride have changed us. Life experience will do that, it makes you fundamentally different
2. Believe the best intentions. It’s the person you married after all.
Don’t forget to believe the best about your partner. They have your best interests at heart. That reality might have gotten lost through time and space and diaper changing. If they are hurting you, you have to get the courage and tell them so. We’ll talk abut that courage a little later. Underneath it all, they really do have your best interests at heart, even if they aren’t showing it.
Do you have the best intentions for your partner? It’s a two way street. If you harbor doubt about your partner’s intentions for you, it’s good to do some self-reflection. Are there areas in which you could rise above the current issue you are facing, and assume that they do love you underneath it all?
This one is critical. It’s the foundation of trust. We’ve lost our way a few times in this area, i.e. too many to count, and it’s hurt us. When we’ve laid down our pride and assumed that the other person really did have the best for us, it changed everything.
3. Listen. It sounds trite. You’ll have to learn how. Then do it.
The one best thing that Jason and I have learned is to listen to each other. Laying down ourselves to really listen. Regardless of whether we agree with what the other person is saying, and just listening fully to what they have to express has been a key.
We have learned to stop in the middle of a knock down drag out argument, and just shut up and listen to what the other person has to say. Sometimes we grab the other person’s hand and say, ‘I need you to listen to me.’ It’s cheesy, it feels awkward in the moment, but you can do it. It’s calming actually. You have to decide to lay yourself aside totally. Really, that means your pride. Lay it down and make that sacrifice for the sake of your marriage. We mess up a lot on this area too. It takes practice and we know we will never get it perfect.
4. Tell your partner how you feel. The deep stuff.
Remember that this is your partner and it’s really important that you be open with each other. They need to know the real you. That soft underbelly that you don’t show the world, can be shared with your mate. Being open to telling them, also means they need to listen to you. You also need to be open to hearing about how you are hurting them. You are hurting them too. I know it, because we’ve done it. We’ve hurt each other.
In the end, when we really get to brass tacks, Jason and I usually know how we’ve hurt each other already. We’ve chosen to be mindful of that, and to learn how to be gentle with each other. The softest, most insecure, vulnerable parts of us are being exposed daily, and we have chosen to take care of each other in that.
5. You can’t do this alone. Communicate daily with each other about your needs. It’s awkward at first. Do it anyway.
I’m telling you this as a couple that did try to do it alone and eliminate communication. It didn’t work well for us. It’s either a quick way to make things go badly in your relationship, or a slow and painful disconnect that happens. We didn’t talk as much as we should on a regular basis. We didn’t open that difficult conversation about how we were doing and what we really, truly, and authentically needed.
It had to start somewhere, so we started talking about it one day. It wasn’t pretty, it was awkward, and scary, and both of us were filled with anxiety. But we realized that we both needed it. We’ve continued to lean in, and have a conversation every single day. Now we are both getting our needs met. It feels really good. We all have needs. We worked through the awkwardness of those first tries and are learning how to do it. No regrets from either one of us in this area.
Jason and I have grown a lot in this area, and we’ve realized the work is never done. We aren’t newly married, but we have to continue this path in order to continue to connect in our marriage. It’s been worth it. It takes time, effort, and therapy, but it’s worth it to us. You can do this too. We are the experts in conflict avoidance, but we realized that by facing things head on, it’s a much better outcome. If you want to read more on marriage from us, this is a good post.