When I got married, I was excited to start my new life with a great guy. It was going to be smooth sailing, right? I look back now and laugh because I had no idea about the practical marriage lessons headed my way.
Maybe it’s because I'd never lived with a man before, or maybe it's because our personalities are wildly different. All I know is the learning curve was steep. I'm going to share with you 3 marriage lessons I've learned.
1.It's okay to put off an argument till a better time
I used to think our disagreements had to be totally ironed out before we went to bed. Haven't we all heard the advice about not going to bed angry? So I'd push the matter even when it was clear that hubby was fed up of talking and not in the mood. Then I'd get frustrated with his lack of input.
I felt we weren't really getting to the bottom of the issue at hand, and we weren't. Because the timing wasn't right and we were swimming in our feelings.
What I eventually found out was that if he says "I'm tired, let's talk about this later", it's actually in my interest to say "okay". Agreeing to discuss it later satisfies me. Then, even if everything isn't 100 right between us, we can be civil with each other. We aren't sleeping in a war zone.
Putting a pin in it till the next day gives me time to process my feelings, ponder whatever he might have said, and decide how best to express myself. This way I can explain it in a composed manner-my anger and sarcasm don't steal the stage and become the 'new' problem. (Men love doing that :).
2. Give him points for making effort-not mind-reading first!
Earlier in our marriage, I used to equate my husband's love for me with his ability to sense what I wanted. I mean if he loves me, he's supposed to know, right? I got disappointed because my hints flew right over his head. Hints my girlfriends would have easily picked up on.
I spent some time hurt, then one day I just spoke up. I'm so glad I did, because that's how I discovered he wasn't snubbing me-he needed to be plainly told. Basically, he wasn't as perceptive as my girlfriends. It was a disappointment, but the good things is that I get more of what I want now and have less hurt feelings. With time, he got better at anticipating my desires.
My advice would be don't be in a hurry to cop an attitude and conclude your man doesn't care about your needs- be crystal clear he's aware of them!
3. Only give him choices you've shortlisted
Once we bought our first home together, we had lots of decorating decisions to make. In the past, he'd always maintained he was color blind-everything in his bachelor pad was black, white or brown.
I'd been the one saving pictures from decor magazines (this was pre-Pinterest). And yes, I enjoyed evaluating the differences between ‘Moderne White’ and ‘Cultured Pearl’. He just wanted things done so we could move on. That's when I discovered I couldn't think aloud over my choices because he'd chime in and encourage me to settle on something I wasn't totally sure about. Then I'd go back and forth over it and he'd listen, feeling baffled and exhausted.
He's thinking: Hadn't we already agreed on this? This is taking forever. She's so confused.
I'm thinking: What's the problem? Everyone knows it's a woman's prerogative to change her mind. We don't get a second chance to get this right.
But I often remember this cartoon and I know I want to be taken seriously:
Step 1: I edit down the choices down to ones I know I'm 100% ok with (very important). If I need more information first, I get it from a knowledgeable source.
Step 2: Then I let him finalize things, to include him in the process. (This really is final because I followed step 1.)
This method works for every other couple decision where we both need to agree. If I'm not invested enough to shortlist choices, then I'm fine letting him do the choosing, and vice versa. Sometimes we pool our shortlists together.
Looking back, I can say bridging the gap has been work, but it's made the sailing smoother. I'm learning more every day, but I don't feel as mystified as I used to. Hopefully, my curve is straightening out!
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