I started writing for the blog a little before I got married. Around the time of my anniversary each year, I’ve written a post about my married experience. For my first anniversary I shared “4 Things I Didn’t Expect” (about marriage) and last year I gave you “4 Reasons Why Marriage is Worth the Risk (Even in the Age of Ashley Madison)“. This year I was thinking about what sort of married life wisdom I could share with you, and the only thing that came to mind was advice that older and wiser people had told me. So, as my third wedding anniversary approaches (next month) I’ve decided to share the three best pieces of advice I’ve received during my marriage.
1. Go to Bed Angry (Sometimes)
I’ve always been a fighter when it comes to my relationships. I think that discussing an issue can allow you to unearth the deeper problem and talking things out can keep you from feeling resentment. By the time I got married I had also heard and/or read one piece of marriage advice over and over again: don’t go to bed angry.
I’m glad someone told me to cast that advice aside.
Instead, they suggested that sometimes we really should go to bed angry. Because sometimes, even the best of us want to strangle our partner for a reason that will seem pretty silly the next day. Often, by postponing that impulse to vent your irritation, you can avoid making an argument out of something that doesn’t really matter.
2. Be Vulnerable
I’m a feminist. Back when I first started writing for the blog I was a little tentative about admitting this fact, but over the years I’ve become loud and proud about my feminism. Since we have always agreed that our marriage is an equal partnership, I tend to bristle anytime I feel like John is pushing me around. My first impulse is to stand my ground and, although it’s generally a misunderstanding, it used to always turn into a fight.
For example, when we were first married I would snap at him anytime he would talk to me in his stern voice (which I now refer to as his teacher voice). It felt disrespectful to me, so I would be disrespectful back. I hardened myself every time this happened, because I refused to be the weak one in the relationship (i.e. a docile wife being pushed around).
Then one day instead of responding angrily or snapping back at him, I started crying.
That’s when I learned that being vulnerable in a relationship takes strength. By admitting that I felt hurt/ disrespected, I was able to turn a fight into a conversation. During that conversation, I learned that John never actually intended to be rude or disrespectful, and he finally understood why that tone of voice always set me off. By being vulnerable, I made him willing to change a habit that he found harmless, just because it would make me feel happier.
As a woman I’ve spent most of my life being told I’m vulnerable, so perhaps the impulse came easier to me. For John it took some time before he felt safe enough to tell me when I did something he found hurtful. However, when he finally did start opening up to me, I immediately felt inspired to change my behaviour. It’s easy to want to make your partner feel safe and happy when you’re doing it out of an impulse to protect them from pain, rather than doing it to avoid getting a lecture. By being honest about our own struggles and sensitivities, we’ve since been able to stop many of our fights before they even start.
3. Find Your Best Friend (and Keep Looking for the Best in Them)
I’ve mentioned the “Best Friend” cliche more than once in these anniversary posts. Partially, it’s because I’m always surprised that one year can be more fun than the next. Partially, it’s because this is the piece of advice that has stood out for both of us over the years.
The thing about having fun with your best friend is that sometimes the fun can get lost in the busyness of life. I feel lucky that my best friend happens to be the most obnoxious bug to ever walk the planet. Consequently, I end up laughing pretty well every day because of something ridiculous (and probably annoying) that he has done.
However, as much as I love my husband’s unique characteristics, I could easily choose to focus on the few things that drive me crazy. Right now, it’s easy for us to have fun. We still live the student lifestyle, so, even if our bank account is strapped we can easily make time to be together. We also don’t have kids yet and (from what I hear) that can certainly add a new level of stress.
I realize that, in the future, finding the fun in our relationship might take more work than it does now.
That said, I promise to always keep looking.