What Your Mother Never Told You

By Lisa and Bill Horst
(Owners of William Ashley Agency, a Raleigh traditional matchmaking service )

It seems that something becomes amiss somewhere between Cutting the Cake festivities and eating that last piece on your one-year anniversary. No one told you marriage was hard. Really hard. And that’s just the first year (pre-kids, multiple jobs, and a house purchase). Indeed, it seemed that finding your lifelong mate was the hard part; you’re home free after that! No more first dates, bad dates, or lonely nights with a bowl of ice cream.

The current popularity of chick flicks, reality TV dating shows, books, and courses on how to get married all attest to how hard this part, the part you got right, the part you hold right now, is. But that’s just the beginning. Oh, they tell you that. But no one really explains it. They say, “This is only the beginning,” in a way that seems like, “This is only the beginning of daily bliss until eternity.” Really, the day you get married is only the beginning of figuring how to keep two different people — no matter how well-suited — living and growing together for the next 50 years.

You pick up tips over the years from friends and family: Never go to bed angry. Hold hands when you fight to remind yourselves you’re always on the same side. Compromise. But these are tools (albeit good ones). They don’t get at some very basic truths: You Will Not Always Like — Let Alone Feel Loving Toward — Your Spouse. We all know couples who say they were born to be together. But more often than not, successful relationships are created by two willing and able individuals who have enough commonalities and chemistry to try to make a go of it. That means your spouse does not have 100 percent of the qualities on your mental checklist.

You’re married, so you’ve accepted this. But recognizing this means by default you do not like everything about him/her. And some days, that will mean that those less-than-endearing qualities will grate on your every last nerve more prominently than others. Some days, you will glance over at your spouse and think, “What am I doing with this person?” That’s okay. Because it’s not realistic to think that two wholly separate people — regardless of how well-matched they are — are going to be on the same page every day for the rest of their lives together. Hormones get out of whack. There are bad days at work. Daily life becomes cumbersome. Just be aware that the positive days outweigh the negative.

Marriage Is Not 50-50; It’s 110-0. Marriage is definitely a give-and-take. But compromise doesn’t necessarily mean that each person gives up something for the good of the whole. If you compromise in a 50-50 manner, neither spouse fully gets what he/she wants. No one is fully satisfied. Moreover, some days you are able to give more than you need to receive. Some days, you need to take. How you two complement each other indicates how the scales of giving and receiving will work. But it’s inevitable that there will be certain times when one spouse is doing a lot more giving than receiving. Just know that this give-and-take will fluctuate between the two of you: you might feel exhausted now, but you’ll get the support you need when you ask for it, too. Marriage Is Not An End Unto Itself or Yourself.

Particularly in the early years, it’s easy to become consumed by your passion and romance to the exclusion of much else. You stop doing things with girlfriends. You’d rather stay home and watch a movie than pick up a squash game with your buddies. You even start to look alike. But no one wants Death by Relationship. This suffocates both the relationship and your individual growth. Ensure you maintain all the reasons you were attracted to each other in the first place. Don’t neglect friends or family. Outside interests and relationships only help stimulate yours. As you mature together, find new common interests and explore individuals ones. For example, you both might want to take some classes at the local university, but it doesn’t have to be the same ones. Creating a strong sense of self, recognizing and building on what makes you, you, goes a long way toward maintaining a positive relationship.

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