I anticipated that marriage would be tough. As a teenager, my mother titrated my expectations to understand that marriage would not be a bed of roses. Come to find out that even with her marriage advice, the learning curve was still steep (to say the least)!
It was like training to run a race and then arriving at the race to find out that you have to run it blindfolded! You just can’t be prepared enough!
Next month, I will be two years in and I am in no way, shape or form, qualified to offer you any “foolproof methods” on how to succeed in marriage. (Is anyone really???) However, In honor of Valentine’s Day (which just passed) and my upcoming wedding anniversary, I want to share some of the big lessons that made all the difference between where we were and where we are now.
Marriage Lesson #1:
Express yourself (but add maggi)
Maggi (also known as bouillon) is a seasoning that is used very often when cooking Nigerian food. I don’t know what it is about that stuff but if you want something to be delicious, you better add Maggi. Otherwise, your meal doesn’t stand a chance.
A similar concept applies to marriage- season your words with kindness or your message doesn’t stand a chance.
It is extremely important to express your likes and dislikes, however, what I have learned thus far is that in marriage, communication is a delicate balancing act. While it is important to express myself (holding everything in is a terrible terrible idea), the delivery is of utmost importance.
Some specific lessons that I’ve learned about saying things in a better way are:
- Avoid absolutes like “always” and “never”. They’re just not accurate and they tend to provoke an emotional response.
- Most of the time, the best time to talk about something is NOT when you are already angry about it.
- Tone is important – Saying regular things with an attitude just sounds like you’re having an attitude.
- You don’t always have to SAY it- you can text it, record it, write a letter about it… If you have a hard time articulating your message by speech, get creative! One of my awesome sister in laws told me that her and her husband email each other when discussing difficult topics because it helps them to thoroughly explain their point of views and it also creates a reference, to which they can go back and hold themselves accountable.
Comment below with other tips on expressing yourself in a kind manner.
Marriage Lesson #2:
Holding grudges is counterproductive
At this time, I would like to put my hand up and admit that when it comes to marriage, I, Deze, by nature, am a champion, elite, Olympic-level grudge holder. God is working on me every day and I have improved immensely but man! By nature? I am a gold medalist at the art of not letting it go.
I quickly learned in year one that this is a completely useless skill. More than useless, it is counterproductive and harmful. There is a quote that says something like “holding a grudge is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die”.
Stewing over things over and over again has 3 main effects on me:
- It stresses me out emotionally and physically.
- The issue that made me mad never gets solved! Half the time, hubby doesn’t even know I’m mad or he doesn’t have a clue what I’m mad about (which makes me more mad lol).
- It steals time! Life is precious and I
wantneed, to spend more of it happy!
I continue to grow in this area daily but my advice to you is: if you can solve it, solve it right away and if you can let it go, I’d like to quote Elsa by saying, let it goooo!
Marriage Lesson #3:
Time spent learning HOW to disagree, is time well spent
Disagreements and arguments are inevitable. If someone tells you that they never disagree with their spouse, call the nearest hospital, that person needs IMMEDIATE evaluation. For the rest of us, disagreements will be had.
What I’ve discovered (the hard way) is that if care isn’t taken, the act of disagreeing can end up overshadowing the actual issue you started out disagreeing about. When that happens, you stress yourself out for no reason because the issues don’t get resolved!
Here’s an example:
I am unfortunately the type of person that if I get passionate about something, my voice will get passionate as well. It will start escalating and before I know it, it’s beyond my control. To avoid shouting at my husband, which would be disrespectful to him (read up on Men and Respect HERE), I decided that the most responsible thing for me to do when I get riled up is to just walk away and take time to cool down.
Isn’t that so grown up of me to come to that realization? I sure thought so.
Well, it turns out that my dear dear hubby finds it disrespectful and does not like it when you walk away from a disagreement. Imagine my surprise! I’m like… “but…I’m trying to save you…from my wrath. Do you WANT me to bite your head off?” After struggling with this issue over and over again, thankfully, we had a sober moment when I explained my thought process behind walking away and that it was meant to be respectful. The compromise we eventually came to was for me to give a disclaimer before walking away instead of just doing so with no warning.
Oh how I wish we would have known to spend time figuring out HOW to disagree early on- we would have spared ourselves a lot of unhappy emotions. Now, we understand that the more time we spend figuring out how to have healthy disagreements, the more we learn the reasoning behind each other’s action and the better we can navigate the tough times.
Marriage Lesson #4 :
You desperately need support
This one is SO SO SO important to me!
As an African woman, I have subconsciously (and consciously) absorbed the idea that to be a wife is to be a lockbox. “No matter what happens, take it with grace as part of your duty…. Don’t ever get caught slipping… If there are tears, keep it to yourself…”
Yeah, most of those ideas are toxic. I almost exploded aligning with that train of thought. Yes, it’s important to keep a certain level of privacy in your marriage. Yes, it’s important to not let everybody in on your business (because you don’t know everyone’s intentions). And yes, the primary person who you should be communicating about your marriage is your spouse.
There are times when you need support. Don’t believe the lie that to seek support outside of your marriage is to betray your marriage. Seeking support can strengthen you and thereby, strengthen your marriage. You and your spouse simply don’t know it all and shouldn’t pretend to.
I feel the most stable ever since I started connecting with other (carefully selected) married women.
I take special care not to compromise the privacy of my relationship, however I have discovered that I can still harness their support in the following ways:
- get encouragement and be reminded of my positive attributes
- get ideas on how to overcome a specific problem I can’t solve
- share articles and resources
- pray with each other (it’s so reassuring to know that someone is praying for you)
- take vacations and do relaxing activities together
- vent! – sometimes this is all I need!
As human beings, we were never meant for isolation and it’s important to know that others are going through similar struggles.
Marriage Lesson #5:
Confront your own issues as soon as possible
The most shocking thing about my year one was coming face to face with a version of myself that I’d never known before.
There were feelings and reactions that I didn’t know that I could have, triggers that I didn’t know I had, strength that I didn’t know I could harness and even ugliness that I didn’t know I could exhibit. Talk about cognitive dissonance!
Instead of sitting there shocked, disgusted, angry or in disbelief, the best reaction was to accept myself in my new reality. The next step was to sort through this new me. The new good that I discovered- I celebrated it, explored it and used it. The new bad that I discovered- I tried to understand it, prayed about it, looked for solutions and worked on it daily.
The beautiful thing about marriage is that it represents the ultimate love (God’s love) which sticks around even when you’re not “worthy”. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Get feedback, get help, get therapy! At the end of the day, a better you equals a better marriage.
Marriage Lesson #6:
No one else is responsible for my happiness but me
- I am the one responsible for my happiness
- Feeling fulfilled in life is my responsibility
I knew those things- I really did. But somehow during the first couple of years, it became a struggle to remember. During difficult times, I was tempted to think “I’m unhappy right now because he’s not making me happy”. Thankfully, I eventually got tired of shifting the blame and became proactive about becoming a more positive person (Read about that process HERE).
Depending on another human being to fulfill you or to make you happy is not the way to go. I wish I could say it more nicely, but it’s an immature desire and it leads to toxic dependency. Human beings, no matter how much you love them, will disappoint you at some point or another. Always!
Seek joy and fulfillment for yourself! Identify the things that prevent you from being joyful and address them.
Those are the six big marriage advice/lessons that stand out the most from my first two years of marriage. I hope it doesn’t come across as if there are no happy times. That isn’t the case at all! My husband is my best friend and we’ve created some of the most beautiful memories that I hold in my heart.
However, life’s lessons can be tough and I truly believe that we experience the things we do in order to share with others and support one another.
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-Feeling overwhelmed about implementing all this marriage advice? Check out this article at “PreserveYourJourney” blog for tangible steps on accomplishing resolutions.