Monday, July 13, 2009

Things I Took 18 Years to Learn

This last weekend my husband and I celebrated 18 years of marriage. I've learned a few things in that time and I thought I might share them, maybe I'll help some of you out there in blogland so you don't have to take so long to learn lessons I wish I knew at the start.

1. Marriage is an ongoing process.
The whole world portrays marriage as an event. Even that we celebrate an anniversary makes it appear as if it happened, it's done, you're in it. But it didn't happen, it is happening. At this point in the process I think (I'm not sure about this) the end goal is to see how close you can get to another human being. How much will you let him in? How far will he let you in? How vulnerable will you let yourself get? How much trust do you have for each other?

2. The First Years are the Worst
Since marriage is a process, the first years you are the furthest you will ever be from your partner if you are both making an effort. This is why I think people shouldn't be allowed to divorce in the first five years. In my marriage, those were 'the throwing years': the throwing of plates, and cups, and glasses and even the throwing of people out of cars (not moving- thankfully). I was left roadside more than once. The funny thing is that in movies and books, those are supposed to be the honeymoon years. Maybe they are for others, not for me. I was the seriously square peg that wasn't that keen on being stuck into the very obstinate round hole.

3. I'm NOT Always Right
That seems sort of a no brainer, but in my heart I never quite accepted it, though I could mouth the words if pushed to. I think I've made that jump- finally- sometimes my husband is right. This is a new development. Believe me- it took time to get to this one and it really does help with a whole lot of things if you can get there in less than 18 years.

4. There are no lines drawn in the sand
Before you get married and maybe even in the first years, you say things like- If my husband doesn't help with household chores I'm out of there. Or Even serious ones like -I'd never be able to forgive him if he cheated on me. Those lines need to be wiped away. You will draw them if you need to when you get there, don't do it in advance, you haven't a clue what you'll be thinking when the time comes. One thing you learn along the way is that everybody is human- not just you. Of course I knew I was human, I knew I make mistakes, but I expected my husband to be a robot, hopefully one in which I had the remote. Husband's are not robots, they are fallible humans. Give them a few breaks. Forgiveness is a huge gift- to him and to you.

5. Respect is as Important as Love
You need to respect each other. You need to respect each other's time, each other's wishes, each other's dreams. Along with that respect comes support. If he wants to climb Mt Kilimanjaro, ask him if you can pack his backpack for him. I'm starting to think that respect is the other side of the love coin.

6. You must make an effort
Marriage is a slog. You need to decide, are you up for it? A good marriage doesn't happen, a good marriage is created every single day. And sadly, a good marriage can be destroyed pretty fast if people decide not to put in the effort anymore.

I think my husband and I are doing okay, I'd give us about 80%. We've gone through a scary patch of suddenly being childless with the Giant Teenagers all off to boarding school, but we are finding a way through. Considering that I came from a home of divorce and dysfunction, I'm quite impressed with myself. I'm learning. If you have anything you'd like to add to help me speed up my process a bit, I'd be thankful.


Anonymous said...

I like your list and agree with much of what you say. I don't completely agree about the first two points. The first years are different, yes. But not necessarily worse than the others. They're different because they're learning years.

And I don't think the aim is to get closer all the time. At first, I thought it was. Now I think it's good if each partner can accept that some aspects of the other will always remain a mystery. Sometimes it's nice to be surprised. ~Miriam, married for 31 years.

Anonymous said...

Forgot to say: Congratulations!

Ivor W. Hartmann said...

18 Years! Fantastic Lauri! and thank you for sharing these true nuggets of earned wisdom.

Anonymous said...

I've been married for 18 years too and I agree with all of your points. My worst years, however, were the 10-15 year mark. I honestly didn't think we'd make it. There were a lot of external factors putting pressure on us and we fought constantly.

Marriage is definitely an ongoing process and I do believe respect is in many ways as important (if not more so) as love.

Congratulations, Lauri. Wishing you many, many more years together. XXX

Lauri said...

Miriam- I think you're right, the first years are different. Ours were quite volatile but volatile can be nice too. I also agree with you that we needn't know everything and sometimes a lie is kinder than the truth- something I thought I'd never hear myself say in a million years. Thanks for the congrats but I must throw them back at you- 31 years- WOW!!! That is fantastic.

Thanks Ivor.

Selma I didn't know you guys are also married for 18 years- congrats! So you went through such a hard patch, I think we've all had some of that. Glad you managed to get through.

Unknown said...

Nice! Not married, but I totally understand. Marriage, above all, is really compromise in the end.

Sue Guiney said...

A great list and a great blog. I agree with it all, and as I approach my 27th anniversary (gulp) this will be a good list to refer to! PD 80% success rate is pretty darned good, if you ask me :-)

Lauri said...

Sue - 27 years? How wonderful! Believe me, we might be at 80% right now but I can assure you we've hovered in the 5% range before too. It's a dynamic thing, I think that's what you need to accept about it.

Anonymous said...

The truth said. thats very sweet and revealing. refreshing to know we are just human. yes we are. its only best to look more on the learning curves and be positive to survive this thing called marriage. I want to award you an honorary degree in marriage counselling. Bravado!

Lauri said...

An honourary degree in marriage counselling? I'm blushing. :)