Sometimes I feel as though because I’ve only been married for two years, or because I had a great pregnancy and have a nearly-always-happy child, I am not qualified to give advice. Because I haven’t experienced hardships, I haven’t gone through a rough period, I didn’t have terrible pregnancy symptoms, my boobs didn’t suffer through nursing, my child sleeps fine and only has mild teething symptoms, and I’m still in what most people would qualify as the “honeymoon” stage of marriage.
But I read Kristen’s post this morning, and I thought… why can’t I share what I have learned? Just because it hasn’t been hard doesn’t mean I haven’t discovered things to make our marriage better and stronger. Just because Asa isn’t having a rough babyhood doesn’t mean I don’t still Google the heck out of things to figure out what to do sometimes. (I Google everything. I even asked Google whether it was normal that I didn’t like kissing back when we had our first kiss.) In the last two years of marriage, I have learned a great deal. Through my own marriage, through watching others’ marriages, through advice and experience and observation. And, through my own failings. I am not a perfect person. I can be lazy and snide and unwilling to cooperate. And my husband… well, he’s one of those annoying (read: wonderful) people who only actually brings up legitimate issues, and he’s pretty much always right. And nice about it. SIGH.
In these last two years I have learned that quite literally, sometimes the key to a happy marriage is a clean kitchen. I am not a neat person by nature, but I’m learning. Because seriously, having a clean house is the difference in our marriage between happy and slightly discontent. It was a surprisingly simple revelation to me, having come from a house where neatness was not as large of a priority as other things. I have learned that a major thing is respect. Which I knew, but I’ve learned how to respect. They always tell you that men need respect, but they never tell you what that means. And for a long while, I wondered: how do you show respect?
Respect means listening with your full attention. No checking your phone while he’s talking, interrupting mid-sentence with a thought, or spitting back your own reasons for why you’re doing something he doesn’t understand. Respect means that even if you have a perfectly legitimate excuse for why you didn’t clean anything today, you let him tell you why it bothers him and you take his advice to help you do better next time.
Let me tell you something: I HATE taking advice. I want to be perfect and I want to do it all by myself. But I can’t. And my initial response when he’s trying to help me fix the problem is to get defensive. I did that wrong because xyz happened so that’s why and don’t try to tell me I could actually get it all done if I took your advice, because I don’t want to. Even if, deep down, I know he’s right.
But the thing is, he’s not sitting there trying to attack me or even tell me that I failed. He’s trying to understand why. He’s trying to give me the benefit of the doubt. Maybe I didn’t clean house because Asa had a really bad day, and that’s okay. But maybe next time it would be easier to get things done if I asked for help, if I asked his mom or my mom to come over and give me a break, or to clean my dishes for me or get my laundry done while I deal with a cranky teething baby. Just because he’s pointed out something I’ve done that is less-than-admirable doesn’t mean he suddenly thinks I’m terrible.
Respect means acknowledging that he’s got a good point, that his advice is valid, and that he loves me even when he’s bringing up something I could improve on. And not crying, arguing, spouting excuses, or walking away from it with irritation. I’ve learned over the last two years that just because he doesn’t crave physical affection like I do does not mean that he doesn’t find me attractive. Girls, you may be told in premarital counseling or growing up or by whomever that men always like sex more than women do. And I’m going to be really blunt and personal with you (sorry if it’s awkward mom and other family members who might be reading this), because I don’t want you to worry: sometimes, that isn’t the case. Sometimes, it’s the woman who likes the physical more. I am one of those people. My two biggest love languages are physical affection and words.
My husband’s are not. And obviously he does like the hanky spanky stuff too, but it’s not as important to him as it is to me, which I found really weird and worrying at first because my female premarital counselor told me that sometimes men just need sex and we should give it to them even if we aren’t really in the mood (which, by the way, is all about being selfless and looking out for your spouse’s needs, and it doesn’t mean he’s just gonna take it whenever he wants it no matter how you feel. Unless he’s a jerk). And you know what? Usually it’s the other way around in our relationship. For a while I obsessed with the fact that his hands weren’t all over me all the time and what was wrong with me and… it was kind of destructive. Not in big ways, but little, niggling ones. I lost some confidence in myself and in him and in us for a little while. It was stupid.
The lesson here? Learn what HIS love language is, and realize that he may be showing you he loves you in his own language, not yours. Learn to communicate love in ways he understands, and be honest enough to help him learn what your love language is. It’s pretty important that you both know how to communicate love in the way that your spouse is going to know it. (Communication is a HUGE key to a good marriage. HUGE.)
And I have learned that sometimes, compromising is not the key.
I am pretty sure my husband hates compromise. I remember one night when I had planned to make Mongolian beef for dinner, he suggested that sweet and sour beef might be good instead. Innocently, in the effort to make everyone happy, I offered to make him sweet and sour sauce and me Mongolian beef sauce, and everyone could have what they wanted. It didn’t make him happy, though; it just made him feel as though I didn’t care what he wanted because I was going to have what I wanted no matter what, and it made him feel like he was just making more work for me.
The thing is… most of the time compromise is a way that I can get what I want. Whether subconsciously or not, I do tend to try to find a way for us both to get what we want. It’s not sacrifice, submission, or selflessness at ALL. And sometimes, giving up what you want in favor of what your spouse wants is far better than trying to compromise so that everyone is happy. Sometimes, doing it together is more important.
Those are only a few of the things I’ve been learning so far in my marriage. Respect, communication, love language, selflessness… they’re important.
What is the most important thing you have learned in marriage or your relationship so far? I’d love to know!
In other news, this is me winterizing a decidedly spring/summer dress. Well, I suppose it’s not really decidedly spring or summery, just mostly in color it’s more a spring/summer palette. But I think with lots of black additions to match the black rose pattern, it works quite well for winter! I still haven’t decided how I want to tailor the top of it (you can see the whole dress here) so for now, wearing a coat or cardigan over the top works to de-crazy it. Although we all know I have a weakness for slightly crazy clothes.
Anyway. I hope you all have a happy Wednesday!