Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Love and Marriage: Dana's Advice

I hope everyone enjoyed our little love story on Monday! I so enjoyed writing it! It is easy to write how you fell in love. Now comes the tricky part - The Advice! EEK!

If you haven't extrapolated from our story, we have been together for almost 15 years, and about to celebrate 10 years of marriage this July. It should be easy to say what not to do, or what you should always do - but it really isn't that easy! You see, what works for us, may not work for you and your partner. What we find as "musts" in our relationship, may not be the same in yours. I have wrestled with what to say for a few weeks and wanted to give you some real life advice. I didn't want it to be generic like - "communication is key!" Communication is so very important - but that is not a hard one to figure out. I have settled on the unconventional advice. I want to take advice I was given as a newly married bride and give you my own spin on it.

Advice I was given: "Never go to bed angry!"

Look- I am just going to call BS on this one. At the beginning stages of our marriage I followed this rule religiously. If Sam and I got in a fight, we could not and would not go to sleep until it was resolved. I didn't want to go to sleep mad and I didn't want to lose my spooning partner. But what I found was we were just fighting a losing battle. We were tired, exhausted, and we both just wanted to get to the end of it as quickly as possible. Eventually we would "resolve" the issue, but I still woke up in the morning angry. I would be hurt by a comment that was said, or frustrated that my "side" wasn't being heard. It would be later that day that I would calmly approach the subject again. It was always a great conversation where there was so much less emotion than in the "heat" of the argument and we were both able to clearly state what was the issue. Sure it could still get heated, but in the light of the day, it all seemed so tiny as compared to the night before. Now, we do have some "rules." We are not allowed to sleep in separate rooms because we are angry, and if you are so mad you can't sleep- we at least need to get to a resting point that we can pick back up in the morning. 

I am not perfect at this because I still want immediate resolution. But what it has taught me is that the small things are indeed small. I have avoided a lot of fights by just swallowing my pride and hurt, sleeping on it, and then calmly approaching it in the morning. For example: The other day I was picking up the house and it just drives me nuts, I mean seriously BANANAS, that Sam can not seem to hang up a shirt after he wears it. It always ends up on the chest and I pick it up and hang it up. Normally, I don't really mind. I have expressed my annoyance on the issue and he has gotten better. But last night- there was a pile. I have had a particularly stressful two weeks and I just couldn't take it. I could feel the anger welling in the pit of my stomach. I wanted to yell out - "Do I have to do everything around here?!?" I didn't. I knew I was overreacting to a small thing. So I swallowed it. In the morning I calmly put everything on the bed and he looked at it and said he would take care of it tonight. I didn't NEED to say anything. If I had gone there, I would have been hurtful and accusatory and using one example to put him down to the fact "he never does anything." Which is ridiculous. If you know us, you know I don't do laundry, dishes, or clean the bathrooms. He does it all - and he does a lot. Sometimes the new day, the rising of the glorious sun can put things into perspective that exhaustion from the day before had blown out of proportion. 

Advice I was given: Don't ever talk bad about your husband to anyone ever. 

This is another one I followed really closely when we first got married. At the core, this is not bad advice. I think when people think of this, they see two women gossiping and bashing their husbands. That is not what I am advocating here. Every person needs a safe place to vent. It is SO important that you find a friend that knows your spouse, and that has similar views to you in marriage. This friend is such a resource! They are not the ones that are going to join in the husband bashing, but they are the ones that stand up for your marriage.

For example - there have been times when we as a couple just feel off. The kids have been hard, maybe there was sickness going around, we all had work pressures, and we were just exhausted. It felt like everything he did drove me crazy. I started scrutinizing everything he did, said, and just felt personally offended. I called one of my best friends. I vented about all the frustrations, his shortcomings, how he was driving me nuts. Her response was not- "ugh, Sam sucks!" But, "Dana have you looked at yourself?" Then she proceeds to talk about how Sam is not these things, and there may be something off at the moment, but that is not indicative of our relationship. She encouraged me to talk through some of these things with him, to get back to daily prayer for him and us, and she challenged me to be a better wife. She wasn't taking sides, but she knows me, she knows him, and she knows us, so she able to correctly assess the situation and give sound advice. 

If we bottle it up, and always pretend that our marriage is all rainbows and butterflies, we miss out on so much goodness! If we are afraid to be real, and afraid to say, "Yeah. my husband really hurt my feelings," then you are just asking for World War III one day when he comes home and throws his shoes down without putting them away. You need a place to vent, to gather inspiration, and to be real without judgement. 

Advice I was given: The wife is always right

We all know this saying - "The woman is always right." I can't tell you how many times Sam heard that while we were engaged. At our pre-marital counseling session, he actually said that! He told Sam, that I was always right, and he should have no say in the household decorating, or upkeep because that is my domain. Needless to say, we did not agree with this person and really had major issues with how he counseled - but that is a different story for a different day! 

I think the one thing that I love about being married is having someone call you out on your BS. In the beginning I hated it, and sometimes I still really do if I feel like I am in the right. But what it does is that is allows for a truly free conversation. We are able to be honest and it doesn't become this war of who is right and who is wrong. I don't have this feeling like I need to drive my point home so hard that he just acquiesces to the situation. That is not a partnership. I hate to be wrong - but when I am, I need to be told I am. The hardest obstacle, that honestly I am still learning, is realizing his intention. His intention is never to hurt me. He doesn't want to see me cry. He doesn't find pleasure in my pain. Realizing that at the core, when he says, "No, you are wrong," it is not because he wants to be mean, but because he cares about me and he cares about us. If he always had to say, "Yes, you are right and I am wrong," How much resentment would that breed? Our marriage would never last. 

The trickle down of this is the ability to have Sam give me insights on my other relationships. I can not tell you how many times I call Sam and say "XYZ is bugging me, and I handled it this way and I feel justified in it- was I right? Or should I have handled it this way?" I bounce things off of him before I act and he saves me from a lot of heartache and situations where I would have had to go back and apologize for my actions. He sees the situation with no emotions- so he can give me great advice. He also knows me, my heart, and my intentions and he is not afraid to tell me I was wrong and I am not afraid to hear it. 

I hope that was at least a little bit helpful to someone! Needless to say, we don't have it all figured out. Marriage is so personal! It takes time to find out what works and what doesn't work.  No one knows your relationship like you do. So, when Aunt Sally comes up and gives you the ultimate marriage advice, take it with a grain of salt and find what works for you and your partner.


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