Friday, March 13, 2009

The "Truth" About Marriage?

Photo Credit: dickuhne

If you have read any of my posts here, you probably have already picked up on the fact that I tend to be a bit cynical.

One thing I take with a mountain size grain of salt is advice. I don't mean the advice you get from your best friend who has known you for ten years, or your sister who always seems to pick up on your mood, however slight. I mean advice from strangers. Who assume things which may not, in fact, be true.

You know--those people who don't know the ins and outs of your personality or your partner's and the history [sometimes baggage] that has made your relationship what it is today? I'm talking about the kind of advice that is based on some generic principle that should work in theory, but often doesn't because it's not detailed or relevant enough to your specific situation? That kind of advice.

This type of proselytizing is commonly endured by riders of the New York subway [like me!], who have to listen to endless opinions on infinite topics daily. But if you don't have the pleasure [and aforementioned pain] of living in NYC and thus being exposed to the infamous in-transit let-me-tell-you-what-I-think-even-though-you-didn't-ask rant regularly, you likely find this kind of advice rampant on, say, the internet, in self-help books, or in certain newspaper columns. So I'm sure you don't feel left out.

But [taking deep breath] once in a while [rolling eyes], the cynic in me subsides and I take heed of the above mentioned seemingly general help and find it...useful. Just a bit. And in such rare instances when I find such words of wisdom to be more helpful than harmful, I like to share.

If you have a yahoo account like I do, you probably noticed all those annoying ads for articles and products all over the header page. One especially procrastinational [yeah, that's a made up word] day, I glanced over at that evil section and saw this heading and accompanying link:

"Seven Things No One Tells You About Marriage"

Secrets? Seven of them? That no one has ever told me? I mean, I have some pretty open and talkative friends...who are married...[!]

I'm not sure what state of mind I was in at that moment, but I was likely upset about one thing relationship/wedding-wise or another and I CLICKED.

It wasn't so bad! This was like the marriage advice written by a cynic. Definitely swallow-able. While it wasn't mind-boggling information, it was just...well, a nice read. Pointing out the basic tenets of respect. Who can't use a healthy dose of that once in a YEAR?

And although this was advertised as marriage advice--it applies to any relationship, I think. Marriage is just one [optional][for some] phase of a relationship not the end-all be-all. Personally, I believe that marriage should not really change much in your relationship in terms of core things, in that the foundation for a good [decent, spectacular] relationship should already have been laid way before the proposal or engagement. I think it is dangerous and possibly delusional to believe that "everything will be different/better/change" once you are married. That's just my two cents.

But enough of my opinion! Here, I bring you the first 3 "secrets" [that makes me laugh, but it got me to click, didn't it?] from the article. If you don't hate them, you can read the full piece here.

You're smart. You know life is no storybook. But admit it: Somewhere deep in your subconscious lurk romantic visions of Cinderella, or maybe Julia Roberts. The images may be sketchy and a little outdated, but you can still make out the silhouette of the bride and Prince Charming riding off into the sunset.

In real life, sometimes your Disney fairy tale ends up feeling more like a Wes Craven horror flick -- and you're the chick who keeps falling down and screaming for her life. I've been there. Let's face it, marriage is not for the faint of heart. You want to believe your pure love for each other will pull you through. And it does. But it ain't always pretty.

1. You will look at the person lying next to you and wonder, Is this it? Forever?
When you get married, you think that as long as you pick the right guy -- your soul mate -- you'll be happy together until death do you part. Then you wake up one day and realize that no matter how great he is, he doesn't make you happy every moment of every day. In fact, some days you might wonder why you were in such a hurry to get married in the first place. You think to yourself, "This is so not what I signed up for."

Actually, it is. You just didn't realize it the day you and your guy were cramming wedding cake into each other's faces, clinking champagne glasses, and dancing the Electric Slide. Back then you had no idea that "for better and for worse" doesn't kick in only when life hands you a tragedy. Your relationship mettle is, in fact, most tested on a daily basis, when the utter sameness of day-in/day-out togetherness can sometimes make you want to run for the hills. That's when the disappointment sneaks in, and maybe even a palpable sense of loneliness and grief. It's not him. It's just you, letting go of that sugarcoated fantasy of marriage that danced in your eyes the day you and your beloved posed in all those soft-focus wedding photos. You're learning that marriage isn't a destination; it's a journey filled with equal parts excitement and tedium.

Waking up from a good dream to face the harsh morning daylight may not seem like a reason to celebrate. But trust me, it is. Because once you let go of all the hokey stories of eternal bliss, you find that the reality of marriage is far richer and more rewarding than you ever could have guessed. Hard, yes. Frustrating, yes. But full of its own powerful, quiet enchantments just the same, and that's better than any fairy tale.

2. You'll work harder than you ever imagined.
Early on, when people say, "Marriage takes work," you assume "work" means being patient when he forgets to put down the toilet seat. In your naivete, you think that you will struggle to accommodate some annoying habit, like persistent knuckle cracking or flatulence.

If only it were that easy. Human beings, you may have noticed, are not simple creatures. Your man has mysterious, unplumbed depths -- and from where he sits, you're pretty complicated, too. You have to learn each other the same way that you once learned earth science or world geography. And getting married doesn't mean you're done -- it just means you've advanced to graduate-level studies. That's because every time you think you've mastered the material, he'll change a bit. And so will you. As two people grow and evolve, the real work of marriage is finding a way to relate to and nurture each other in the process.

"It's like losing weight," says Andrea Harden, 45, of Buffalo, NY. "You want it to be a one-time deal. You lost it, now just live. But then you learn it's a lifestyle. That's marriage. The effort is a forever thing." So don't be too hard on yourself -- or him -- on those days when you feel like you're struggling through remedial math.

3. You will sometimes go to bed mad (and maybe even wake up madder).
Whoever decided to tell newlyweds "Never go to bed angry" doesn't know what it's like inside a bedroom where tears and accusations fly as one spouse talks the other into a woozy stupor until night meets the dawn. If this scenario sounds familiar, I've got three words for you: Sleep on it.

You need to calm down. You need to gain perspective. You need to just give it a rest. I've found that an argument of any quality, like a fine wine, needs to breathe. A break in the action will help you figure out whether you're angry, hurt, or both, and then pinpoint the exact source. Maybe the fight that seemed to erupt over the overflowing garbage can is really about feeling underappreciated. Could be you're both stressed out at work and just needed to unload on someone. Taking a break will help you see that, and let go. Or maybe you really do have a legitimate disagreement to work out. Without a time-out, sometimes a perfectly good argument can turn into an endless round of silly back-and-forth, rehashing old and irrelevant transgressions as you get more and more wound up.

Even when you do manage to stay focused and on topic, there are some fights that stubbornly refuse to die by bedtime. And if you stifle your real feelings just to meet some arbitrary deadline, your marriage will surely be the worse for it. "This was a huge lesson for me," says Andrea. "As women we've been trained to make nice. But the whole kiss-and-make-up thing just to keep the peace was eating me up inside. I'd let things build up inside me until I just exploded. Now I wait a while to get hold of myself -- let the emotions settle a bit -- and state my position. Even if that means reopening the fight the next day."
I LOVE the part about not going to bed mad. That may work for some of you, but I recall oh-too-many nights of shaking Jake awake by his shoulders while I demanded he work out some deep, carefully crafted, perfectly articulated plan for how to avoid arguing about something in the future. Didn't work for me. Or him. And it didn't help matters when we both went through our jobs like angry zombies the next day. "PHOOEY," I say to the have-to-go-to-bed-happy rule! Sometimes you gotta wait it out til your mouth is actually able to say what it means and not the devilish things it wants to say...

I hope there are lots of cynics out there, and I hope you too found this useful.

P.S. This post is dedicated to a friend who has a long, tiring bus ride back home after a much awaited event and will undoubtedly need some light and peppy reading material to keep him company on his i-phone. Here ya go buddy. Cheers!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Share your thoughts!