Love After Marriage
For many brides (including myself), we do our best to keep it chill during the wedding planning process. We humbly brag about how we're just not that "worried about it" and that merely the thought of marrying our soulmates electrifies us. As calm or frantic as we may be, there's a voice inside that says, "phew, thank G-d." At the very least, even if the wedding is a total dud, we take comfort in knowing that we've achieved the (hopefully) soon-to-be outdated benchmark of female success - becoming a wifey. Inevitably, we turn our nuptials into another credential to list on our resume. "Married before age 30? Check!" But when the honeymoon ends, the gifts are returned, and the #tbt posts are ghosts of the past, what's left? A relationship.
I lived with my boyfriend for fourish years before we made it official. I assumed our partnership would remain somewhat static (excluding our newly acquired husband/wife titles), but with our marriage certificate, came a level of gravitas I couldn't have predicted. Shit got real and what we did as individuals started to matter in a big way. After almost three (eek) years of marriage, I am indeed no expert, and my comments are based entirely on my own experiences, but I've learned some things I think can help newlyweds navigate love after marriage.
Thanks, Dr. Ruth, communication is key, but what does that even mean? Spiritual teacher and best-selling author, Don Miguel Ruiz, says it best when he writes, "be impeccable with your word" in "The Four Agreements." When updating a boyfriend on your whereabouts, you might be able to get away with texting "OTW home" as you take down your third glass of rosé, but spoiler alert: this doesn't fly with a spouse. From the small things like what to order for dinner to the biggies like career choices, maintaining trust starts with unwavering truth and authenticity. Your partner needs to intrinsically believe your words on a day-to-day basis so that he can rely on you as an ally when facing the external world. A helpful practice is to ask yourself why you're communicating in the first place. If there is no purpose to your message or the truth is a little murky, just STFU.
To me, balance is less about work and life or power dynamics; it's about responsiveness to your partner's psychological formula. Translation? Learn and analyze the signals he's sending and respond accordingly. If you feel that your needs aren't being met, instead of regurgitating criticism, whenever it suits you, consider the optimal conditions for him to absorb the information. If verbal feedback makes him recoil, consider physical signals to send the message subtly. Open communication is essential, but if either partner is not in a state of acceptance, it's impossible to make progress. Spend some time observing your partner. What excites him? When is he annoyed? If he savors time in front of the TV after work, table that conversation until dinner (still learning this one). Take it all in and see if you can craft a plan for your next encounter.
It doesn't matter how fiscally responsible you think you are, combining finances is a mind trip. I think it's fair to say that everyone has their hangups about money and it's nearly impossible to avoid transferring those feelings onto your partner. My advice is to break down the budget and talk about it pragmatically. If funds are limited, why? What is the action required and the cost associated? Try to approach the situation without emotion to devise a cooperative strategy. Individual stresses regarding the meaning of your decisions don't belong in the conversation. Save it for your therapist.
The smother is real and time apart is as valuable as time spent together. When you consistently prioritize someone's needs above yours, resentment builds. Girls weekend? RSVP yes! Networking event? Go! A job that requires travel? Why the hell not?! Missing each other is the one thing that can prevent the nitpicky complaints from total relationship domination.
When you spend all day, every day with another person, it's easy to find flaws in their behavior. It's even harder to approach those actions from an empathetic perspective. But, it's also more critical. Even if you think you know what your partner is bringing to the arrangement or what they might be feeling, you will never know what their life experience is. Familiarity is not the same as omniscience. Approach a disagreement with the same compassion you would offer a friend or colleague. There is nothing as annoying as your SO telling you what you should be feeling. If you're in the middle of a marital rage, pause and think about what actions could have led to the circumstances. Is he experiencing conflict at work? Is something resurfacing from a childhood trauma? You have more information about this person than anyone else. Take advantage.
inspired by the teachings of John Wineland, gabby bernstein, jen sincero, and Gary Vaynerchuk, but words are my own
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