Recently my husband and I completed 5 years of marriage. Yeah, I know we are still amateurs but it still feels like a milestone. As I introspected on it, I turned to what has been my constant companion for almost as far as I can remember now – Google. I realized that a lot of people have varied views on what marriage teaches them. But then, since every marriage is unique, I thought there might still be some value to adding my voice to this cacophony. So, here go 5 lessons I have learned from my 5 years of marriage.
1. Communication, communication, communication
This has been the biggest learning with so so many aspects to it. One, there will be arguments but do not be afraid of them, yet deal with them courteously without getting vicious or sarcastic. It’s taken me quite a bit of time to tamp down on that sharp sarcasm which tended to get far more elevated at times of argument but I think I am better with muting that side of me at tense moments.
Two, communicate about everything and take joint decisions where both spouses are involved, especially when it comes to money. Marriage means being a team. Miscommunication or not communicating can lead to blunders and even disintegration within any team, marriage is no different.
Three, it’s important to remember that communication has two parts to it – talking and listening. While most couples have a combination where one is a talker and the other more of a listener, active listening remains a key element. Even noticing body language or just asking about the day is a vital element in the relationship.
Fourth, men and women communicate very differently. I was listening to The Science of Success podcast the other day where Dr. LouAnn Brizendine spoke about the biological differences between the male and female brain. The one thing which struck me was the solution-based approach adopted by men in contrast to the empathy-based approach that women are more comfortable with. Confused? If you are a man, ever wondered why your wife snapped at you when you told her how she could resolve a situation she was whining about? Or if you are a woman, ever figured why your husband is quick to jump the gun and list down the thing you could do to resolve a situation rather than let you express what you feel about it? Apparently, on the basis of gender, we are genetically wired like that. Just the knowledge of this, along with remembering it consciously and trying to act accordingly might help.
2. Know and be thyself
Marriage is a union of two people. However, many people remain in the mistaken belief that if they are becoming one unit, they should be letting go of their individuality altogether. I think we all bring our own biases and individuality to a marriage. It is important for you to understand yourself and then retain your core identity. This does not in any way mean that you become inflexible or rigid. Finally, marriage means meeting midway and some amount of adaptation is essential.
In that respect, it is helpful to know your non-negotiables, things that you cannot budge from without compromising on your happiness. It’s not always possible without embarking on something. But over time, it gets easier to know where to draw a line and where to give in, without meddling much with yourself as a person.
3. Ignorance is bliss
In some ways, this is a follow-on point from the previous one. If you intend to retain your identity, suffice it to say so will your spouse. Nobody is perfect and if you claim you like each and everything about your partner, I might be forced to call you a liar. However, one big learning from marriage for me has been about the benefits of ignorance.
There are many things and actions that my husband might do that I may not agree with. Till the time they do not impact me personally, I choose to use this maxim to maintain harmony and ensure a sense of space for him as well, knowing it will allow for reciprocal space for me.
4. Forgive and forget
Making mistakes is human while forgiving them often requires a superhuman effort. Personally, forgiving came easier to me than forgetting. I had a habit of listing down past instances as soon as a similar trigger erupted and in some ways categorizing them in the usual refrain of “you always do this, for instance, a, b and c”.
After years of constructive yet not always courteous feedback, I think I have improved to stay on a particular subject rather than bring up past offenses. Forgive and forget, even if it takes some quiet time to sulk in peace, has reaped rich dividends for me.
5. Keep working at it
I have come to realize that marriage is a process that is always WIP or work in progress. The minute you start to take it for granted, the magic starts to fade. So, appreciate the smallest of gestures from your spouse. Make an effort to spend time together. Keep doing those small gestures yourself to surprise your spouse, off and on.
These are just the most important 5 learnings that came to my mind. Marriage is a journey that will never be a smooth freeway, but always come with its twists and turns and speed bumps. How you navigate them will determine how joyful the ride.
Are you married? Have you taken lessons from watching other married couples around you? Let me know your learnings for a successful marriage.