Last year, for anniversary I tortured everyone on Facebook by adding albums and albums filled of our wedding pictures. (My oc-tendencies at work. Once I posted a couple of pics, I couldn’t stop until I’ve “completed” the project. Our photographers took thousands of shots. So….) Anyway, this year, in an effort to be less insufferable, I decided to just post in my blog so people who don’t feel like seeing them don’t have to.
To make the post a bit more relatable, I decided to write about things I learned about marriage. It is a long douschey post, you’ve been forewarned.
What I’ve learned from marriage so far:
1. It’s not easy but it’s not excruciatingly hard either
Every so often I scroll through my Facebook feed and I see my married friends being total saps (no judgment here, just stating a fact. I think we are the king and queen of social media sappy). They rave about the “brekky” that husband made, how #blessed they are to have found a partner who totally gets them, how beautiful their wives are after giving birth etc. It’s pretty awesome, really. But during my inquisitive moments I wonder what the score is between these couples. Are they really #blessed or do they fight more often then they’re letting on? Is hubby’s brekky really scrumptious? Did wifey really look gorgeous or did he secretly think she’s looked better?
The thing is, being one of those sappy married couples, I know that marriage is not always beautiful and blissful and easy. Sometimes, it is hard to feel #blessed when your husband keeps you up at night with his snoring. And I’m sure he threw up a little in his mouth when he first walked in on you washing your underwear in the sink because you had a “girly accident.” It is hard to feel in sync when all you want to do is watch the gurgling baby on The Insider and he’s keeping the TV on the sports channel because he has to watch another blow by blow analysis on NBA’s season drafts. AGAIN (#hugot).
But to be totally fair, although marriage isn’t a breeze, I wouldn’t call it hard too. You see I was ingrained in my Catholic school mind (the nuns’ way to keep us from marrying early?), that marriage is 99.99% sacrifice. It involves a lot of hard work, forgetting about your own wants and needs and catering to your partner’s.
The thing that made this worse was both my husband and I came from bad relationships. With each other. Rocky and tumultuous wouldn’t even cover how awful our awful moments as boyfriend and girlfriend were. We were seriously dysfunctional and everyone would always say, “Kung ganyan kayo ngayon, pano pa kaya kung nagpakasal kayo?”.
Ofcourse things started improving gradually before we got engaged. But I was sort of bracing myself for the storm that I thought was supposed to inevitably happen because we were still trying to adjust to each other. I was pleasantly surprised however, that things were smooth-sailing. Sure, there were squabbles here and there, but for the most part, we’re really happy.
I think being together for so long, we experienced growing pains while we were still dating. And because we stubbornly stuck to each other, by the time we got married, we’ve learned when to push, fight and insist and when to back off, lie low and to give.
Not only that, but I realized that having a partner makes certain things easier. We’re a team, so he takes care of the big picture, like our finances, so I can sweat the small details like the maintaining the household.
At the most superficial level, I have an automatic date for weddings, parties, events and every kind of gathering. But more than having a go-to companion , it’s also comforting to know that from hereon onward, I never have to go through any kind of crisis alone. I automatically have someone to lean on when things get difficult. I must admit, my husband was beyond wonderful during the period when my mom was sick. I don’t think I would have had the strength to go through those tumultuous times if it weren’t for him.
And I’m not too shabby in the support department either. He’s expressed how reassuring he finds my presence too, especially since the career he’s chosen for himself can be dishearteningly stressful. (It also helps that he stopped living like a college boy because of me. At the very least, he can eat something aside from Andok’s and sleep comfortably in sheets that are washed regularly.)
So I guess in essence, these past couple of years made me realize that sure, marriage involves a lot of sacrifice and hard work, but it also involves companionship, support and teamwork, so In the end, everything balances out.
2. TRANSPARENCY IS THE KEY
This actually isn’t very difficult for me, because as you probably guessed by now, I’m an over sharer.My life is pretty much an open book and I have no qualms about sharing my experiences or talking about how I feel.
My husband however, is private and secretive by nature. He does not like it when people inquire about his day to day activities nor is he in the habit of sharing his emotions.
But the thing that I realized while we were going through that dark period in our relationship was that small secrets lead to bigger ones and it eventually snowballs and spins out of control. This is especially true when you’re bottling up negative feelings. All these small resentments build up, and before you know it, you’re totally caught up in this dark bitter web and you act out and end up hurting each other.
So before we got married, I insisted that there should be no secrets between us. My husband, on his part, because of all our experiences, readily agreed. So far, it’s been working for us. From the tangible things like knowing each other’s passwords, being privy to each other’s financial standing to more intrinsic stuff like talking about how we feel or how certain traits of the other annoy us, even to gross stuff like underwear washing, we’ve pretty much kept everything open. (Ok to be perfectly blunt, I was not born yesterday. I know that every so often, there are certain things that my husband does that I don’t know about, regardless of whether he’s keeping it from me because I simply didn’t ask or if it’s more deliberate. He is who he is after all, and being private doesn’t disappear overnight.. But I’m grateful that as difficult as it is for him, he’s trying his best to keep his end of the bargain. On my end, I really don’t pry as much as people think I do. I think I just like the idea of being able to when I want to without being made to feel like I’m some sort of psycho, but in all actuality I’m too lazy to snoop).
I remember reading some article about how it is essential to keep some sort of mystery when you’re married. It supposedly makes your relationship more exciting. I don’t know, maybe I’m just old and boring, but I’d rather have trust and stability rather than excitement. I’d rather have the security of being able to fart, scratch or shave in front of my husband (Don’t judge me. He’s a boy and therefore has done equally gross, if not much grosser, stuff in front of me) knowing that doesn’t change how he feels about me. For me having no secrets help you relate with each other better. I think we stopped fighting like telenovela characters because we finally (after a decade) learned to understand each other. And that wouldn’t have happened if we didn’t allow ourselves to be completely comfortable and transparent with each other.
Also, openness fosters trust. And there’s no better feeling than knowing that your partner is secure enough to trust you with all aspects life and vise versa. (As an added bonus, because he’s so willing to share stuff with me, I don’t feel the need to go all ninja on everything that he does. So he gets the space that he needs. I think I’ve been reverse-psychologized.)
Plus, I’m of this belief that you can only say you really love someone if you know everything and have seen everything about that person (the good, the bad and the ugly so to speak) and still think that he’s wonderful. And I have to say, after everything that’s been said and done, I can honestly say that I lucked out with my husband. 🙂 So yes, if there was a transparency advocacy (sort of like the ones breastfeeding moms have), I’m willing to be a douschey spokesperson. 😛
- Sleeping when angry actually a good thing sometimes
So this was something I had a hard time with. Because I’m a talker and I don’t like leaving things unsettled, I can discuss feelings until I’m blue in the face.
My husband however, has a threshold for talking about unpleasant things. Not only does he get agitated, he gets sleepy. I’m serious. I can’t count the number of times we’re in the middle of a heated discussion and the minute there’s a lull, I look over, and there he is nodding off!
This used to drive me nuts. But after years of forcing him to wake up to finish the discussion, I finally resigned myself to just let things go. So I would go to bed in a huff, seething and contemplating how satisfying it would be to smother him with a pillow while he’s sleeping. After a while though (a long while. It took some time to get used to having unrequited feelings), I begrudgingly realized that letting things lie is actually more productive.
Cognitive psychologists say that when our brain solves problems, it gets used to a certain pattern of thinking. This is especially true when you’ve been trying to work out things for a long period of time. So sometimes its best to take a break, (solve another problem, sleep whatever. As long you don’t think of the problem at hand,) to give your brain time to reboot and come up with fresh methods and solutions.
After trying it his way, I realized that my husband, after he wakes up, is more receptive to talking. And on my part, I’m usually less stubborn and more coherent after a ceasefire. (I turn into a stuttering, sputtering mess when I’m upset. Which really is unfortunate because my husband is an articulate lawyer, so he goes all legal on me especially when I don’t use the right words in my fit of emotions. It’s still fair game though, because I just go all psych up his un-introspective ass, which then brings him into the sleeping stupor I was just talking about.).So now, when things reach a stalemate, we both just readily sleep it off.
The thing is, husband and I both have strong, volatile personalities. And we’re the sort of people who need to simmer down before finding a proper compromise. It’s not always instantaneous though. For really serious stuff we have passionate opinions about, it would take days to resolve (this has happened twice since we got married). We would sleep angry, talk a bit when we wake up, butt heads, go about our normal day like nothing happened, then talk about it again, get angry, then sleep it off again. And the cycle would go on until the problem gets resolved.
That’s the thing though. Even if it gets drawn out. it eventually gets resolved. Maybe that’s the main thing that’s what makes this method effective for us. We don’t just forget about the issue after a restful night, (At least I don’t. I’m a nag. So I will never allow him to forget anything 😛 ) we keep at it until we find a suitable resolution. We may sleep in a huff for a few days, but in the end, it becomes worth it when we finally put a long-standing issue to rest.
- Marriage can get routine and monotonous
I was thinking about it a couple of months back. And I realized that for most part, what makes marriage difficult is not the disagreements and the fights. In our case, although these upheavals don’t really make things easier, the years of fighting have sort of made us aware of how to deal with each other when there’s conflict. As a result, the fights that we experience now are too few and far between for them to make a really big impact.
What I’m learning though is that you also encounter a different kind of problem when things are uneventful. Because let’s face it, blissful and good feelings aside, marriage, for most part involves a lot of everyday routine. You wake up with the same person every single day. You do the same things day in and day out. You deal with the most mundane, unromantic problems like fixing the leaking roof, repairing light bulbs and you argue about the most boring things like who gets to use the bathroom first in the morning or who gets the remote every night.
And although all these relationship gurus tell you how crucial it is to keep the excitement in your marriage, it’s not always feasible. I mean how can you whisk your partner away on a vacation when you need to save up to fix the leaking roof? You want to force yourself to go on date nights but you are just both too tired and too lazy to do anything but veg out infront of the TV. Even conversations get stale when you’re with the same person day in and day out.
This many not win me points with these relationship experts, but I guess what I realized is that dealing with monotony of marriage becomes easier when you embrace the fact that it’s inevitable. I mean don’t get me wrong, every so often we do something to make the other one special. But after a night of warm and fuzzies, the following day you still have to face going back to an uneventful day of changing light bulbs and watching stupid movies on HBO.
I guess being able to accept the fact that just like anything in life, marriage involves a lot of good days, bad days and days that are ho-hum makes the restlessness more tolerable, the infuriating days more acceptable and the fun ones more enjoyable.
Maybe I’m just getting older or have an unusual threshold for monotony, but I find comfort in doing the same things every day. Like I mentioned in a previous post, I always believed that there are good and bad aspects to every thing. So sure, the routine of marriage can get boring and tedious, but you can also derive a certain security and contentment from it. It’s incredibly reassuring to know that I don’t always have to be on my best behavior every day, I don’t have to always be delightful and interesting for my husband to love me. He just does.
Or maybe I’m just lucky. Because I married my best friend. And I genuinely enjoy just being around him. Even if he’s totally ignoring me because he’s playing his NBA game on his phone. Even when he’s telling about incredibly dull bills that were passed in congress (he once tried to explain to me the nuances of the anti-cattling law. Why? Why do I need to know such things? Do I look like I want to own cattle??). Even when he falls asleep while we’re in the middle of an argument.
The great thing is, when you’re with your best friend, even the most mundane routines can sometimes be fun. Our days are now spent discussing the proper care for succulents or ruminating about buying this particular brand of tuna because it’s cheaper by the gram. But see, we can be talking about foliage, politics, household stuff, showbiz chismis or philosophy…. we can be on a trip, out on a date, or just vegging out at home…or we can not be talking or interacting with each other at all and it’s surpisingly okay.
- There is really no formula so I just wasted your time
I spent a good 6 pages preaching about what I learned in the 2++ years we’ve been married, (and the 11++ years we were in a relationship prior to that) but the truth is, the most humbling thing I really learned is that there is no formula to successful relationships.
Relationships, living together, marriage, as long it’s working, seem so mind-glaringly simple. So simple that sometimes you can break it down to five smug points in a personal blog.
But when it’s not working, it can get so overwhelmingly complicated that you sometimes can’t even begin to imagine untangling the mess you find yourself in. In your head, you’re doing all the “right” things but you guys are still in a rut.
I think it’s safe to say that I’ve been through both, (with the same guy. I can’t emphasize that enough) so I kinda know how it feels. And it’s one of the reasons why I’m so wary about coming out too preachy in this blog post.
Who am I to talk about love and marriage (with my measly two years of street cred) when our greatest minds can’t figure it out. Some experts say that relationships work if the two parties are more or less similar. (Same level of education, attractiveness etc) Some say that there is value to the old saying, “opposites attract” .
Ofcourse there are universal things that you can adhere to. In order for a relationship to work there has to be trust…communication. My favorite theologist/philosopher (Scott Peck. Ateneo, Theo 141 FTW!!) is of the firm belief that love is a decision. You have to commit to loving a person everyday even if you don’t feel like being very loving, even when the person isn’t acting very loving to you.
But even these universal bits of wisdom lead to more questions. How do you foster trust? How do you begin to communicate better? If you made a decision to love the person but your partner isn’t as committed to love you back, what is your threshold? When is enough, enough?
If there’s one thing that I adhere to, is that everything is relative. And every relationship is different. So what works for us, may not work for other couples. I know of married couple who sleep in separate rooms because they find that having space makes them appreciate each other better. Or the exact opposite, I know of people who have to do everything together. There couples who are ages and cultures apart, but seem perfectly happy. And there are those who are uncannily similar that they’re starting to physically look like each other. So props to all of you.. It takes a certain kind of strength to make a relationship work, no matter how staid, no matter how unconventional.
On the other hand, I also seriously and sincerely feel for couples who end up parting ways. Some of them seem so perfect together that it’s quite a shock that things didn’t really work out. But props to you guys for being able to discern when to let go too. Breaking up is never easy, regardless of the circumstances. It also takes enormous strength to be able to figure out that it’s time to move on, pick up the pieces and start fresh.
I guess at the end of the day, you just follow your gut. You and your partner are the only authority that you should listen to when it comes to your relationship. And you are the only ones who can discern what’s best for you.
So to my better (?) half, cheers for the years of trying to work things out. I almost always never get mushy without cracking a joke, but I appreciate everything that we’ve been through. Thank you for meeting me halfway, for putting up with my quirks and for committing to love every single imperfect part of me.