Consider this a wifely checklist.
Three years later, I’ve learned a lot. Mostly that I still have a lot to learn.
As a girlfriend, you want to get comfortable, right? To make sure he’ll love you no matter what. He’ll say you look cute in sweats. He prefers you without makeup. You ask about exes and maybe even let your jealousy (or anger or any other unattractive emotion) go unchecked, juuuust to see what happens.
But as a wife, you suddenly realize that you’re going to grow old with this person — in all its wrinkled, sagging, grey-streaked glory. So why waste your youth in sweats? You suddenly realize that this person will be sitting across from you at the dining room table for the rest of your everloving life, so it’s more important to keep the peace than test your limits.
It’s hard to tell whether I’m learning how to be in a marriage or I’m learning how to be in an adult relationship — because they’re one in the same for me. And the pair of little eyes looking up at us, absorbing our words and habits as social norms, is even more reason to grow up. And fast.
At the risk of publishing something that I’ll laugh at it in 10 years (oh the naivety!), here are 15 things I do or think, in an effort to sustain my young marriage:
1. I freshen up my makeup before he comes home.
2. I’m very conscious not to say harsh, mean comments to him. Even in the heat of the moment. Damaging his self-esteem has no place in our marriage and I expect the same in return.
3. I’m also conscious not to say mean things about him to other people. Especially friends. Girlfriends have a tendency to vent about their boyfriends, and then feel conflicted when their friends then hate their boyfriends. More than that, it's a matter of respect.
4. Justin and I are very clear on putting on a united front when it comes to our son, Noah. No undermining, no badmouthing each other, no questioning the other’s authority, etc. I took this example from the Huxtables. I’m not even kidding.
5. I’m starting to accept his faults rather than dwell on them. There’s an interesting shift that happens when you realize that a situation isn’t going to change: you change the way you deal with the situation — proactively and logically. For me, that’s marriage. Quickly finding a solution instead of bitching and nagging. Or maybe that’s just growing up. Regardless, this has been a game changer for me.
6. I save my pretty dresses for when he’s home on the weekends. Not to impress him, but because I want to feel pretty around him. Looking good makes me feel good, which makes me a happier person to be with.
7. I make sure he’s heard. For a while Justin felt like his voice didn’t matter, especially when raising our son. Maybe it’s because we’re young, or maybe it’s just the personalities in my family, or maybe it’s just the realities of being a parent, but people haven’t been shy about voicing their opinions — whether it’s what kind of diapers we use or where we spend holidays. But it’s important that my loyalty is to my husband over my other family members and to remember that we’re a partnership inside of the village-like team that’s taken to help us out. His voice needs to have just as much weight as my own. Period.
8. We have separate identities, separate interests, and separate opinions. I never want either of us to lose ourselves in the other, or to invest all of our happiness in each other. My happiness is entirely up to me.
9. I stopped expecting things from him. I stopped expecting him to pick up his godforsaken clothes off the floor when the hamper is four steps to the left. I stopped expecting him to compliment me on my housework efforts. I stopped expecting him to split all of the chores and parenting responsibilities 50-50 down the middle. I do things for myself.
10. I finally accepted that just because he doesn’t do things the way I want them done, or at the exact moment I want them done, it doesn’t mean he doesn’t do them well. This has been a huge thing for me to learn and accept, and it’s still an ongoing effort on my part.
11. I buy prettier things to wear to bed.
12. He has strengths and I have strengths — in parenting as well as marriage — and just because they’re not the same doesn’t make them any less valid.
13. I’ve been recognizing my faults and working hard to be a better person — not just as a wife, or as a mother, but as a person. They mostly center on my control and stress issues, so I’m making a genuine effort — and that’s the best I can do.
14. I don’t care how much work I have to do, I can always spare time for some trashy Bravo with him. Always and forever. (Alone time in general is a top priority.)
15. Be kind.
Of course I'm not a perfect wife or a perfect person. Some of these are works in progress, goals that I strive toward. But I'm trying. And even though marriage requires more of a conscious effort than I ever imagined, I think it ultimately can result in a healthier relationship and a healthier self. At least I'm hoping.
This article was originally published at http://www.earlymama.com. Reprinted with permission from the author.