Everyone should know these.
Before I tied the knot, I definitely had misconceptions about marriage. Like most people, I had vague notions about what it takes to make a marriage great: communication, intimacy, lots of love. But I soon learned that my preconceived notions barely scratched the surface of what being married truly entails.
Now that I'm several years into a great marriage, I realize how very little I knew going in. Here are five things I wish I knew before tying the knot:
1. It's incredibly important to communicate how you feel before things blow up.
Before I got married, I thought the general emphasis on communication in a marriage was way overblown. It's such a basic concept, right? But what I didn't realize was the importance of frequent and continual communication with your spouse about things that are both above and below the surface.
For example, I'm definitely guilty of being a life-long passive-aggressive, so I have a nasty habit of not addressing things that bother me in the moment. These things then begin to stew. In any long term relationship, this can be perilous. Minor concerns and annoyances build to become relationship land mines if not addressed.
A lack of communication also leads to the unfair expectation of one spouse being a mind reader. Not communicating with your spouse is counter-productive and leads to many preventable arguments. After some trial and error, I've realized the importance of communicating my needs or concerns with my husband, before they become a larger issue.
2. Don't sweat the small stuff and learn to let things go.
It's very easy to hold onto the most minor hang ups — socks left on the floor, harsh words said in the heat of an argument, an inappropriate joke made at a party. But it isn't so easy to let them go. It's a delicate art, especially in a marriage.
My husband has a habit of leaving his socks on the floor, which is surprisingly irritating. I have the habit of leaving kitchen cabinets open, which I've been told is equally irritating. Yet, neither of these habits are worth stewing over or steam rolling them into larger issues.
We've made a deal to help us with this. If the seemingly minor annoyance is something we're still thinking about hours later or the next day, it needs to be addressed. If not, it needs to be let go. So, I've learned the importance of not sweating the small stuff, or as I like to call it, the art of letting things go.
3. There's a certain way to argue that minimizes conflict.
This has probably been the biggest personal lesson for me. I hate, hate, HATE arguing, and will often do just about anything to avoid it (hence the passive-aggressiveness). But in a marriage, as in most relationships, conflict is inevitable. While constant arguments are definitely signs of deeper issues, occasional tiffs are par for the course.
What I didn't realize is that there's a specific way to argue. There are simple techniques my husband and I use when we argue, such as avoiding hyperbolic words like "always" and "never," or the classic "blame and shame" scenarios of many arguments. Instead, we simply listen to each other. That's it.
Arguments often stem from a frustration over the lack of being heard. Once we've both had our say, we then take the opportunity to take a break and calm down, then work together towards a resolution.
4. Compromise is an extremely valuable asset.
I also thought the importance of compromise was another overblown issue when it came to marriage. Of course you're going to compromise with your partner, right? But it's definitely easier said than done. Let's face it, compromise isn't something that comes naturally to most of us. But it's probably the most crucial aspect of a happy marriage.
Having both spouses' needs met half way is a balancing act, and it definitely takes some time to get used to. But once you do, it's relatively smooth sailing.
I really hate sleeping in complete darkness, and in my single days I left the bathroom light on. This obviously became an issue when my then-boyfriend, now-husband moved in. Once I purchased a night light, it was a happy medium. This may seem like a very small thing, but it led to quite a few tiffs in the early days, until the conflict was solved by compromise.
So I've come to learn — and embrace — that compromise simply means two different individuals learning to navigate life together. Compromise has reduced our conflicts and made our marriage so much stronger.
5. Be mindful of your spouse's needs, in addition to your own.
This goes hand in hand with compromise, but it definitely stands on its own. Rather than meeting in the middle, this means occasionally prioritizing your spouse's needs. There are some issues that will never be able to perfectly meet halfway, and that's where this tip comes in handy.
Right now, I would love to live in a different city. My husband's job, however, keeps him here. So I've come to accept that this is the city where we will reside until he has more flexibility to move. Thinking of your spouse's needs puts you into the habit of thinking as both a unit and an individual.
It's definitely been trial and error as I've learned these five things. Now that I do, putting them into practice has only made my marriage stronger.