5 Painfully Honest Truths I Wish My Mother Had Told Me About Marriage

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There are so many things I wish my mother had told me about marriage before I walked down the aisle. After all, she had gone through it and had a hard time — she got married at 25, had me and then my brother and sister, and was divorced by 39. I was the oldest and I watched my parent's marriage fall apart but I never truly understood why it ended in a divorce.

Now here I am — divorced and contemplating another marriage — but unlike the first time, I am not new at it. I have the experience and wisdom from my previous marriage and know what I need to do differently to make this one work. No one hands us a manual when we get married so the information must be passed down generationally.

Here are 5 painfully honest truths I wish my mother had told me about marriage:

1. Make it about love, not about timing

I got married when I was 28. My ex and I had been together for 5 years and we were happy. We knew each other well, shared the same hobbies, and had just moved from San Francisco to Maine. All of our friends were getting married and having babies so we decided it was time to do the same. He proposed and I accepted. I naively believed that we could love each other forever even if I wasn’t madly in love with him. We had a really fun wedding and a great honeymoon. It was all lovely.

18 years later, our marriage was in tatters. We were still friends, excellent parents, and good business partners, but our marriage was DOA. I talked to my therapist about it and he said that for people who aren’t madly in love when they marry, bringing a marriage back from the dead is very hard to do. I do believe that there is more to a successful marriage than just love. Love is an important part of it but so is respect, trust, and kindness. For a marriage to stay healthy as the years go on, it's important to maintain love amid the craziness of the world around us.



So, before you walk down the aisle, make sure it’s not about timing, not because you've always wanted to get married by 30 and have kids by 32. Instead, do it because the person you are going to marry rocks your world. I always tell my daughter that when she wants to get married, we will throw her a party and buy her an amazing dress. If she still wants to get married after the party is over, I will give her my blessing.

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2. Don’t be passive-aggressive

One thing that I wish my mom had told me about marriage was how vital it is to avoid passive-aggression. The importance of being direct about what you are thinking what you are feeling and what you need, cannot be overstated. Instead of telling my ex what it was that I needed, I would make snide comments and belittle him. That won't make your partner feel good.



Now I know that one of the reasons I did this was because I didn’t know what I needed. But also because I didn’t have the communication skills that would have allowed me to open up to him. As a result, passive-aggression was my number one mode of communication, and it got me nowhere. Over the years, this passive-aggressive behavior caused a huge rift in our relationship. He would tiptoe around me, trying to figure out what to do so that I wouldn’t snap at him. I know that living with me was horrible. So, as you go into a marriage, I would encourage you to develop communication skills immediately. Being passive-aggressive in your marriage will only destroy it.

3. Make your husband a priority

For those of you who are mothers already, I am sure when I say this you'll say "No way," and I can appreciate that — my kids always come first. I'm not saying that you have to prioritize your partner over your kids, but that your partner should come next — not your job your mom, or your friends. My dad always said that he was 6th in our household and that he came behind the kids and the dogs. It wasn’t that way when he got married so it only left him lonely and confused.

That's one of the reasons that his second wife didn’t get to have any kids — because he wanted to be a priority. Why is making them a priority important? Because it keeps the relationship strong. Because they know that you have their back and will make time for them and that you trust and respect them. It’s way easier to keep a marriage healthy than try to fix it once it’s gone bad.

RELATED: 6 Early Signs A Marriage Will Last, According To Experts

4. History repeats itself

A client of mine had her family torn apart by her father‘s infidelity. As she grew up and went through therapy, she realized what a profound effect the infidelity had on her emotional health and she promised herself she would never do that in her marriage. After 10 years of marriage, she was feeling alone, ignored, and not prioritized in her marriage. Along came a man who made her feel alive and heard, so she had an affair.

The affair almost killed her. She felt so happy in the moments she was with him but felt so guilty afterward. She worried that what she was doing would destroy her family — and her affair partner’s family too. She felt like she had let herself down by doing the one thing that she swore she would never do.

When we're children, our parents are our life. Whether we want to or not, we watch them and absorb their behaviors, good and bad, and strive to emulate them — we don’t have the cognitive awareness to know any better. By the time we are grownups, those traits have been well established and hard to let go of. I wish that one of the things that my mom had told me about marriage was that history does repeat itself. She experienced the same problems that her parents did, and if she had recognized that and shared it with me, I might have been able to do things differently.

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5. Marriage is complicated

I know we all want the fairy tale ending — that we will live happily ever after with our spouse, in our perfect house with our perfect family. That all of our dreams will come true. Unfortunately, that is just a fairy tale. Marriage is long, hard, and very complicated. What are some of the things that make a marriage complicated?

Extended family, children, work, money and finances, future goals and aspirations, communication, intimacy, emotional baggage, mental health, people changing, among many other things. I would encourage you to take a look at your marriage and see how healthy you are in those areas. I know that in my marriage, my husband's extended family caused a big rift between my ex and me, causing our communication skills to suffer. I struggled with depression and he didn’t have the tools to help me. I always prioritized the kids, he prioritized work and our love life was dead.

It is essential for people who are getting married to go in with their eyes wide open. Marriage is going to be a lot of work, and probably not what we see on TV and in the movies. It's about two people who are joined together for the rest of their lives, in the messy world of babies, extended family, financial considerations, etc. In retrospect, the things that I wish my mother had told me about marriage were things that she wasn't even aware that she needed to tell me. Back in the day, we just didn’t talk about these things.

Therapy was pretty much non-existent and couples struggled with the words to face these realities. To be fair, my mother probably had no idea that she needed to tell me these things or that she had even experienced them herself. It’s a different world now. I always tell my kids that they will learn by the example that I have set, and the things that we have talked about, and that their marriages will succeed where mine didn’t. It can be the same for you. Even if your mother didn’t have the skills to tell you what you needed to hear before your marriage, you know them now and you can implement them and change family patterns and get your fairy tale ending.

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Mitzi Bockmann is an NYC-based Certified Life Coach and mental health advocate who works exclusively with women to help them be all they want to be. Mitzi's bylines have appeared on MSN, PopSugar, Prevention, and Psych Central, among many others.

This article was originally published at Let Your Dreams Begin. Reprinted with permission from the author.