4 lessons I learned in my first year of marriage

My husband and I got married on New Year’s Eve in 2012. In the spirit of focusing on the marriage rather than the wedding and saving our money, we had a small (and lovely!) ceremony at the courthouse. (We’re eventually planning a small wedding… for whenever the time will be right!)

1-9-14 marriageThis New Year’s Eve, we celebrated our first anniversary (as is our style, cooking up a fantastic meal in our sweatpants and chilling together).

Over the past week, I’ve been reflecting on our marriage and all that I’ve learned during this past year.

1. Marriage is not 50:50

This is something I learned from someone very wise, and that has proven to be one of the most important pieces of wisdom I’ve carried with me into my marriage.

The truth is, we always feel like we’re doing more. We always feel like the other person isn’t doing enough for us. That’s because we’re always focused on our needs, we know each other best, and we communicate our desires imperfectly.

Aside from learning to communicate and know each other better (I highly recommend the book “The Five Love Languages” for this), we needed to change our expectations. Instead of expecting it to feel like we’re both doing equal amounts of work, we’ve adjusted our expectations to feel like we’re doing 60% of the work and the other person is doing 40%, and that’s okay. That’s the way it should be.

Because that’s what 50:50 really feels like.

2. Kindness goes a long way

I used to ask, prod, push, and manipulate to get what I want. I used to bring up conversations over and over again to try to convince him that what I wanted was better.

Boy, did that cause a lot of strife and issues in our relationship.

Eventually I learned that, if I am kind and patient, and most importantly respectful (respect is a huge deal for men) he treats me as more of a princess than I dream of.

When I treat him right, I get spoiled rotten. And, more often than not, I get my way. Because by not being selfish myself I’ve made space for him to stop worrying about getting his needs met and start doing things just for me, just because he loves me.

3. Take responsibility

Last week, we played Civ 5 (a game that replaced WoW in our “game time” routine) for two straight days. That put me behind on my work a lot. Since I love spending time with him and the game was so addictive, I also fell behind on my sleep, which always has disastrous results.

When I got my buns back to work, I got overwhelmed by all there was to do and the little time I had to do it. So I became a bit of a bitch. The truth is, it wasn’t his fault. I needed to take responsibility for the fact that I had chosen to keep playing, to ignore my instincts, to deprive myself of sleep. And I had to come to terms with the fact that, by choosing to do that, I had effectively chosen these consequences.

Responsibility, like kindness, goes a very long way. When I’m upset at him, I’m usually upset at myself, scared, or overwhelmed. A little journaling and meditation (along with a comforting talk) can go a long way towards avoiding a fight.

4. Your focus determines the quality of your marriage

I grew up as an only child. I was also mature and responsible, a “good kid.” As a result, I got spoiled rotten by parents who would pretty much always do what I wanted.

I’m not going to lie: I can get selfish. I want him to read my mind. I want him to say exactly the right things at the right time. I want him to comfort me in the best way. I see every minor hidden criticism he makes in my direction. I get defensive.

One day, when I was busy criticizing all that he wasn’t doing right, he told me “I did tell you good things too. I did my best comforting you. I wasn’t trying to criticize you. Just a few seconds before I said that thing that bothered you, I said the thing you’re now telling me I should have said. You just don’t want to see the good though. All you want to see is the bad.”

He’s said that before, of course. But, for some reason, that time it really registered.

He was doing his part. He was doing the very best he could. He does love me. But, since I hold a core belief that I’m not worthy of love, I was automatically projecting that onto him, and choosing to only see the proof that would validate that belief.

So I started being more aware. I started paying attention when that automatic belief reared its ugly head and tried to convince me he doesn’t love me. I tried to see things objectively.

I tried to let some things slide, since there are a million things I do that he probably doesn’t like that he never mentions.

I tried to see the good things he does and give him credit for that, and pay attention to them more.

And, slowly, things started changing. All of a sudden he wasn’t even doing the bad things anymore. Because I wasn’t focusing on them so much, they didn’t matter anymore, so they just fell to the wayside.

Since I was noticing all the ways in which he did honor and love me, I became kinder towards him and also encouraged that part of him on a subconscious level.

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