Your wedding day is approaching. All the planning and preparation is culminating in this one, beautiful ceremony. What advice does your mom give you?
“Don’t drink too much champagne!” “Soak up every moment— it’ll be over in a flash!” “Beware of the one-eyed snake!”
But… what happens after the wedding? Marriage.
Something my mom never told me? Most of a couple’s fighting occurs in their first couple years of marriage. Think about it! You’re now living with a member of the opposite sex, you’re still pretty foreign to each other, you don’t understand the other’s bathroom habits, and it just goes downhill from there.
Of course, it’s not all bathroom habits that have you and your new-found spouse up-in-arms. Its little things like your “right” way of loading the conveyor belt at the grocery store and his nasty habit of leaving sweaty gym socks balled up on the bedroom floor (no matter how many times you tell him to quit).
It’s safe to say that the little things definitely add up. I’ve only been married a couple of years now and I’m already exhausted from all the little things blowing up into unnecessarily big things.
Here are some things I wish I had known:
All the Little Things are Rooted in Bigger Things
His wadded up socks, your OCD quirks, his blown up frustrations, your emotional episodes. They’re all related. I’m not going to delve into the nitty-gritty of these differences, but understand that when it comes down to it, you two are of different genders. You speak different languages, do pretty much everything differently. Instead of letting that continue to frustrate and anger you, understand that you’re not going to change your spouse. Realize that God put two halves in the same house so as to create a balance. If you’ve been called to marriage, you’re charged with finding that balance. (This could take up to 50 years or more—Good luck!)
Miscommunication = Understatement of the Year
Say what you mean and mean what you say. The only way to overcome miscommunication is to speak deliberately and temperately. So many arguments blow up over things like tone of voice, misunderstandings of meaning and ill-chosen words. The only way to bridge the gender gap of “I just don’t get you” is to build a bridge of communication—one brick at a time. Start with your tone of voice. Are you honoring and loving each other the way you vowed by raising your voices or throwing sarcastic daggers? Take a step back and softly remind one another to be respectful. Next, work on your words. Say what you mean and mean what you say. It’s harder than it sounds. Choosing your words more carefully can avoid needless escalation in an argument by staying focused and on topic.
Never Say “Never” and Never Say “Always”
When you’re in an argument with your spouse, it’s vital to never say things like, “you never do this” or “you always do that!” One fight at a time, please! The minute you start bringing up every little thing from the past is the minute things can spiral out of your control. My husband is famous for allowing past hurts to infiltrate a present predicament. When he accuses me of the “always” or “never,” I find it my best course of action to gently bring the discussion to a halt, calmly ask him why he’s bringing up past transgressions, deal with the larger issue of him not feeling a sense of resolution, and then move back into the topic at hand. One fight at a time. Make sure your partner gets a sense of resolution so that these “always” and “never” fights become more infrequent.
You’re Your New Family Now
A lot of fights occur as a result of merging two families together. It’s not the easiest thing for most couples! One side of the family ends up being the favorite, or one bad relationship between you and an in-law ends up souring the whole darn thing. “Where are we spending Christmas? … But your family got it last year!” It’s tough to say the least. But just like turning to God in order to reestablish the foundation of your marriage, rifts like this compel you and your spouse to focus on each other and realize that you are your new family now. You’ve started your own branch. Prioritize with that in mind and face the politics of family feuding with one, clear mind.
Space isn’t the End of the World
What happens when you force a puzzle piece into a spot in which it doesn’t belong? It gets smushed, bent and worn, right? Same principle applies to forcing a resolution when one person isn’t ready. Sometimes it’s ok to fight and then go to your separate corners. You may have an attitude that insists on resolving the issue right here and now, every time, no matter what. But your spouse needs a little time to heal, to think or simply to just take a step back and breathe. Accommodate each other’s wishes. Don’t allow yourself to bully your spouse into resolving things right there and then if they’re not ready. That’s an insecurity on your part that needs some reflection—needing space doesn’t mean they love you any less.