What marriage has taught me about relationships and love (so far) – Part III

December 13, 2013 LifeThoughts  No comments

Welcome to the last and final installment of this mini-series on marriage and love.

 I want to make it clear that I am not trying to sell you on marriage – just sharing my experience of it, which has been really great. So when I talk about marriage, the principles can also be applied in the context of a committed, long-term, meaningful relationship. I do not look down upon people who choose not to get married. Get married, don’t get married – doesn’t really matter to me.

Five more principles I have learned from marriage –
Be patient, understanding, and excited as your partner grows and evolves.
My husband and I have been together since I was 15 – let that sink in for a minute. That means by the time I am 30 I will have been with him for half of my life! We have lived in three different cities in two states. We have both changed drastically over the last seven years. Change has basically been the only constant in our relationship.

Circa 2010. When we moved to NYC and I had blonde hair and braces. Oh dear.

Circa 2010. When we moved to NYC and I had blonde hair and braces. Oh dear.

So much change and growth happens in your teenage years, but especially during your early twenties while you are in college and post-college trying to figure out exactly who you want to be and what you want your life to look like. However, we never stop growing and changing. So whether you’re with your S.O. during those highly metamorphic years aforementioned or later in life after the dust has settled, both you and your S.O. will continue to change and grow.

Sometimes the changes can cause an uncrossable rift and eventually lead to a separation, but often, those changes are leading your S.O. into who they’re fully meant to be. Encourage them and be there with them. Celebrate with them and be challenged and excited by the idea that we don’t stay static, that there is always something new to learn about your partner.

I am excited to learn and explore new things about my husband as he continues on his journey through life. I am excited to access new depths and levels to him through new interests and undertakings. Owning a house with him has opened up my eyes even more to how handy he is with tools and building things. Owning animals together reminds me everyday of how caring and loving he is. He continues to blow me away with the new and innovative projects he creates for work and how he rises to every challenge and Minotaur that stand in his way. I fall more in love with him with every new discovery.

The key – while you’re both changing and growing in your own ways – is to never stop walking in the same direction. Give each other the (emotional, mental, spiritual, sometimes physical) space to grow into their own, but always come back to each other and move forward together. You’ll often find that the change only leads to better and bigger things.
 
 Marriage/love should make you into the very best version of yourself.
 I cannot expressive this sentiment enough. It’s one of the deepest truths I hold on to about my marriage.

I am more settled and at peace than I have ever been before. I finally feel like I am exactly where and who I am meant to be.

Marriage/love should not feel restricting or suffocating. It should feel like freedom, acceptance, and happiness. Love should give you the strength to face the world everyday and contribute in a meaningful way, not drain you or discourage you. Marriage (and love) allows you to go out into the world and do your thing, and come home at the end of the day knowing that you are supported and loved no matter what. That someone always has your back.

Just because this picture is ridiculous and awesome. Us at our best.

Just because this picture is ridiculous and awesome. Us at our best.

Love gives you the courage to grow into who you’re meant to be and challenges you to be the best you can be – because that’s what both you and your partner deserve. Marriage at it’s best teaches you how to compromise, how to put others first, how to love unconditionally, how to be vulnerable, how to be strong when the other is weak, how to be patient, understanding, and compassionate.

Be there. Be supportive.
I think this one is pretty self-explanatory.  But to elaborate a bit, it is especially easy in this day and age for work to take priority over your S.O. This is okay in the short-term if you have a big project or whatnot coming up. This is not okay if it is always the case because it limits your availability to really be there for your partner.

On the other hand, if your partner has a big project at work or something major or very stressful with family or whatever, let your own needs take a back seat for the short-term and lend your partner the strength and encouragement they need. Sometimes that is just emotional and verbal expression, sometimes it’s taking care of things that they don’t have time to take care of. Make them coffee in the morning, pack their lunch, take the dog out so they don’t have to, etc. Learn what it means to your partner/spouse to be there and be supportive. And then do it.

Be aware of your actions.
If you’re in a committed relationship, that changes how you interact with people of the opposite (or same) sex. Listen,  it just does. And you need to be conscious of the way you talk and what you talk about with them. Even if you think it’s innocent enough, the other party might not interpret it that way. When you’re in a committed relationship, some topics with the opposite sex are just off-limits. End of story. Respect your partner enough to walk away from a situation or relationship that is inappropriate or has the potential to be.

You’re in a committed relationship, not dead. I get it. And no matter how much you love your S.O. you will always find someone else attractive. Are you attracted to this person sexually or do you just think they are really awesome and want to be their friend? Recognize your feelings for what they are and objectively assess your motives (if you can’t – just turn around and walk away).

I’m not going to lie, figuring out opposite sex friendships when you’re in a committed relationship can be tricky (it’s tricky to rock a rhyme, to rock a rhyme that’s right on time. It’s tricky! Tricky, Tricky, Tricky – RUN-DMC, represent). I find that it is easiest to maintain relationships with guy friends that I was friends with before I was in my relationship because they can respect it for what it is. Also, guy friends that are also Andrew’s friends is the best scenario.

However, I have made other guy friends in college by being very clear that I am happily married and I’d love to be friends, but if you cross that line or can’t respect my husband, than we can’t be friends.

Having friends of the opposite sex is great. Just because you’re in a relationship doesn’t mean you should have to be a nun (or a monk). But you still always have to be aware that feelings can develop for friends.

Also, use extreme caution when alcohol is involved. People do stupid things when they drink. It’s no excuse.

In the end, it’s not about limitations. It’s about protecting what you have.

Fighting fair means taking responsibility for your actions.
There are two people in every relationship and neither of you are perfect. Everyone messes up and makes mistakes. Fess up. It’s okay, really. And much better than denying it and putting all the blame on the other person.

Admit what you did wrong or acknowledge that what you did hurt the other person and take the proactive steps to not repeat the behavior again.

When you take on your share of blame or responsibility, you not only validate how the other person is feeling, but you improve your relationship by committing to work on things you do that bother the other person. It takes work and patience, but this is an easy way out of the vicious cycle of blaming and yelling at each other.

I hope that you’ve been able to take something useful and meaningful out of this mini-series. Next week will be my last post for 2013 and very fitting for the holiday season: Just be (effing) nice to people.

 

If you haven’t yet, check out Part I and Part II of What marriage has taught me about relationships and love (so far)

Until next time, farewell, and may your life never cease to be filled with wonder and curiosity.

 

Featured image (top of post) by Stephanie Decker, BP Studio.

 

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