When I got married, at the ripe old age of 20, I knew three things:
1) I loved Dallin.
2) He loved me.
3) We could have sex now.
Sorry to be, you know, blunt about it.
But seriously. That was about it.
I mean, people told me that we would fight. We never fought while we were dating, but I believed that we would fight. I believed that we would be starving newlyweds for a while. I believed that he must have some habit, buried somewhere in there, that I would just totally hate. And I even sort of half believed that there was probably something about me that he would hate, too.
So you see, I wasn't completely naive...right? Right, guys?
Okay, let's be honest. I was pretty naive. To think that marriage is all about love and sex is...well, it's extremely naive.
And I won't be naive now and pretend to know all there is to know about successful marriages, even though I'm only seven years into one. (P.S. Seven years! Happy anniversary to us!)
But I am confident in saying this: my marriage of seven years has been, and continues to be, successful. Perfect? No. Heck no. But meaningful, powerful, and full of fun, love, and learning? Yes, very much yes. And to me, that makes it a success.
So, for whatever reason, I feel motivated to share three of the most surprising lessons I've learned over these seven years. I have no idea if this will actually help anyone, or if it'll just give you a deeper glimpse into my soul...but either way, it's worth documenting, right?
So here we go: the three most surprising lessons I've learned over seven years of marriage.
1) Commit to marriage.
Yes, marriage is about commitment. But I think people often think of it as a commitment to the other person...and I've learned it's more than that.
A few weeks ago, Dallin and I had the chance to attend a presentation by a really impressive guy -- not impressive only as an extremely successful businessman, but also as an obviously committed and devoted husband and father. He told the story of when he proposed to his wife. He asked her two questions. The first was the obvious: "Will you marry me?" She said yes. The second was a bit more unique. He said this: "I'm only going to get married once. How about you?"
Committing to a person is important, but people change. We, ourselves, change. To think that you'll be the same person forever that you are when you get married makes you just as naive as I was as a 20-year-old bride.
But if both of you are committed to marriage, right from the start, you'll be committed to working out (and learning from) your problems, instead of giving up on them. You'll want to be proactive, to set goals (together and individually), rather than to "let life happen to you." You'll fight tooth and nail to make it work, because you believe that marriage is worth fighting for.
(As an aside, I would also like to add that I understand that there are times when being "committed to marriage" might actually mean leaving the one you are in. I know that so many people are often blindsided by another person's poor choices. Obviously, commitment to marriage has to be a shared ideal in order to really work.)
I'd be lying if I told you that I never had a single thought along the lines of "Did I marry the right person?" or "Did I get married at the right time?" In the early months of my marriage, those thoughts haunted me more than once. I wouldn't say "often," but more than once. They surprised me, and they scared me a bit, but I think those doubts are normal. And for me, they helped me to learn this lesson. I had to learn that yes, I did marry exactly the right person, at exactly the right time, because that was the choice I made. This is the marriage I have. This is the marriage I'm in. The one to this amazing guy that started when I was 20 years old. And because I've learned that I need to commit to marriage, I've learned that I need to commit to this marriage, and I have to do it and show it every single day.
2) Trust is a choice.
I've had trust issues for the better part of my life. When I was very young, and into my teenage years, I was overly trusting. I kind of lived in a bubble. I got attached to people quickly and deeply. Loyalty was a given in my mind, but obviously that's not reality. When betrayal came (from various sources and at different times), it was devastating.
It wasn't until I got married, though, that I realized just how deeply I'd been affected by losing trust in others, and how it manifest itself.
I jumped to conclusions. Dallin getting off work late meant that he didn't value our time together. If he didn't answer his phone during the day, he didn't want to talk to me. If he didn't help out around the house, it meant that he didn't appreciate the work that I put into our home, and didn't care to share responsibilities with me. And all of these bad feelings would surely build up and get worse over time, and ten years down the road he'd be sick of me and our marriage, and we'd end up as a "together for the kids" kind of couple.
I would shut down regularly. If I was upset about something, I would refuse to talk to him about it, because I didn't trust him to respect my feelings and thoughts.
This all came to a head a few years ago. We had some fights about some really silly things, but they always came back to him feeling like I didn't fully trust him. And he was right. I didn't. That's hard to say and embarrassing to admit, because my husband has never done anything that would warrant losing my trust.
Long story short (too late?) I finally realized and admitted the problem I had. I got to work on fixing it, and I let Dallin help me. To say that I've grown in this area is an understatement. I'm proud of the progress I've made and the lesson I've learned.
So what is that lesson? That trust is a choice. I can choose to read into things, to jump to conclusions, and to shut down; or I can choose to give the benefit of the doubt, push away negative thoughts, and focus on the many ways that my husband shows he loves me and is worthy of my trust.
Just to clarify, major and obvious betrayal -- dishonesty, fidelity issues, financial secrets, etc. -- should lower trust in a marriage. I'm not saying someone should turn a blind eye to their spouse's indiscretions, or to clear signs of possible betrayal. But I am saying that if you have no reason to not trust your spouse, you should trust them. Fully and completely. Anything else can and will create problems that simply don't have to be there. It might seem obvious, but it's a lesson I had to learn.
3) Talk, talk, talk.
And "listen, listen, listen." But mostly, for me, "talk, talk, talk."
I'm not a very talkative person. I'll listen to you talk all day, but I won't say something unless I'm sure that what I have to say really adds to the conversation.
And if I'm not in the mood to talk at all, heaven help you if you try to force me to.
But here's the thing: my husband can't read my mind. And I can't tell you how many times my quietness has led to him feeling like I'm mad at him, or that I'm in a bad mood, or that I just don't care about what he's saying or about what's going on.
So, I've learned to talk. I've learned to give an opinion about where we go out to eat. I've learned to say "I'm sorry I'm being quiet, but I just don't think I know enough about this topic to contribute anything. But it's interesting, so keep talking." I've learned to push away any embarrassment about how I might be feeling, and to just express it -- I'm overwhelmed, I'm frustrated, I'm tired, I'm worried. I've learned that my husband would much, much rather deal with those feelings head on than be facing some unknown emotion lurking beneath the surface.
I've also learned that waiting to say something in the right way is almost always worth the wait. And it's okay to say "I'm trying to figure out the right way to say this."
Mostly, I've learned that talking about something is the best way to get it fixed. Again, seemingly obvious, right? And yet, so hard for me. But my husband is on my team. He wants to hear. He wants to know. And if he can, he wants to help. Learning to talk, even (and especially) when I don't feel like talking, has made a positive difference in our marriage.
(Side note: This article gives some great insight into communication, particularly in marriages. I love it and definitely think it's worth the read!)
I'm grateful for these lessons I've learned. They haven't come easy, that's for sure. They've caught me off guard and humbled me and changed many of my preconceived notions about romance and marriage. But they've also made me better -- more selfless, more self-aware, and more able to face and handle life's many inevitable challenges...
...with my husband at my side.