It is hard to believe that I have been married for nearly 24 years. I’m not the easiest person to have a romantic relationship with. I’m demanding, bossy, and have fixated ideas on how things should be done. I set the bar pretty high when I got married and I fully intended on having a working partnership til death do us part. However we have been through three rounds of marriage counseling on this journey.
The first time we went to marriage counseling probably could have been avoided had we gone to premarital counseling. And I don’t mean those few sessions you go with your spiritual adviser or pastor before they will marry you. When I say premarital counseling I am talking about digging deep and asking the hard questions like:
Which way does the toilet paper go?
What side of the bed do you sleep on? cold nature or hot nature? covers or no covers?
How good are you with money? spender? saver?
Do you do dishes? take out the trash? mop? windows?
Before you get married you may not think these are all that important, especially if you are not living together at first or it is a short whirl wind engagement like mine and Mr. K’s. The truth is these are important questions because these will be the very questions that create your biggest arguments and cause hurt feelings. When Mr. K and I married he had no idea there was a wrong way to make a bed or fold towels but he wasn’t the daughter of a Marine. I surely didn’t expect dirty socks and underwear under the bed and dirty clothes to be tossed behind the bathroom door. After all these years of marriage I can look back and see these things as trivial compared to what we faced as loved ones died, children were born, and dealing with the curve balls life throws at you however it is these small trivial things that point out the flaws in our character.
So here is my assvice for couples considering getting married – get comprehensive premarital counseling. Discuss conflict resolution and how conflict was handled in your individual families. Talk about money, how the money will be managed, and who will be paying the bills. Children. Not just if you want them or not but if one of you will be staying at home, how they will be disciplined and educated. Address household chores and responsibilities. Don’t just assume that it will be 50/50 especially if your marry someone who doesn’t know how to cook or know the first thing about how to do laundry or who may have never sweated in the heat of summer doing yard work. These are the things that may make or break those first few years of marriage.
Additionally I suggest doing multiple things together that may seem outside the realm of your dating life and romantic moments. The first year of marriage is often full of great sex and discovering new things about each other, especially if you did not live together before hand. At the same time it is also about letting your guard down and being comfortable enough with another person that your character and soul are completely exposed, the light and the dark sides of it. And while some of these tasks I am about to suggest may be funny they also expose that nature of who someone is and you may decided you don’t like who that person is.
- Go on a 3-5 mile round trip hike in your state. If I was ever in a position to date again after the initial first date or two I would suggest going on an outdoor adventure to see if the relationship needed to go further. Hiking, canoeing or kayaking will tell you a lot about another person. Hiking will show you how prepared someone is for a half day to day adventure out in the elements. Will they talk the entire time? Will there be moments of silence? Will they just be focused on getting to the end? Will they want to pause along the way and breathe in their surroundings? And kayaking and canoeing exposes even more. Canoeing takes two people working together to get where they are going. It involves communicating and working in-sic. With a tandem kayak it doesn’t necessarily take two to get where you are going but it may show someone if the other person is willing to participate in getting them there. Not too long ago Mr. K and I went kayaking and came across two couples in tandem kayaks. One couple worked together paddling and when stopped they passed each other drinks and snacks and laughed. The other couple the girl literally did nothing. She was strictly a passenger, who was drinking wine coolers and playing on her phone, while the guy in the seat behind her was doing all the work. She wasn’t engaged at all – in him or the abundance of nature she was surrounded by.
- It may not be Christmas time when you decide to say I do but I highly recommend putting lights on a Christmas tree together using multiple strands and making sure every single one works. You might laugh and say you will just buy the pre-lit tree but there will be a time in your marriage when you do something that is as ridiculous and tedious as this activity. Nothing brings out the worst then putting lights on a Christmas tree properly. Do you start at the top or the bottom? Do you just throw them up there or do you go branch by branch? It is during this activity you will discover the patience of your partner.
- Build something together or do a major household project. Maybe you don’t have a home yet, offer to do one for the future in laws but if that is not possible I am going to suggest building a piece of furniture together or going to IKEA and buying a piece of furniture that says assembly required. Nothing demonstrates character more than watching how someone handles frustration and how they deal with people around them, whether in conflict or not.
- Take a road trip together. This was not one I had thought of before but a friend suggested it on my Facebook page and the more I thought about it the more I realized this should be included. Someone even said taking said road trip without the modern convenience of GPS. Mr. K and I have taken several road trips together. Luckily we have similar ideas about our adventures. We eat local when we travel. We take the back roads. We stop and visit weird and quaint places and love every minute of it but this is not for everyone. That being said he doesn’t take directions well. I hate getting lost. Traffic jams and road construction stress me out. We have had more arguments in the car about how to get from point A to B then we have had about parenting. If it wasn’t for the sex and the food we might would have killed each other. If you can’t take a road trip together or a vacation then just don’t get married because life is full of bumps in the road and unexpected detours.
Marriage is hard but doing it with the right partner is rewarding. It is not about 50/50 but about two people each giving it 100 percent and doing their absolute best even when one of you may be at your absolute worst.