Lessons Learnt in Three Years of Marriage

lessons learntLast Friday Mr Zloty Baby and I celebrated our third marriage anniversary. We got married after a year and a half of dating, which is relatively soon but not really for couples who met later in life and had a good idea of what they want in life.
Here’s a couple of things I’ve learnt in three years of marriage and four and a half years of a relationship:

1. You’re Different but Not Really

We always like to think that we’re different. When we’re young and people tell us that our job is most probably going to be drudgery and we should choose something practical, we roll our eyes. We’re different.
By the same token, we think we’re different when it comes to relationships, especially when we find the person we want to share a life with after a long search. Sometimes, it makes sense to listen to advice of someone who has more experience than you do, especially if they mean well.
They’re right to warn you that you will have fights, you won’t hold hands 100% of the time forever and you will be furious with your partner at times. It’s good to be prepared for it. The question in a committed long term relationship isn’t if you’re going to have problems but how you’ll handle them.
Having said that, many people will try to project on you their negativity about their own relationship (and if they’re divorced and currently single, oh dear, close your ears!). Some people will tell you that as soon as the honeymoon is over, your relationship will become boring, sexless or feel like a prison. It really won’t, if you marry the right person and you’re both committed to constant improvement.  This is where you can be different.

2. Keeping a Healthy Relationship is a Lot of Work

Keeping a healthy relationship long term is a lot of work, which is why you have to be committed to it. In the beginning, things just come so easily that you can’t think of a better form of entertainment than staring into each other’s eyes. After some time you’ll need more stimulation than that, though.
This is why you should value quality time in a relationship. Netflix can’t be all you do together. You need to be able to associate your partner with positive feelings and the way to invoke them, isn’t constantly staring at your wedding pictures.
You need new experiences, meaningful conversations and to be up-to-date with how your partner is doing. Sometimes it’s easy but sometimes it’s not, which is why it’s important to develop healthy habits. This is what’ll save you longterm when times are rough. The magic relationship ratio, according to science is 5 good moments for each bad one. Do you meet the quota?

3. Small Things Become Big Things, Big Things Become Massive Things Over Time

When you have pink glasses on, everything in your partner seems amazing but with time you start to notice their bad side too. Part of loving someone is accepting them with their flaws but they key is to choose someone with flaws you can accept. The flaws you can’t and shouldn’t accept longterm include the obvious one such as abusive behaviors, addiction or cheating. However, there are also differences when it comes to things that matter: where you want to live, whether you want children or not, religion, temperament, the required level of social activity, ideas for what to do with your holiday or weekend…
Obviously, you’re not looking for your identical twin but certain similarities make your life together truly a life together. The lack of them may make you spend so much time apart that even if you love one another you can forget why you started dating in the first place.
Pretending that you have an interest in something your partner likes works only short-term. Of course, you need to compromise and sometimes do something that you don’t want because they want to do it and the other way round but to pretend you share interests when you don’t is a way to a very sad life.
A lie has no legs and pretending for the sake of a relationship will just make you miserable. Be yourself, a Katie girl who embraces her quirks. Someone will love them and once someone does it really feels awesome to be able to be you (however crazy, however annoying sometimes) and be loved both for and despite of it.

4. Absence Doesn’t Make the Heart Grow Fonder

My husband travels a few times a year for a week or two due to business requirements. As much as I’m okay with being Home Alone and I have a number of friends to catch-up with, activities to try, books to read, movies to watch and things to write, the absence creates a gap in a relationship.
We have a close relationship, where we share a lot of what’s happening. We simply can’t do that to the same extent when he’s not around.
We keep in touch, but particularly when the time difference is big we’re inevitably less clued up on what’s up with the other person than usually. Skype calls and messages are good and make it better but they’re not a real substitute for the person being here.
I miss my husband when he’s away. When he’s back I’m really happy but also I need a day or two to fall back into the routine.
This is a particularly funny thing for me to say, because when I was younger I thought that long distance love was the perfect arrangement. Today, I understand that back then I thrived on drama, big emotions and I didn’t understand that intensity isn’t always a good thing.
Intimacy is what a healthy long term relationship thrives on and intimacy is what is challenged during separation. It won’t kill you to be apart for a while but being apart has many challenges and in a mature relationship doesn’t make your heart grow fonder.

5. Communication and Being Open to Criticism Are Key

As I mentioned before a good long-term relationship is a lot of work. One of the reasons for it is that communication and being open to criticism, which are key to the success of a relationship, are bloody tough.
It’s so often more convenient to just pretend something didn’t happen, we didn’t notice it or underplay it. However, longterm it just doesn’t work because singular behaviors are signs of bigger tendencies. In fact, it’s easier for longterm success to address the issues as they come up rather than to let them grow.
This is something we’re not used to do. Just think about your familial home – you’d often choose to remain quiet rather than upset the status quo. I do think that you should pick our battles and sometimes it makes sense to let things slide with a friend or a family member. Unfortunately, when you choose to live with someone (because who actually enjoys living with their parents?) small repetitive things lead to big frustrations.
Another thing is that your partner is more likely to get defensive over a big complaint, which additionally complicates things. For you a big fight may be a further disinclination to address things and that just keeps the vicious circle going.
Brief, don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today, because it may be a bigger, nastier thing to deal with then.

6. There Are Many Preconceptions About What a Marriage Should Be

I have partially addressed this issue in my post 5 Irritating Questions People Ask You After You Get Married. That post was written just after we got married and even now I get most of them.
The two most irritating are: “Where is your husband?” and “When are you going to have children?”. The latter with more and more people reproducing around us has evolved to “What about you?” and “When’s your turn?”. All of them cause me have fantasies about murdering people.
“Where’s your husband?” is purely sexist. No one asks my husband “Where’s zlotybaby?” unless they were expecting me to be somewhere. But a woman out on her own own? The question “Where’s your owner?” must follow. You may think I’m exaggerating but this goes hand in hand with people asking me whether my husband ALLOWS me to do things (for instance, a hairdresser asked me, for real, whether my husband’s allowed me to cut my hair short as he doesn’t want to get in trouble).
I’m a legal adult and I don’t live in Saudi Arabia or another country disrespecting women’s rights. My husband doesn’t allow me to do anything. We have discussions about things like equals.
I won’t bitch a lot about “When are you going to have children?”. I’ll just say that it’s rude, presumptive, insensitive and most importantly, none of your f*cking business.

7. It’s Actually Cool to Be Married or in a Committed Relationship

It’s pretty cool to be married or in a committed relationship (by committed I mean you have some sort of paperwork to prove your rights, if needed, showing that you care about the well-being of one another). This is probably why so many people strive for it. Being in a relationship shouldn’t be a goal but aspiring to be in a healthy one is a different story.
The work can be occasionally hard but it’s a means to an end. When you have a partner who supports you and helps you with life struggles, not forgetting to tell you when your shit stinks, it makes your life a hell of a lot easier. Plus, you have all the other perks: sex and cuddles on tap, more financial ease with two incomes, a plus one for weddings and other events and if you’re lucky a best friend too.

Hello, Dear Rinsers! Are you married or still on the lookout? If you’re married or in a longterm relationship what would you add to my list? Looking forward to hearing from you. 

 

 

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11 comments

  1. #1 really resonated with me (and not just because it’s the first one). People are quick to judge other people or look at the lives of others and say they’ll do better or they’ll do things differently, but if we’re honest with ourselves we’re already doing things the same as they are. I can think of a simple example just from driving to work this morning. I got angry with someone for speeding to pass me when I did the exact same thing yesterday!

    When it comes to relationships, I’m not in one but I know a LOT of married women (I work in an office of mostly women) and they always complain about their husbands so I have a ton of ways to say “I won’t do that when I’m in a relationship”. But if I just look at the ways I interact with people in my everyday life, I get lazy and complacent too.

    #5 is a big one for me too because I am well aware that I suck at communication! It’s caused me no end of trouble in past relationships when instead of just talking to my girlfriend, I let resentment build until I just can’t be with her anymore. I’ve overcome that in my older years but could always do better.

    Now when I think about being in a relationship, I am hesitant because I might have unrealistic standards. Not beauty or physical standards (although being pretty and physically fit doesn’t hurt anyone) but things like being able to stick to a budget and a meal plan. I worked hard to build a system to manage my money and my food expenses and the thought of dating someone who spends money frivolously and eats out every night (as most Americans do) almost gives me a stroke.

    More and more, though, I really become okay with staying single. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello! Re 1) I think we just have to continue checking ourselves. Often why we don’t like something in someone is because we do it ourselves.
      I used to be a hectic complainer but now I try to do as little of it as I can because a) it doesn’t help and b) no one really wants to listen to it. Weirdly, it was a silent retreat I went to that was my biggest breakthrough in this respect. When you spend three days not saying anything, including not saying anything negative and you just feel so much better afterwards you sort of start to wonder what’s the point of your usual rants and anger.
      People complaining about their husbands/wives particularly annoy me (and I actually don’t do it, I find it disrespectful apart from intimate conversations with close friends) because I always feel like saying: Oh come on! You chose and married this dude/this woman so whose fault is that? πŸ˜‰

      #5 I think this is something you can definitely improve on even further, if you want.
      I used to be terrible at communication, just sulky or angry if criticised and be like “FINE. I DON’T NEED YOU AT ALL”. I think a good partner is a big part of working on it, though cause my husband points out to me when I’m out of line and even if my initial reaction is defensiveness, I do take a step back and discuss things with him properly after a breath or two. My previous partners were either too accommodating and I was able to do whatever I wanted or we had some bad dynamics with crazy toxic fights. Similarly like you, I wouldn’t criticize others, though. Instead I would just wait for a big build up and then maybe had a few fights toward the end about a particular thing that would end in a break-up soon enough.

      So I do wonder whether I would have had met anyone had I been like I’m right now when single: sticking to a meal plan, budgeting, not drinking, exercising 6 times a week, slightly obsessed with being productive… πŸ˜€
      Jokes aside, I’m sure there’s a person who matches your preferences at least closely. Years before I met my husband I made a list of 43 qualities my husband should have and he has 42 of them. I may have exaggerated with putting fluency in 5 foreign languages there :p
      I think there’s some magic in allowing yourself to make such a list and also from my experience, being fine with staying single is when you meet someone πŸ˜‰

      Liked by 1 person

      • Wow, 42 out of 43 is pretty amazing! Funny, 5 foreign languages! Is there any specific reason you wanted that in a man? I do think to learn at least one or two additional languages is appealing (I speak Turkish and Spanish but far from fluently) and shows that the person at least cares about other people… but 5! lol.

        I’m also very annoyed by people who complain about their marriages, especially when done to the opposite sex. It’s almost a form of cheating (maybe that’s a little overboard). I think people are taught these days to always be looking for flaws and to find something better, maybe. I don’t know if you have the same experience as I, but as a very open recovering alcoholic, women are VERY quick to tell me about how much their husbands drink. It’s annoying… like what am I supposed to do about it? If it’s a problem, tell him!

        But I do think that being mindful of all of these things does make me a better man, at least on the surface. Lol. I think that in a relationship I would better pay attention to my lady and listen to what she has to say than I perhaps did in the past, thanks to how often I hear that’s a problem.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’m fluent in 3 so I wanted the guy to be more impressive than that πŸ˜‰ I did make a note next to this point saying that it’s enough if the person at least wants to learn and now he’s learning Polish :p

        I don’t think it’s overboard. It may not be physical cheating but on some psychological level it is. Your partner obviously trusts you and is vulnerable with you and he/she expects your relationship to be a safe space. You’re betraying that trust to some extent by talking shit about them. They certainly wouldn’t feel happy hearing about their partner bitching about their weaknesses.
        One thing is that complaining is acceptable socially and sometimes even encouraged. Many people don’t like the success of others. I often say nice stuff about my husband but people often dismiss it because “I’m still freshly married” and tell me that “I’ll see one day”.
        Interesting! I get an opposite reactions from my girlfriends. They try to underplay how much their partners (and themselves) drink and often say “it’s not like he has a problem or anything”. I find it funny that they need to justify it. I guess maybe I could find it offensive too but I choose not to.

        The only way to find out is to wait for someone you’re keen to be in a relationship with and see πŸ˜‰ I think you can still predict a lot from just looking at how you communicate with other people in your life these days.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Happy Anni to you and Mr #zloty from your favourite Bridesmaid πŸ˜›

    I think your advice sounds mature and realistic.

    I’m in no position to speak with a long line of broken relationships to my name. However, the more I encounter different couple dynamics, I see there are a lot of different ways of doing things. Some such weird examples – couples that literally go out nowhere or do anything coupley, so much so that you could think they were more like brother and sister. There is another couple that are always about group hangs/holidays… never did anything alone and on the other end of the spectrum you have those that can’t get enough of each other…as in whatever his hobby is, she’d copy it or and then there are those girls that drag their boyfriends/hubbys to baby showers. I guess it really is a case of different strokes for different folks and at the end of the day, if it works, it works. I guess.

    As for staying simple, I’ve always said its like the safest places to be. Once you get used to it – you can be quite content there. But for me that’s still never been better than the best times in a relationship. Although the tough times do balance things out.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you x 2!

      Yes, I agree with “whatever works” but from my experience some things just don’t work longterm (like spending 100% of the time with one another and telling your friends that clearly THEIR partner isn’t their priority because they don’t want to do the same nor they think it’s heathy). A big thing is, of course, that staying married is one thing while staying happily married is another. If you believed what people said in their bios or in their FB feed, happiness would be reality for every married person, though πŸ˜›

      The last paragraph made me a bit confused but I am tired. I’ll try to reread tomorrow πŸ˜€

      Like

  3. Happy Anniversary to you both!!

    I can identify with all of the above. I call my first marriage practice and I never say it was a failed marriage because I don’t see divorce as a failure. The second time around I knew what I wanted. My first step was to move away from the cultural identity of marriage and approach each relationship with a shopping list of what I really wanted in my life. I wasn’t looking for compatibility, I was looking for acceptance, someone to accept me as much as I accepted them! Accept me I’ve found that there is no key to a happy marriage as happiness means something different to everyone. One woman would see happiness as having her own space, while another would see it as having her husband hang on every word she says.

    I’ve heard men complain about their wives not listening enough or not being able to cook. I’ve seen women complain about men being lazy or not listening. My first question is always, why are you with him if he’s not what you wanted. If you’re willing to overlook one thing because he has two other qualities you wanted, then you should not be complaining.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! Out of curiosity how old were you when you got married for the first time?
      I don’t think we should ever think about any experience as a failure – it’s much better to see it as a stepping stone or a lesson to learn.

      I totally agree! I think people like to play the “victims”, while they’re the ones who are responsible for their lives, including the person they’re with.
      I remember having this one coworker whose husband had crazy jealousy issues and she had to account for every minute of her time away from home. One thing was that she put up with it herself, another that our colleagues were saying that once you’re married you don’t have much choice and you just have to accept people as they are (???). If I protested they were just shutting me down, saying that I’m not married (it was years ago) so I don’t know how it is. Now I’m married and I still think that nothing should be put on a pedestal – if something isn’t working be it marriage, a job, a friendship, you try to fix it, if it’s still not working then you must decide for yourself what kind of life you’re willing to have. If you decide you’re willing to put up with whatever it is, then hush… It’s just insane to keep complaining about something you can change.

      Like

      • I was too young when I got married the first time around. Was a very young 19 year old, barely legal.

        People are insane, I’m married but when I give advise people don’t want to hear, they get upset with me and shit me down. People just find life interesting to have what I call marriage gripes! My thing is, if you’re constantly complaining about you marriage, maybe it’s time to go your separate ways. J get it all the time, “I’m gonna leave him because he can’t cook or he is never home or he’s always drinking!” If that’s acceptable for you then why are you constantly complaining about his behaviour?

        Liked by 1 person

      • 19 is very young but I got engaged for the first time at that age too. Fortunately, I didn’t end up marrying the guy. He was a horrible manipulator and a liar and any minute longer than I spent in that relationship would have been a mistake. I was just young and couldn’t see that actions not words matter. Luckily, I found out that he was not yet cheating on me but trying his best to do so. That was too much for me so I broke off the engagement!

        My attitude is: don’t ask me for advise if you don’t want me to be honest. People want to hear what they want to hear, which is why they’re often dismissive.
        When I was unmarried people were telling me I was unmarried so I knew nothing, now that I’m married I’m apparently not married long enough to know πŸ˜‰ Almost as if you could only listen to advise from your identical twin…or yourself.
        That someone is in a slightly different situation and that doesn’t mean there’s no merit in what they say. A lot of it has to do with common sense – if someone’s husband is so horrible that they need to complain all the time, they should either talk to them or leave them. Oh dear!

        Liked by 1 person

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