Last 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.