7 (Personal) Marriage Lessons We Learned Before We Got Married
On December 4, 2015 Kevin and I will be celebrating all these lessons we learned from each other. We’ve lived together for as long as we’ve known each other. We’ve gone through jobs, career changes, dogs, cats and remodeling a house. We’ve been students to professionals. We kissed wealth and known our own poverty together.
So I hope you give it a read and if that doesn’t convince you, I totally cried writing this at some point, so it’s one of the most honest things I’ve ever written.
When we first started dating, we were young. And without a proper example (I mean who really has the proper example for relationships anyway?) I personally had already been in a relationship where I had no voice. Hell, I grew up thinking that voicing my opinion was somehow bad or disobedient. And I wanted nothing to do with being disobedient. For Kevin and I, it seemed like we had worked our way into a rut of not voicing our true feelings, opinions and the like, just to save each other from feeling bad, guilty, etc.
It was like we wanted to live in this “bubble of nice” — Never really giving each other a piece of our mind. While that seemed to last for a while, we weren’t truly experiencing a love that was unconditional. In fact it was full of conditions. And we each had to mature together to find out that allowing each to have a voice in this relationship is all that will push and pull us to some very uncomfortable places — Only to make us better people for ourselves and for each other moving forward.
“I will never leave you for talking to me” was a phrase I said that utterly changed the way we viewed each other. It was finally safe to be honest with each other. And with that support and freedom we found the legs of our relationship.
2. Equality didn’t mean what we thought
There was an incredible (unsaid) competition between us when Kevin and I first started dating. I think because we’re very similar in our feelings about being artists. We’re creative, left-brained solo-acts. We can get lost in the work we do and we want to put our stamp on the things we create. We have egos and an incredible amount of pride wrapped up in our sense of self-worth. All these qualities sound great and are indeed assets to our character, but it often made us unbreakable. Untouchable to each other. We lacked compassion.
Without compassion you can’t hope to be a decent partner for someone else. And without compassion for yourself, you defend yourself from the people who would help you grow and mature. I’m so happy, that we slowly began to understand what it meant to draw the line of equality over and over again for our relationship.
By that I mean that, while I cook and clean and whatever the heck I do in the house, I do that now with pride and totally without resentment. I write and blog and do what I’m good at. I shoot and appreciate the feedback and or knowledge Kevin can drop on me without being pretentious, defensive or other-wise butt-hurt.
Equality is not 50/50 it’s an agreement that the two of us are under the same banner. We’re a team and in order to make this team win, we’ve both got to be on our game. I boost him, and he will boost me.
3. Pay attention to subtleties
There are so many times, where you’ll find yourself irritated with your partner. Either you’ve been around each other for too long, or you’re not in a good place. But the little things will start to add up. You’ve got to push yourself to address the little things, as they will add up. The are plenty of little things that I’m happy to let go, but Kevin’s phone often gets first dibs of Kevin’s attention more often than I’m comfortable with. Thankfully, he read a article like this one and now reminds himself to kiss me first before checking his phone in the morning. Things like that make all the difference.The change is subtle, but I’m drastically more happy.
I also had a habit of complaining. ALOT. It was subtle. You’d say it was normal to complain about dogs barking, stinking roommates, a dirty kitchen, etc. But for him it was probably like listening to a discontent old hag. Whenever I have the urge to complain — I do. ha.
But realizing what that complaining represents and what it makes Kevin feel, I tone it down and now I find ways (whenever I’m good enough to catch myself) to not complain. After all, complaining is a complete waste of energy and only shows my inability to be in the power seat of my own life.
Fear is an incredible power. It blinds you and binds you to stop progressing as a smart and decent human being. For a while in our relationship, we both feared the outcome of certain scenarios we had in our heads until it came to a breaking point. There were many times, I was afraid to tell Kevin my dreams. I was even afraid to dream the dreams I wanted to have. I thought “why bother, if I can’t have what I want”.
Repressing your own dreams for fear of some outcome that may or may not happen turns you into a cold bitch. I know, believe me. Soon enough, you lock yourself away because you fear you cannot voice your wants or that your partner will never support you.
And like every action deserving a reaction, that fear rubbed off on Kevin and so we both toiled with our fears until they were staring us in the face begging to either be let go or rule our minds.
Fortunately, we let go our fears and acknowledged them. They’re always there, but at least we have a crude system of dealing with them. Not to worry it gets better every day.
5. Re-purposing anger
This one is pretty important. I find that I need this lesson more than Kevin. In fact, I think I always need this lesson. The thing is, I’m not the easiest person to calm down after I get mad. In fact, I have a habit of holding on to my anger. As if it gives me power over a situation that has taken away my happiness. For some strange reason, it’s more comfortable (due to habit) to stay angry and full of pride.
Given that I’ve been on this ‘self-dev’ kick for a while now, I know this about myself. Self-awareness is by far your best tool for experiencing a happier life. Anyway, I saw this little habit and said “I’m feeling angry for a reason that’s small potatoes” So instead of berating the situation more, I let that anger go and re-purposed my anger and energy into a more productive act —making love.
This is not the famed “make-up sex”, as that denotes that you’re still angry, still hanging onto some negative energy that’s hiding from the problem. Practice letting go, I know I need to. You’ll find your happiness much sooner and more often.
6. The effect of chronic physical pain
I’ve dealt with chronic pain for most of my adult life. All of it brought on by my own self-stunted emotional depth. Chronic physical pain changes you. The activities that you once defined yourself with are sooner gone and the moments you used to share playing together are suddenly non-existent. Moving through life is almost unbearable because you knew a life that was so much easier. I missed the person I used to be before my inabilities chained me down.
This is struggle I deal with every day, but I’m the only one who can do something about it. Recognizing that sometimes the pain speaks for you (drowns out what you really want) and often says some nasty and mean things needs to be reigned in. Again, self-awareness wins. If found out that in order have compassion from Kevin, I had to first show it, by explaining what I was going through. This took some time, but got it right.
Be wary as chronic pain almost becomes a crutch. You get used to being helpless. Thankfully Kevin has learned along with me, on when to back off and when to call me out.
If you’re dealing with chronic pain and it seems to put a sour patch on your relationship, start with yourself first: How can you find your happiness without living the life you used to lead? You’re going to have to use your mind for something other than thinking of all the things you’ve lost or can’t do anymore.
At the end of the day, you can find new paths in your life OR grow older and faster than you actually are.
7. Remaining Sexy
We had both been in previous relationships that focused on sex too much. For me, I know that I didn’t yet know what love was or what it meant to have a balanced sex life. Being from a conservative Asian family, this is the last thing I want to write about, but that fear won’t hold me back from being honest and true to what I believe creates a healthy and happy relationship.
Moreover, we had this silly agreement that we wouldn’t let sex become overwhelming in the beginning. A decent attempt to focus on the other parts of our relationship first. But as we got older, I started to see that there was no reason to fear that all-consuming passion for someone you love. It’s not like we never felt this (and acted on it), but I think we were afraid to encourage that kind of passion in each other regularly.
I married Kevin the moment I introduced him to my mom and sister, so to me, marriage is being able to feel and be your best in front of that person.
I’ve never felt safe enough to feel my most creative, my most womanly and most feminine the way that I do in front of Kevin. I now bolster my courage to always try to feel sexy and good for myself and for him.
While I’m sure this list can go on and on, these we’re the real game changers for us and I DO hope to grow this list. I almost love it when there’s some sort of conflict between us. It’s a chance for me to see how much I’ve grown and apply what I’ve learned. I love that Kevin remains my partner to test my limits and in doing so he has a great influence on me. In turn, I hope to do the same. This way of life that we’ve come to understand together is incredibly freeing.
I hope my list gave you some insight as to how we run the gears over here and add some value to your own relationship. And if you have something to add to the list I’d love to hear your experiences.