This blog isn't about green living, or even completely about being a mom. It's more about being a spouse. This morning when I was in the kitchen washing up after breakfast, I reflected on marriage advice offered when DH and I were engaged.
We were married in the Catholic church, and that came with many learning opportunities leading up to the wedding day. Some people offer their sympathy, but it was an incredibly important experience. I recommend premarital counseling, whether or not you are religious. It was a little bit like going to school: we had to take a multiple choice test, bubbling in our answers for a Scantron machine. It was a compatibility test. I failed, because I lost my place and mis-bubbled. The priest sat us down at our next session with a very serious expression as we went over the test.
"Stephanie, I see hear that you do not want to have children, and your fiance does. This is a very important problem to talk through." I burst out laughing, because I'd always wanted to have children. Clearly, I had become confused by the 80+ question "test." I explained, and then we figured out that the test worked out after all. There were great questions: about raising children, marital expectations, and whether or not you were comfortable being nude in front of your spouse. It asked if there were external pressures to marry or not marry. Almost all of the questions would have been relevant for any couple getting married.
We also had to write an essay about the reasons why we were getting married. It was a great exercise. Not only did it provide material for the homily, but it made us think hard about this major commitment. We had to discuss what our "breaking point" would be (abuse and extended infidelity).
Finally, we had to attend a class with dozens of other couples. The class was led by a priest and two married couples. One couple had been married for 11 years and had two children. The other couple had been married for over 20 years and had 5 children. Both couples emphasized the challenges of the first five years. They didn't sugarcoat marriage. They said it would be hard, and there might be times that you wondered if you had made a terrible mistake. They said that it would be ok to feel that way, ok to feel frustrated and bewildered. Both couples said that the first five years were the hardest for them.
This was the best advice we received. Our five year anniversary is coming up in September, shortly after Abby's first birthday. There were fights, slammed doors, swearing, and tears. I'm sure they won't magically disappear after our five year anniversary, but we have learned to argue better. We've learned to fight without hurting each other's feelings and how to talk to each other when we are angry. When we disagree, we are more productive. And the disagreements are spread further and further apart. We have learned that we fight less the more time we spend together. So we put down our phones during meals. We eat breakfast together almost every day to give the day a good start. We cuddle, kiss, and hold hands. We've learned how to express our love non-verbally. We laugh together. And we never ever tear each other down as parents. We hung in there through some tough times. I'm sure there will be more tough times in the future. We still have a lot to learn about being coparents. Disasters and tragedies can happen. But just know, if you can make it to the end of the first five years and come out with a smile on your face, it's completely worth it.
What's your marriage advice, for newlyweds, new parents, or years down the road?