Having said all that, here are 5 lessons that I have learnt so far, after being married for 10 years. ( I tried to come up with 10 but I just couldn’t! I’m a slow learner. 🙂
1. To engage in regular baggage checks – Essentially, my marital baggage is full of assumptions, misconceptions and unrealistic expectations. These have all been fuelled by the kind of family I grew up in, the dynamics between my own parents, the books I’ve read (the ones that told me that men are from mars and women are from Venus),the movies I’ve watched and all the #marriagegoals posts that I have gorged myself on on Instagram. Regular baggage checks force me to analyse whether I’m being fair or unfair to my spouse by projecting certain expectations on him. It helps me focus on the individual that’s in front of me and see them for who they really are, not who I think/want or expect them to be. This has always been a great exercise for me to engage in especially during times of conflict or disagreement. Whenever we both fail to do this, it often results in more anger, resentment, frustration, withdrawal etc.
2. That not having a lot of things in common with your spouse is not a curse– First off, I’m going to say that this doesn’t relate to fundamental things such as your core-values, ethics, faith and whatever else is non-negotiable for you. This is about character traits, motivations, needs, wants, love language etc. I have learnt that there is growth (or at least an opportunity for growth) when you marry someone who is different from you. It is definitely not easy, but it encourages you to learn empathy. I find that empathy is such an underrated emotion/characteristic in a marriage. It is what made me step out of myself and my own needs/wants and actually be attentive to that of another adult human being. Again, this can be quite difficult to do especially when your needs and wants are worlds apart, and then compromises have to happen. And I am not saying that I have completely nailed it. But it is definitely rewarding when each party feels truly heard and seen.
I think this where a marriage has the potential to go to the next level. The other option is great and easy because you both have similar goals and needs, you have similar character traits and so you both get on like a house on fire. But for couples who are different, and do want to make it work, I have learnt that both parties have to go the extra mile to listen, and in the name of love, happiness and true partnership, try to give their spouse what they need, without judgement or resentment. (As long as it is halaal).
Something to note here is that your spouse’s needs, wants or motivations might not always make sense to you, it is your job to validate them anyway. So if you’re a newly-wed and you’re realising that you and your spouse are quite different, don’t hold down your head in despair thinking “Oh my gosh! I have married the wrong person, we have nothing in common” . Sometimes, you just need to work a little harder,communicate a bit better and most importantly, listen to understand; if you love the person and truly want to make it work with them.
3. To recognise that your spouse’s experience of your marriage night be different to yours– I have found this is especially common once a couple become parents. When I became a mum, I was so overwhelmed by the emotions, the responsibility and the hormones that I just assumed that my spouse was going through the same emotional roller coaster. It wasn’t until a few things began to crop up that we both realised that we were going through different emotions and had different worries. I have found that as a couple, sometimes, you might be on the same journey (of parenthood or marriage) it is very likely that your experiences will differ. It is essential to identify this, communicate and analyse the causes and then legitimise the feelings that crop up in the process.
4. That my emotional self-sufficiency is not always a positive thing– This is something I discovered about myself recently. Or I guess I should say it is something that I have recently been a able to name or define about myself. I am emotionally self-sufficient. I can self-entertain. self-motivate, self-encourage, self-consult, self-soothe and self-chastise. I enjoy and am comfortable in my own company, and in some situations, I prefer my own company. I am not sure if this is an innate trait that was lying dormant or some kind of survival trait I developed after some disappointments. I don’t know. What I do know is this; admirable a quality it might be, emotional self-sufficiency in a partnership can be counter-productive. A spouse wants to feel valued and needed in a relationship and for that to happen, they need to occupy a position of value in the life of their partner.
5. That there is such a thing as ‘too close for comfort’ in a marriage– Now I know not everyone will agree with me on this (or on any of the things I have mentioned above, in fact), but this isn’t about me trying to convince you to agree with me:-). I am just sharing my lessons based on my personal experiences.
One of the perks of long -term marriage is the comfort and familiarity between couples. Gone are the days of fake ‘decorum’, shyness and acting like you are the Queen or King of England. You’ve been through everything together and by now, you probably finish each other’s sentences, you know the meaning of that little twitch in their nose or that arch in their brows when someone says something they don’t agree with. You have picked up each other’s mannerisms and little slangs and quirks- you’re virtually the same human being at this point. But, with this closeness and familiarity come some situations where I believe boundaries need to be drawn; and this is in the sharing of toilets or bathrooms. If it is possible and within financial means, I believe that having separate restrooms as spouses can be life saving or marriage saving. When your husband or wife is annoying the crap out of you, and the mere sound of their chewing or swallowing is making you seethe, the last thing you want is to walk into the bedroom reeking of whatever natural bodily functions they’ve just engaged in. I mean… this is the kind of stuff that can tip you over the edge. Or perhaps it might help bring a bit of comic relief? Maybe. I don’t know. (clearly I haven’t figured this one out yet 🙂 All I know is that I want my own toilet! LOL