How to Stay Married – Advice From a Wife and Cornwall Wedding Photographer
An Open Letter to My Couple on the Eve of Their Wedding
Tomorrow, you’re going to have an incredible day. Fancy clothes; flowers; fun (if slightly uncomfortable) shoes; a great meal; people saying all sorts of nice things about you; and, hopefully (because this is, after all, my work blog), an amazing photographer to capture it all in stunning detail. You’ll dance, you’ll laugh, you might cry, you’ll almost certainly drink, and then, at some point you’ll head off to bed.
The real story starts the next day, when you wake up as a married couple.
See, what statistics keep showing us is that folks are gettin’ hitched and havin’ a ball…. and then things go a little sour… and then it all goes to pot. Weddings often focus on details about the very first day of your marriage. Seating charts, guest lists, themes, colours…. Very rarely does a wedding focus on the realities of the life ahead of you. Together.
The realities are that marriage isn’t all butterflies and harp music and tears of joy (although, I hope you’re lucky enough to have all three in plentiful supply in the years to come – except maybe the harp music – you might find that irritating after awhile). Marriage is doing the dishes, sorting the laundry, getting the car repaired and deciding what to watch on Netflix. Marriage is making split-second parenting decisions about clothing choices and acceptable language; it’s about learning what’s okay to share publicly; it’s about understanding a need for space. It’s filled with tedium, expenses, negotiations. Woooooo-wee! Am I making this sound exciting or what?! But see, THAT is where the magic happens. If you can get through the tedium, negotiate fairly, and cover the expenses, then you’re coming out a winner.
But here’s the problem. People forget to mention that there’s more to marriage than harp music and butterflies. People forget to mention that arguing is normal; that differences in opinion can – and should – be navigated with respect for the whole person you’re arguing with. People forget to mention that sometimes marriage is just.plain.hard.work. That, sometimes, you have to roll up your sleeves, brace at the knees, and prepare to dig in, so that you can keep digging and make it out the other side.
So. Here are a few thoughts for you in the hopes that understanding these simple ideas will help you keep your laundry partner around, 50 years after your wedding.
Remember that there’s a difference between “love” and “like”
You’re promising to love another human being for the rest of your life. That means accepting change, encouraging growth, seeing the whole person. It means remembering to put them first at least some of the time (hopefully it’s most of the time and that effort is reciprocated). It takes work on a broad spectrum, over years…many many years. It’s the marathon.
“Liking”someone is the daily grind; the jog that you do in the morning that sometimes feels way harder than it actually is because it’s snowing or the roads are under construction or you get soaked from a passing car. “Liking” someone means putting up with bad jokes, dishes left out overnight, ill-timed bodily functions, coming home late, having too many drinks and being “that guy” (or girl) at a party one night. “Liking” your spouse isn’t going to happen every single second of every single day. In our house, the phrase, “I love you, but I don’t like you very much right now” is a good indicator that the other person has made a baaaaaad life decision. It’s also a very good reminder that the broad-spectrum emotion hasn’t changed. Confusing “like” and “love” is very easily done and it can be a hard mistake to recover from, but keep reminding yourself of the difference.
Fighting is normal
You’re both human. Your opinions are going to differ at some point – at many points, in some cases. Don’t feel like you have to give up because you had one big argument. Having friends who pen Facebook posts that point out their marital pinnacles while you’re still stewing over some bitter barbs you exchanged over breakfast doesn’t mean that you’ve failed at marriage. Know that this too, shall pass.
Don’t name call. Don’t push buttons. Don’t use sarcasm or mimicry. Respect your partner, their individuality, and their own values, recognising that you aren’t likely going to share those exact same values (or you probably wouldn’t be in this situation). Disagreeing is human. It’s normal. Being nasty isn’t, and it’s counter-productive.
Pick one thing. Choose wisely.
It sounds simple. And yet, when that 176th thing gets your goat and you snap, it can be so easy to drag up all 176 things that are driving you crazy. Nopenopenopenopenope. Pick one. Focus on that. And KEEP focusing on that (and only that) until that one thing is resolved. Don’t confuse things by throwing the other 175 things into the mix or you’ll just get lost in the fight and end up back in the same place days, weeks, or months later, with nothing resolved but feeling even more resentful.
You wouldn’t have 176 things driving you nuts if you spoke up sooner. Be mature. Take “nothing” and “fine” out of your list of pre-programmed responses. Deal with each problem as it comes, rather than letting them pile up like stinking nasty gym laundry that has gone so wrong that you have to throw the whole pile away.
Let it Go
Elsa, in all of her repetitive, candy-coloured, open-the-sunroof-so-your-kids-can-belt-it-out cartoon madness, might’ve been on to something, you know. If the argument isn’t worth having because the problem is irritating but ultimately-not-that-big-of-a-problem or if you’ve voiced your concerns and feel better for having spoken up, then make the decision and ACTUALLY let it go. That means don’t bring it up again. Ever.
Date night; weekend brunch; card games; cooking together; gardening; bird-watching; coffee; a Sunday drive; a round of golf (or mini-putt!). Time together takes on any number of different forms. But make it happen. Regularly. Just the two of you. Re-connect on a routine basis so that you don’t lose sight of the human you love. Change happens slowly and quietly and without us realising it sometimes, so make a point of discussing what’s new, even if it’s just your take on a subplot in your favourite TV series.
Be Gracious in Defeat; Humble in Victory
If you have to “win,” do it with humility and don’t lord it over your partner (unless you’re bowling, in which case, break out that victory dance like your pants are on fire). Say thank you. Move on.
If you have to “lose,” do it with grace. Never underestimate the value of two simple words:
Know that you might have to say them multiple times and do be too proud to do so. Check your ego at the door.
Remember the Humanity in Your Partner
You’re choosing to say “I do” to this one incredible person in your life. Remember what it is about this person that is making you want to put those three letters together in that order, and cling to that when times get rough (because, at some point, they will). You’re each human; you will change opinions, grow, make mistakes. Grant them the grace to accept their growth and their errors because you love them.
That’s it. Nine simple things. Work on them – God knows, I still am. And when all else fails, find a way to laugh together.
Good luck tomorrow.
I’ll be rooting for you.
I’m Ang – a wife to a wonderful man, and a Cornwall, Ontario-based photographer with a passion for capturing light and photographing natural moments in life as they happen. Marriage matters to me and I want to see yours succeed. I love working with couples from Cornwall and around the world on their wedding day so that I can capture the little details and emotions that are shared. Please explore more of www.momentusstudio.com to see more examples of wedding photography from Cornwall and around the world.