Monday, September 22, 2014

Top 10 things I've learned


So, I was talking to someone the other day (and the other day for me sometimes means a year ago and sometimes means a day ago... it really depends on my memory where time is all conflated) about marriage. They basically asked me what was the top thing I've learned through married life. So, I decided to share some of them here.

Disclaimer: I'm not saying I know much about marriage and married life, I still consider myself relatively new to the lifestyle, but these are just my top ten reflections.

1- If you made it past the first year, you're likely to be together forever. 

The first year (maybe two) of marriage for everyone is the most challenging. Why? Because you are so "in love" with a person that the over-the-top image that you have of your loved one is contrasted with their day to day realities. Your knight in shining armor, your princess or queen, the love of your life.... so pure, so amazing.... contrasted with, well let me quote one of my favorite children's books, "Everyone Poops" (Taro Gomi).

Essentially, you witness one extreme to the next. Although the rate of divorce is high and there is no guarantee, but I strongly believe that if you make it past the first two years, you can get through anything.

2- Praying for your loved one, makes you love them more. 

This was a piece of advice my brother-in-law gave me. Really, it works. When I am annoyed as heck with my hubby or my daughter or my sister or anyone else in my family... I pray for them. Not in the "holier than thou" way... I pray for random things. Like that my sister does well in her classes. That my husband excels at work. That my mom gets to do something fun in the next two days. That my daughter likes to read books with me. I pray that they get the phone they want, the dress they've been saving up for, the date that they need to go on (I'm rooting for you mom and dad, you really need to go out alone more often), and so forth. The reason I pray for their "materialistic" things is because it makes me feel less annoyed with them and really feel like I witness their hard work and sacrifice. My husband works so many hours on computers, he should be able to enjoy the newest technology that his work contributes to. My sister studies so hard, she should be able to get the grade she is aiming for. My parents gave up so much of their alone time for us as kids, they should be able to enjoy being alone on dates as much as possible.

3-  Don't take things personally.

I won't lie. This one is a challenge for me until this second. I tend to take things personally if it comes from family. Mainly, because they know me through and through. But in the end, the people who love you aren't trying to hurt you. They're trying to love you through their own approaches. Some people talk in naturally harsher tones and shorter sentences. I'm not like that. But it takes a lot of effort for me to distinguish the way a person talks versus the message they're trying to deliver. Therefore, its a challenge, but don't take things personally.

4- Keep living life.

I think this is harder, for the most part (but not exclusively) for women. My husband used to tell me when I first got married, go out with your friends, go out to your open mics, just go out and have fun. But it was so hard for me to do it, because I wanted to spend all my time with my new husband. I felt like our time together was shared and I didn't want someone else to take that away from me. But if you do that, constantly want to be together with your spouse, you kind of suffocate each other. This is a tip for people who constantly love to be with their spouse: If you are with them constantly, your time with them is going to get shorter and shorter. But if you give each other your own personal time, you'll have a life-time together. Essentially, don't force your spouse to replace everyone of your relationships... that is unfair, impossible, and will lead you both to burn out.

5- Find the right friend. 

You have good friends, I get that. But friendship (and I think I've blogged about this in the past) differs completely when you're single, in-a-relationship, married, a parent, and even a grand-parent. Your lifestyle completely changes in all these different points of life. You need to find a friend, who can understand what you're going through, be willing to exchange non-judgmental advice and a listening ear, and will not be upset when you don't fill in the blanks. Life with another person is tough and sometimes, you just need to get away, but you know at the end of the day, you will want to come home to you loved one.

6- TEA, TEA, TEA, and TEA

This may seem silly, but my husband has introduced me to the world of herbal teas that I never really knew of... or at least never purchased before. I've fallen in love with a beautiful mix of: Marjoram, Anise, Ginger, and Cinnamon. I can drink it all day long.

7- Trust

Trust is such a hard thing to have in this day and age. But because of past experiences, we gather information, we draw conclusions, we develop assumptions, we limit trust. Trust is essential to a marriage. However, I think that your spouse and you need to define how you understand trust. For example, just because I don't tell you something, doesn't mean I don't trust you. I just don't feel like it is necessary to tell people. Whereas, other people feel that if you don't tell your significant other everything then it means you don't trust them. Get to know how both you and your significant other approach the concept of trust.

8- Family support is a must. 

Needless to say, you love your family, your spouse loves their family and you should both aim to love each other's family. In the long-run, it is essential. This can sound very self-serving, and I won't lie, in the end, it is. But many couples break up because of family drama. Try your hardest to extend love to your in-laws and you will find them to be a pillar of support in your household. Also, a piece of advice my mother-in-law told me was to avoid complaining about your own family, because this could reduce the value and image of your family to your spouse. Overall, your family loves you, acts in what they consider their best interest of you, and they may do things differently than you, but its out of love.

9- Thank you, thank you, thank you....

Before I get into the implications, I suggest you always thank your spouse at least once a day for something they did for you. At least once a day, because if its too frequently, it honestly gets annoying. And if its less, then you might feel taken for granted. Anyway, implications. I have had two different narratives mentioned to me in terms of thanking people you are close with. First, someone mentioned that you don't thank your family because this is their duty to you. Second, don't thank another person too much because they start to see you as beneath them and treat you as such. I think these are both valid arguments, but I do not agree with them, although I have confronted both in my lifetime. I have had a relationship in the past where a friend would "talk down to me" and another friend pointed out it is because I "always thank them and always compliment them". For these two scenarios, I think this is the best approach: First, always thank people no matter what their relationship, because even parents feel taken for granted, no matter what their duty is. When you thank them, it makes them feel like less of a duty and more of an act of love. Second, remind people to thank you. I know that sounds "obnoxious", but really, sometimes you need to. Sometimes I am so caught up in my own head, that I don't realize that someone did me a favor, or took care of me, or helped me in some way. Every once in a while, when the other person starts to feel "taken for granted", I think they should remind their loved one that they helped them in such and such way. Don't catalogue a huge list. Just be nice about it. Like, "I made you some coffee today, do you like it?" I think this is a nice way to remind your spouse that you did an act of kindness for them without pressuring them to feel obligated to thank you.

10- Treat people the way they want to be treated, not the way you want to be treated. 

This is also a tough one. How well do you know a person to know how they want to be treated? Maybe you have to directly ask them how they want to be treated. But, just because you want to be hugged all day long, doesn't mean your spouse wants that... Or just because you like to constantly be in someone's company, doesn't mean that your loved one wants that... Or just because your loved one always likes to eat pizza doesn't mean you want that... Or just because your spouse likes to receive gifts doesn't mean that you want that... I've said this before, find your partner's love-language. It took me a long time to realize that my mother's love language (like most Arab mothers) is through constant "nit picking/advice giving" and through "service". Essentially, the same way you accept their services, you should accept their advice, no questions asked. So, I try to serve my mom now. I'm obviously not going to nit-pick at her... but I do try to serve her more than gift buying or words of love. I do those things, but when I serve her and spend time with her, thats when she recognizes my love the most. Some people love receiving gifts. To express your love to them in a way they recognize you need to give them a gift, even if it is to buy them a cup of coffee. Some people need words of affirmation and love. Some people need physical touch and intimacy. I'm not suggesting they only need one of these things to satisfy them, but sometimes they need one area or "love-language" more than the other. So, essentially, treat your loved one in a way that they can understand your love, the way they want to be loved, as much as you can.

One extra just for you... 

Married life is as difficult and complicated as you make it. If you complicate things, then you complicate things. If you make things easy, you make things easy. Find the right balance. It'll take time... I'm still trying to get ahold of the ropes... we all will eventually figure things out.