What They Don't Tell You About Marriage
No matter how many people tell you about it, nothing prepares you for marriage. Much like having a child (which I haven't done), there are just things that those who came before you voluntarily leave out of the story. Last week my godsister shared a slide from a family mediation certification class with one of my girlfriends groups. Here's the information from the slide:
Seven Stages of Marriage: from "The Marriage Map" by Maxine Rock
ROMANTIC PERIOD - fusion, merging, bonding: 1st - 3rd years
DIFFERENCES - conflict and devaluation: 3rd - 7th years
AFFECTIONATE BONDING - freedom, deep rapport, flexibility: 5th-10th years
TEAM WORK - decision and responsibilities: 10th - 15th years
SEPARATION - settle down or split up: 12th - 17th years
TOGETHER AGAIN - promise of closeness: 17th - 20th years
NEW FREEDOM: 20th plus years
Basically this slide left me anxious. I had more questions than answers once I digested the information my godsister shared. The overall takeaway from the conversation our group had is that every marriage is different and the journey is fluid. Some couples will sail through the phases and some will stumble. The advice I received was to make the choice to work through each phase and to be aware of a phase when you're in one. Solid advice.
I've tried to be very realistic about marriage in these very new 22 months of married life. I don't pretend to have the answers and I don't expect sunshine and roses every day. What I do expect to do is grow and learn some things. Nevertheless, there are things, including the concept of "marriage phases", that I wish I'd known before I took the plunge. In an attempt to quell some myths, and in no particular order, here are some other things that no one tells you about 'before' you enter into holy matrimony:
1. You will argue about mundane household stuff. Some of your dumbest and most intense arguments will be caused by that sink full of dishes. It's inevitable that a coffee mug will become a metaphor for something bigger.
2. There will be a "for worse". At some point life will hit you with a real challenge that may cause the worst parts of yourself or your partner to show up. Be prepared to love your partner through it and forgive yourself as well.
3. You will need alone time. Snuggling on the couch on a Saturday afternoon is great, but so is sleeping in the middle of the bed when your spouse goes on a work trip for a week.
4. Changing your name takes forever. Ladies, prepare to stand in lines, fill out applications and make endless phone calls. I just got around to changing my passport and it took an act of Congress to get it done.
5. You really can't be selfish. Although you aren't responsible for fixing your partner's problems, you may have to sit and listen to gripes about work or family or friends. You are in this together which means doing things you might otherwise not want to do. Like listen...
6. The little things will matter. My husband is as excited about my making him breakfast on a random weekend as he is about hearing "I love you". Small gestures go a long way.
7. The concept of intimacy is more than sex. Sex is an act; intimacy is so much more.A love note or a random wink from across the room can be as satisfying as a romp in the sheets.