Mark and I tend to get a lot of comments from close friends and acquaintances regarding how healthy they think our marriage is. We recently went on vacation with a large group and were playfully teased the whole time for being “unattainable relationship goals.”
I think it’s easy for people to view a healthy relationship as a lucky encounter. As if two people with just the right combination of qualities happened to meet each other and fell in love, to forever stay attracted to each other: lustful, loyal and stable. Maybe that’s the case for some unicorns out there but this couldn’t be further from the truth for us.
Mark and I (along with almost all other happy couples) differ from the average couple in only one way: we work on our marriage. Like, really actually put in effort towards our marriage the same way we would put effort into a business we are growing or kids we are raising. And I don’t mean just being nice to one another when we feel like it. Or doing something sweet when it’s convenient. But instead, doing things towards a better marriage at the times we least want to. Sitting down and focusing on our marriage when we would rather be elsewhere. Doing the “not cool” things that will get us closer to our marriage goals, when it may seem ridiculous or nerdy to our friends. We set meetings for our marriage the same way we set meetings in our business. We meet at a certain time each week to discuss what is working and what is not. I think the phrase “you gotta work at your marriage” gets thrown around often, when people don’t know exactly what that means, or where to turn for proper resources.
We read books, articles, communicate and pick our battles. You guys, I can’t communicate this enough: if you are married and your home life is on the rocks, you will not succeed in other areas of your life. Period. Not the true meaning of success, anyway.
People come into marriages having been raised by two different families, different sets of role models, and different “norms.” Coming into marriage, each person has a different idea of how a marriage works, ie: how much sex is expected, how to split work,whose expected to be the bread winner, what’s okay and what’s not okay in co-ed platonic friendships, how to be treated, etc.
Mark and I came into our marriage just like most other couples. We both had emotional baggage. We had less than ideal living situations. We were broke AF. We had blocks in our communication. We had totally different ideas about basic expectations like how much time we were “supposed” to spend together. We were raised by different people so I viewed sex and intimacy TOTALLY different than he viewed it. He viewed chores in the home differently than I did. What my brain told me was “normal” in a marriage was much different for him.
We started sitting down with our books and communicating. We became more structured and intentional. We swallowed our pride. We started showing grace and forgiveness. We literally learned in a book a whole new way to have healthy disagreements and structure our arguments so they weren’t just going around in circles. We stopped teasing each other in front of our friends over things we pretended were playful but actually hurt (this is such a big daddy mistake in couples and I could write an entirely separate blog on this alone.) We got vulnerable with each other. We showed each other our raw, fucked up selves and we CHOSE to forgive and love and hold space for each other to grow. And together we grew so much.
Expectations in marriage aren’t just naturally known, they have to be communicated. If you walk into our house you will see the charts we have made deciding who does what chores on which day. Who cooks dinner on which day. Who is in charge of getting the kids ready for school on each individual day. We have written out our budget and expectations around spending money. We have read books on parenting and come to compromises and agreements on how we will parent our children. It is structured like a business, almost. I understand to some this, at first glance, seems so rigid and so strict, but I can’t emphasize this enough: actually inhabits SO MUCH FREEDOM.
When you outline expectations and educate yourself the best you can on eachothers needs and expectations…it allows space in your marriage for you both to relax and let your walls down. Structure is key in so many thing in life and marriage is definitely one of them. Our marriage is only 6 years deep but it is a fucking well-oiled machine. I know what he expects from me, he knows what I expect from him and we are free. Anyone who is around us and watches us communicate with each other, it is clear that what they are seeing isn’t actually “unattainable relationship goals,” but just two people who have sat down to willingly attempt to work their shit out and put their marriage on the front burner, even when it’s difficult.