Gentlemen’s Corner is a series of blog posts by men. I want to give men the opportunity to speak about themselves in relation to how they see us, think about us, feel about us… their wishes, dreams, and hopes for us… and their wants, needs, and desires from us. This is an effort to bridge the gaps that seem to perpetually plague our interactions. If you’re a man interested in contributing to this site with a relevant post, please send an email pitch to firstname.lastname@example.org
Last month, my wife and I celebrated our 6th wedding anniversary.
Being married is by no means easy. What we, particularly I, have realized is that it can be easier. We’ve had our ups and downs. Some were serious enough to contemplate stepping off from our marriage. However, focusing on what we learned in pre-marital counseling helped us to eventually eliminate some of the stress in our marriage.
Before we got marrie,d we talked about all the things most engaged folks do. Combining money, kids, scheduling time together, etc. We said all the right things about being honest with each other, being considerate of each other, and the like. We attended two different sets of pre-marital counseling sessions. Promises were made to keep Christ at the center of our marriage. Neither one of us knew just how important doing so would be until we were in the marriage. Saying “I do” is THE game-changer in a relationship. I knew my wife before I got to “know” her in the biblical sense. Comedians have said that when two people get married, their mentalities change. That is somewhat true.
Let me explain.
Mentalities don’t change so much as they adjust to new realities and responsibilities that accompany being married. Before our fateful day, I would give thought to how situations and issues would affect my soon-to-be wife. Usually, how I thought about a situation is how it got handled. Immediately after saying our vows, I had to take what she thought and felt about things into account and not just hear her and listen to her, but weigh her views. That’s an adjustment that I’m still working on, even after six years.
It also needs to be said that being in a long-term relationship (LTR) does not equal being married. Folks act like being in a LTR can help them better understand marriage. LTRs keep the focus on me, you, and then us. Marriage is the exact opposite. You have to focus on what is best for you both, how it will affect your spouse, THEN how it will affect you. Those who understand this are only marginally ahead of the curve.
Another difference between life pre-vows and life post-vows is the way expectations and assumptions are handled. Most of what I expected my wife to do before we got married was simple, or so I thought. Feed me, keep a tidy house at all times, sex me on the regular, support me in my dreams, and a few more miscellaneous expectations were all I had. The assumption was that all of this would be done. The reality was a bit different.
I didn’t account for the times my wife wouldn’t be feeling well or was tired. I didn’t account for the fact she was not my servant. Marriage is a partnership. If I was unwilling to do these same things for her at least some of the time, I really couldn’t hold it against her if she wasn’t willing either. Luckily for me, she was generally on point and met or even exceeded my expectations. I, on the other hand, am a different story.
It is not so much that she didn’t articulate what she wanted; she was actually very vocal. It was more that I didn’t take it all to heart. I heard what she said, and they were the same things she articulated in counseling, but I wasn’t completely receptive to it. I had a laissez faire attitude toward her needs. While I wasn’t purposely ignoring them, I wasn’t actively engaged in meeting them either. As a result, our communication suffered. We were really two ships passing in the night.
We didn’t start out like this, of course. Once we got into a routine, it became the routine. It’s a hard norm to break. About three and a half years into this routine, we just weren’t communicating at all. I don’t think we were looking for ways out. We just wouldn’t have been surprised if we ended. It was definitely rough going. We were separated for six months. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. During the six months, we rarely saw each other and we rarely spoke face-to-face. I couldn’t speak on what she was doing or feeling. My emotions were out of whack, so I began to focus on my shortcomings as a husband rather than what I felt she lacked as a wife.
Not everyone agrees, but in my life, I’ve always been told that men lead their homes. I also have seen situations play out where, when a man who isn’t getting a desired result from his marriage, it is a direct reflection of what he isn’t giving his wife. Tough pill to swallow, but I had to swallow it. What I wasn’t getting, communication, was what the she was missing from me. I had nobody to blame but myself. I was more concerned about me, then her, then us than I was about us, then her, then I. I was doing married life backwards.
It took time to realize what the problems were, but we finally began communicating again. It took time because I guess the time apart had us leery of opening up too much to each other. It’s so twisted that a husband and wife, who’d been married for almost 5 years at this point, were leery of opening up to each other. It’s just how it was. We didn’t just arrive at the point of possibly splitting up, and we just weren’t going to knit our lives back together either.
We eventually made our way back. Even now, s*** between us gets bumpy. It’s easier to deal with now. We have a baby girl in addition to our (my) oldest daughter. The baby wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for us reexamining ourselves, recommitting to this marriage, and realizing what we can and cannot control.
It can’t be overstated how much God had a hand in keeping us together. We both believe in God, which helps. The onus was on me to keep God at the center of our marriage and I didn’t keep Him as central to our marriage as I’d like to think. Even though we strayed from each other, He never strayed from us. We had to put the work in, but it was He who made us whole again.
I tell this story for the married and unmarried alike. It takes a lot to keep a marriage together. Anybody who feels like they can just simply be present each day will find themselves in the same situation my wife and I did. The old adage that marriage is a job is true. A person has to put in time and sweat equity to reap the benefits that marriage brings. If they are willing to do that, it’ll be more than worth it.
Bryan Johnson is a writer, father, and husband. He blogs at “Godly Living Is Practical” http://glippost.wordpress.com/ and can be followed on Twitter at @DarrkGable.