Gentlemen’s Corner: Reflections of a Married Man

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 feministajones@gmail.com

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.

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20 Responses to “Gentlemen’s Corner: Reflections of a Married Man”

  1. Von says:

    I can appreciate the honesty, especially when specifying your beliefs and even sort of implying that your way is YOUR way, rather than indicating “this is THE way”. It’s cool to get a look at someone’s experience from their eyes. And I’m glad y’all were able to work it out. Happy continuances ftw!

    • Darrk Gable says:

      Thanks for that. It took a while, but getting this married thing right is important. Men need to set the table, with input of course from their women.

  2. Kahlief says:

    I appreciate this article and as a newlywed love to see them get back on track. I hear all the horror stories and see all the broken relationships around me and wonder what went wrong. I also really like to see the self-evaluation and reflection with this guy, that can be really hard.

    The thing that stuck out for me was the expectations he had of the woman in his life. I hear this a bunch from male friends of mine and don’t understand where it comes from. I think people can avoid some of the issues if they don’t set up unrealistic expectations from the beginning.

    • Darrk Gable says:

      It’s actually sorta hard not to have expectations. Society, and traditions fuel them. What each married couple has to do is find how to tweak each one, and decide which ones are workable in their respective marriage. It’s a trial and error process, but it can be ultimately satisfying.

  3. pnoty says:

    Interesting. But why must it be a job? That in it of itself maybe why folks say F it to marriage. The other part I found interesting was the man leading the home, which creates a ton of issues especially if the wife is always bucking or trying to do her own thing. Lastly, when I read these type of postings, while good, I find it strange that they are always written by men and what men need to do to fix xyz. What, if anything at all, does the wife have to do to make the marriage work or is it all on the guy since he is considered the leader?

    • Darrk Gable says:

      I can’t speak for others, but I’ll speak for myself and my experiences.

      1. Marriage is work. Anybody who thinks it’s just going to be a cakewalk needs to evaluate themselves. Just like a job, you get what you put into it. If you work OT from time to time, you get some extra money, or comp time. Marriage is the same way. Putting extra time in will benefit both spouses. If a person isn’t willing to do extra, when they’re able too, sometimes, the stat quo gets old.

      2. Per your point about men and leadership. My thoughts come from a biblical basis. I don’t beat nobody over the head with the Bible, but it does guide my thoughts. That being said, God created man first for a reason. We’re to take the lead in our homes, and communities. There’s a direct correlation between men being in the home and familial stability. Also, men must lead their wives by serving them. It’s called servant leadership. It’s antithetical to how society thinks, but if you want a strong marriage, a man’s wife has to come before him. If he makes wise decisions and does this, his wife ideally, should feel comfortable enough following his lead, and having his back.

      Communication alleviates alot of the BS, but ultimately, even uf she isn’t with the program, the husband has to answer ro God about what is going on with his family. We are accountable to God first. Let God work on the wife, because only he can change her anyway.

      Hope this gave some clarity.

  4. October says:

    Loved the writer’s candid glimpse inside his marriage. The only thing I wish he would’ve spoken about is why was/is it worth it. I always hear about the work & struggle it takes to sustain a marriage, but I never hear the benefits. I truly want to hear about that too because the marriage discussion usually focuses on “the work” and as a result, not very desirable to me.

  5. Von says:

    @Darrk Gable: Well, I don’t necessarily believe men specifically lead. I think 1) whoever has the leading personality (decisives will lead indecisives, Alpha-types will lead Beta-types, etc) and 2) what type of decision structure you agree on with your significant other will be a better metric for who leads than gender/sex will.

    And @pnoty: women sometimes need to correct things also, but this is told from the perspective of the man. And his issue in his marriage and his particular situation was that he wasn’t doing what he was supposed to do. I’m sure there are cases where the woman has her own things to fix as well. But I think relationship/marital problems are heavily weighed against men because women are socialized to give and bend and satisfy others until nothing of themselves is left and all-too-often they will, even when not getting what they need. Which is why it can seem like they are rarely the issue in a relationship.

    • Darrk Gable says:

      I hadn’t really thought of the logistical aspect of what you. I guess that makes some sense. It’s just me personally, my spiritual beliefs outweigh the logistics. Final decisions will ultimately rest with the husband. His position as lead in his home was set by God, not him. Also, there’s a saying that states “to whom much is given, much is required.” Men have the position and authority, but much more is required of him.

      To your point to Pnoty…you mentioning society is key. Society, IMO, has the view of marriage twisted.

      • Von says:

        I would disagree that society, as a whole, has marriage twisted. I would say that some people have it misunderstood, as in all things. But for the most part, I would say that there’s no one standard for what a marriage or relationship is. The people in it set the standards and expectations.

        For example, I’m in a completely secular LTR. I mostly lead because she’s indecisive but there are some areas where she will have to get/keep me on track because maybe it’s something I don’t want to do or I’m feeling lazy, but it’s something that makes her feel loved and validated by me. In those particular situations, I’d say that she leads.

        And personally, I think whatever works for your relationship works for you, but isn’t necessarily the standard for all relationships/marriages or even most. Especially when you take into consideration non-monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, D/s relationships, etc where your “definition” can become confusing and even restricting of the people in the relationship.

        Idk maybe I’m just an open-minded dude. But this is how I see it: Two (or more) consenting adults can conduct their relationship however they want/need to as long as no one is being harmed (in a bad way).

        • Darrk Gable says:

          No stress. Your entitled to your opinion. You and yours is an example of where shes weak, your strong. Not in a weaker sex sorta way, but your strongsuit is where she might not be as keen on certain things. You letting her take charge in other instances is the servant leadership I spoke about a few replies back. As for the not being a standard for marriage, we just agree to disagree. My view, God set the standard, society has skewed it.

  6. Von says:

    Yeah, we’re going to have to agree to disagree. For one, I don’t believe in god so that “God set the standard” doesn’t even apply as far as I’m concerned. And I know enough people to know that no two people are exactly the same in their expectations, desires, and the ways they express and interpret love. So I definitely can’t get with any speculation of “this is THE relationship standard” which is what I thought you were trying to get at originally. I was mistaken with that, but it’s cool. The rules of your relationship work for you and that’s all that matters. That each person’s relationship works for them. I hope y’all are happy for a long time.

    As far as everything else, I’m not relationship expert, but I find this is a big part of all my relationships. Bare minimum you need: trust, respect, love. And when I say love, I mean y’all need to communicate on how you receive love and how your partner/friend (depending on the status of the relationship: platonic or romantic) receives love and show them love in the ways they understand it. You can’t just do whatever you want and expect them to “get it”. I learned the hard way that it doesn’t work like that. And the same for respect. Some people receive/show respect in different ways. If you’re having ANY problems with breakdowns in communication, start there.

    Idk about marriage, but LTRs can be very satisfying in the way of feeling love, supported, encouraged and validated by your partner. You can have someone you feel comfortable with being your whole self around. Someone that “gets you”. Someone that accepts, likes, loves and/or enjoys your crazy, your kink, your “everything that comes with being with me”. It’s pretty great.

    And the only reason why it’s often work is because when you have a mismatch where your partner doesn’t feel love in the way you show it, you have to go the extra mile to show them love in the ways they understand. There’s a lot of information out there about it. Google “love languages”. There’s even I think a lot of pretty brief tests that can help the test-taker figure out their love language if you’re having trouble with it for yourself or your partner.

    Peace

  7. Darrk Gable says:

    That love language thang you speak of is real, very real. As far as everything else, fair game. Appreciate the discourse with ya nonetheless.

  8. Derrick says:

    Mr. Johnson, I couldn’t agree with this post more! I lived with my wife before we got married, and I’m glad I did, but I can remember the shift from “me then we” to “her first” (work in progress, I must add). My biggest “take away” would have to be that there “can” be a happily ever after- but it takes consistent communication and faith (More work, still in progress). I personally think that both parties have to have the same belief system, in our case (my spouse and I)it is Bible Based and Christ Centered. That Gives us both the same reference point and source of strength.

    I,too, look forward to your post about why the work is worth it. I don’t have the words to express how much better my life is, because of my marital union- I hope you do.

    D Dudley

    • Darrk Gable says:

      I appreciate the words bruh. It’s always good to hear about the goodness of marriage and not the problems that people always experience. Stay strong in it and always keep Christ in the middle of it.

  9. Shon Hyneman says:

    Truthful and up front Blog! He is speaking the truth on Marriage. A successful Marriage thinks of the other person first. When I found out my Wife Love Language (and applied it) our Marriage went to another level. Keeping God first in my Marriage is vital because it is Him that I am accountable to.

  10. Irnise says:

    This was a great read as a newlywed and a wife of a husband who is similar. I know their is hope that soon he will understand my needs. We come into marriage with so much of our own beliefs that it is hard to shed those or combine them to make them work for each other. It is a learning process and the more we communicate with other couples who are or have been where we are we don’t feel so defeated.

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