I couldn’t believe my ears when he proposed. I haven’t stopped looking at the ring. Is this real? I was so excited even the stranger on the street could tell something great just happened. Like a whirlwind, we started all the preparation for the big day. We didn’t spare a dime in our quest to have the wedding of our dreams. After the wedding, we both were exhausted and had a well-deserved one month honeymoon far away on one of Denmark’s coldest islands.
I wish this was all that marriage was. I had got used to waking up about half nine to a cup of coffee and a warm kiss from the love of my life. We’d have a shower together, then have breakfast while we looked over the beach. We constantly looked into each other’s eyes with so much assurance of facing the future together. We’d take a long walk in each other arms and have a nap just about noon. We did lots of kayaking and scuba diving during the day before settling into a nice buffet dinner.
Having no one wait on you for anything, no work, no deadlines was a perfect world which isn’t sustainable. I began to feel really sad as the days drew near for us to fly back home. I wasn’t ready for reality. Fast forward twenty years with me and I’m looking back and I really wish I knew some of the things I know now. I wish someone had sat me down and explained things to me. Like a rookie bride, I’ve learnt marriage the hard way. So 20 things I wish I knew:
Background – how your spouse was raised will greatly affect your relationship as your try to merge your values to forge ahead as a couple. What his parents did or did not do will decide the type of spouse or father he’ll be. It’s tough to change a leopard’s spots even if you’re in love. Most times we can’t see from the other person’s perspective because we think our method is the best. Most quarrels are merely differences in values.
Compatibility – most people think that they are compatible and so go ahead and get married. During the different phases and stages of life, you’ll quickly find that you both have got different values, cope with life differently and have divergent expectations. Compatibility isn’t a heart connection, it’s engaging as a united front to face the challenges head on.
Companionship – is the primary reason for marriage. During the busy years, mum takes care of the kids, dad is focused on his work, when the kids grow up and move out and dad retires, there isn’t anything left besides two strangers sharing the same last name under one roof. Never stop investing in your marriage – time, effort, growing and sharing together. It’s lonelier when you’re older and you need each other the most then.
Divorce – is a reality. No relationship is immune. Never think you can’t divorce. Forgiveness is the antidote to divorce. The day you stop being vulnerable and refuse to take any more from your spouse, that’s the day, your relationship starts going south. Never assume you both are on the same page, keep renewing your vows to each other regularly.
Extramarital affairs – you will always meet someone smarter, richer and more romantic than your spouse. It’s a conscious effort never to cross the line. Emotional infidelity is even as strong as the actual thing, with social media an affair is only a click away. Let her who thinks she stands take heed lest she falls
Forgiveness –is a very important ingredient in any relationship. Once you stop forgiving you start drifting apart. When you stop forgiving, you declare yourself a perfect person which you are not. What’s the worst thing your spouse has done and you’re unwilling to forgive, what if you were the one at fault, would you expect to be forgiven? Forgiveness is the oil that keeps the marriage wheels moving.
In-laws – they have a mental image of who their son or brother should get married to. You either fit or you don’t. You may not have done anything wrong but because you don’t fit that image, they don’t like you and that affects your relationship with them for the rest of your life. They could be nosy, if you give them an inch, they’ll take a mile. They are family but they shouldn’t run your home.
Kids – they change the dynamics of your relationship, they are so demanding. They take their time to grow up. No one can raise your child for you, you delegate the duties to nannies and drivers and you’ll live to tell the stories. They are so pleasant in the first year while they remain in their cots with their coos and smiles but once they start walking and talking your life never remains the same. Don’t build your life around them, they quickly grow up and don’t need you as much.
Hereditary Issues – you get married, your spouse is ok till something happens and you find out there’s something in his family’s DNA that’s affecting his physical or emotional health. Your kids are potentially at high risk because of all these. Your budget has a line item to deal with this and your lives never remain the same.
Keep the Celebrations Going – the first few years, the birthdays and anniversary celebrations never go unnoticed, couples usually spare no dime in getting the best of their special days. As the years go on, celebrations no longer look appealing, either the guy forgets the date or the hectic schedule kicks in and it’s no longer seen as important. It doesn’t have to be a big celebration, the most important thing is someone looking forward to be pampered and cherished.
Love and Respect – when a lady says she loves a guy, she says she’s vulnerable while allowing the guy to the secret places of her heart. What a guy wants is respect. They give and receive love differently and it may take years for them to understand and speak our love language
Money – one of you will be a spendthrift while the other will be stingy or prudent. No surprises, it’s how we were raised. Whether you decide on a joint account or not isn’t as important as being open and honest with each other. No guy who has another lady will concede to a joint account, he doesn’t want you in his business. You need to balance the books to avoid getting bankrupt. Don’t keep up with the Joneses and live below your means
No perfect spouse – I thought he was the perfect guy and I was the perfect bride but we soon found out we had our weaknesses and vulnerabilities. A guy who’s very romantic might snore in bed. A guy who can balance the books maybe very untidy. The guy you think has got it altogether has some dark secret you don’t want to know about. Accepting the mixed bag of his strengths and weaknesses will be a great help to getting some stability in your relationship.
Sex – is a great way to connect with your soul mate but it feels different after the kids are here. It’s tough to keep up quality times together with fatigue and hectic work schedules. Guys think about it a lot more than the ladies. The dynamics changes as you both age. Guys want it anytime and anywhere, ladies need to feel loved and cherished to enjoy it.
Selfishness – you don’t know a thief till you entrust him with money. It’s easy to say you love someone but you really can’t say you love till that love is tested and you have to make sacrificial decisions like donating a kidney. Everyone has got selfish tendencies. Being sacrificial will cost you.
Secrets – we all have secrets even as we walk down the aisle. Marriage is a risk, you hope it will work out for you. How do you deal with a secret that alters the destiny of your marriage? What do you do when you find out you’re the second wife? If your spouse to be avoid answering questions while you’re dating or constantly changes the topic or plays down on serious issues affecting your values, it’s a red flag
Purpose – every marriage has got a purpose and you must discover, define and fulfil that purpose. After twenty year of marriage, you’ve raised the kids, paid school fees, bought a house or two, a number of cars, travelled together, so what next? If that’s all then marriage isn’t worth it. Use your strengths as a couple to be a blessing around you. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a business, look for a need in the community or even in another country you want to solve.
Wedding Isn’t Marriage – after spending so much cash, time and effort preparing for the wedding, I woke up to the reality that we hadn’t planned as much for the marriage. We were in a hurry to get married and we hadn’t put structures in place to help us with our new life. Every decision to be made was a big issue, we struggled the first few years trying to find our feet and not get back at each other.
When To Ask For Help – most times your relationship isn’t as bad as the couple down the road. You may not be fighting and exchanging swear words but you may have drifted so far that your hugs aren’t as warm and your kiss isn’t as wet. Never be too proud to share your burden with someone and seek professional help. Don’t wait till all the emotions you’ve bottled up explodes on you.
Ms A writes anonymously