Learning how to be husband and wife was like mastering a complicated dance routine. Combining bank accounts, changing my last name, moving into our house and negotiating space and time were just some of the differences marriage brought along. While we were out of synch plenty of times, there were many occasions that we blended harmoniously.
The rhythm of marriage is different for everyone, but I compiled a list of what I have figured out in the past two years. Most was discovered by tripping and stumbling over my own feet, but other times, the dance was graceful and smooth.
I have not mastered these 10 ideas, and I may never. I often think about each oneís impact, though, and I think theyíre all worth sharing.
So, here goes.
1: Pick your battles. If I griped at Cory every single time he left his laundry on the floor or left his dishes in the living room, Iíd be bent over with a side cramp, out of breath and depleted of energy. There are days I do complain to him more than I should, but I try to contain it. Honestly.
The trouble with entering every argument is that you lose a lot appreciation and positivity. Focusing on the negative aspects of your partner just discourages him or her and frustrates you. While some situations are worth discussing, others are just wasted moments. Determine your threshold and stick to it.
2: Be fair with family and friend time. We are lucky to have mutual friends and fun families, but it can still be hard to reconcile holidays, special events and weekends. Sometimes Cory attends social events with his friends by himself and I do the same. It is not necessary to always be together, and often, an easy compromise is to go your separate ways for an evening.
When we are together, we try to balance the time spent with families on the holidays. We probably spend half of our time with his friends and half with mine. Weddings and birthday parties typically trump other outings, and this rule has worked for us. We negotiate times and dates so family gatherings donít overlap.
3: Donít hold grudges. I am guilty of this one. Sometimes I feel my anger festering for days after Coryís done something frustrating. I often replay the event over in my mind, increasing my angry feelings each time it spins.
What Iíve learned is that the grudge is not worth the effort it takes to hold onto it. That energy can be used elsewhere, so I try to forgive and move on. To do this, I focus on what he does do right and what I appreciate about him.
4: Avoid bottling up feelings. I think there is a delicate balance in marriage. While you donít want to duel over every issue, itís important to be able to communicate feelings when necessary. I do my best to let Cory know how his actions make me feel, and typically, this bodes better than arguing.
Letting negative feelings stew is never effective. Sure, it may avoid a disagreement in the short term, but the long term result is an explosion of scattered thoughts and feelings. That dance turns into a wrestling match when this happens.
5: Even when it cuts into time spent together, allow your partner opportunities to grow and flourish independently. Newlyweds can often be crazed about date nights and social activities and moments as a couple Ė hanging out as Mr. and Mrs. is new for them.
While I love spending time with Cory, and look forward to husband and wife time, I have to respect his endeavors. Biting my tongue is hard and I donít always do it. After all, dancing is not as fun alone. But I feel much better when he comes home with an exciting story or accomplishment; itís like a new song to guide our movements.
Coryís respect for my activities is usually what motivates me to be patient. He endured plenty of lonely nights while I was in college. He doesnít mind my sporadic work schedule and has never even batted an eyelash when I choose to spend time with my friends instead of him.
We also try to allow one another to take risks and dream big Ė even when we donít understand the language of the otherís dream, we do our best to translate it.
6: Take responsibility for your actions and apologize when necessary. This is a tough one, and much easier said than done. Our nature as humans is to defend ourselves and our actions, but sometimes, a simple apology polishes the relationship and evidences your respect for your partner.
7: Never underestimate the power of humor. Iíve talked before about my attempts at being funny and Coryís natural ability to light up a room with his jokes. While neither one of us qualify as a comedian, we use humor to reduce tension and break through difficult moments.
Laughing at whatís troubling you makes it very difficult, if not impossible, to feel sad or scared. Coryís jokes remind me that perception is everything, and I find comfort in his perspective.
8: As your dance sequence improves, donít forget the lessons that sharpened it in the first place. As I mentioned in the last blog, Iíve spent lots of time wanting a finished house and wanting to move into the upstairs and wanting to quickly furnish the rooms.
Thatís just it Ė Iím always wanting. Weíre never satisfied with what we have in this moment. A few years ago, I would have done anything just to live in this house, which was not yet move-in ready. When that happened, I was ready for more the moment we moved in. How is this fair to Cory or me? Who can survive under all of that pressure?
The material elements of a life arenít what define it. This is such a sharp contrast to the culture of our society, so that makes it hard to evade as we become adults. Constant reminders can serve to counteract it.
9: Respect boundaries. I am a cuddler. I love to cuddle whenever possible. I also have difficulty sitting or laying still for more than a few minutes at a time. See the conflict? Cory likes cuddling, but he appreciates his space too. He is also OK with quiet time, and I can talk all night. These are hard concepts for me to grasp, but Iím working on it.
10: Learn your partnerís love language and be cognizant of it. There are five different ones: physical touch, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time and words of affirmation. The assessment and more information on the languages can be found at http://www.5lovelanguages.com/.
Essentially, Gary Chapmanís concept explores the ways we each perceive love. I feel the most loved through physical touch. I like hugging, cuddling, getting back massages and holding hands. Coryís love language is acts of service. He feels most loved when I drop him off a surprise mocha frappucino or a takeout lunch. He feels appreciated when I whip up specialty drinks or dinners just for him.
Paying attention to your partnerís needs can have an explosive effect, and itís pretty easy to make him or her feel special once you know what theyíre looking for.
While Iíve never been a particularly good dancer, I can appreciate this kind of measured sequence Ė the kind that challenges, outrages, delights, consumes and comforts. I can appreciate it because I donít have to be graceful or coordinated or even well-balanced.
I just have to be willing to learn the next step.
Published: June 14, 2012