This is a follow-up to Wednesday’s post, “If You’re Separating…Or Thinking About It.”
The answer is clear, in spite of today’s burgeoning divorce rate. A strong, solid marriage — and I am lucky to have spent 30-plus years with my spouse, the Brick — is a great joy.
It makes you a better person collectively than you would have been alone. It gives comfort — someone to watch the latest movie together, or commiserate over political foolishness. (Just don’t expect that you’ll always agree…) On cold winter days, someone else is making coffee, or warming up the bed before you crawl in. (if you’re lucky, they’re making both!)
It gives stability. With bills to pay and kids to care for, there are two people, instead of just one, to bring in extra income, make a run to the grocery store, or pick up Junior after school.
And it helps others. Family members and friends can be encouraged and aided, both mentally and physically, by what you can do for them. This includes any children you might have, both born and acquired. (Some of our young friends were “adopted,” right along with our own two daughters.)
I was fortunate to have been raised in a family with long marriages. My paternal grandparents were married 55 years. The other grandpa and grandma were spring chickens, in comparison: only 53 years. Both marriages produced several children (one grandpa was fond of saying “two-and-a-half dozen” about his 8 kids), and both ended with a spouse’s death. Both endured the Great Depression, and any number of droughts, sickness and other hard times.
My mom, on the other hand, went through a bad divorce. (Which produced me.) She then was married to my dad for 48 years, before his death. Our family knew both worlds and their consequences. And while the Brick’s and my marriage has lasted, we’ve seen several friends and family divorce.
I’ve learned from those experiences:
*Marriage is a joy, all right — but it can also make you miserable. No one can drive you crazy faster than your spouse. And it’s going to happen, since you are two separate people, with different tastes and preferences. Plan on it.
*Battle only over what’s really important. A good friend called it “hills to die on;” issues that should never be backed down on, like abortion, living uprightly and Where to Spend The Holidays. The rest are just preferences. If he likes the toilet paper to unroll from the top, and you could care less — why not do it his way? (I wonder if I am speaking from experience here.) This leads to…
*Tell your partner what you’re really thinking. Don’t expect them to read your mind — it isn’t going to happen. (Though they may be able to guess.) Secondly, they’re going to filter any conclusions through what they think. Is something trivial really important to you? Tell them. Then tell them why.
*Love them up. Your time with them is limited — we all die, and odds are good that you won’t expire together. Make their favorite foods, watch (or in the Brick’s case, endure) movies they enjoy, or just sit and talk. Clear their car off after a snowy night. The smallest gestures speak more than a million dollars or multi-carat diamond rings.
*Stay honest. Straying could be fun, in a cowardly sort of way. Spending money on goodies is fun, too — until you don’t have enough to pay the mortgage. Tell each other where you’re going, and what you’d like to spend your money on. Learn to compromise. (See the earlier comments on thinking and “hills to die on.” They’re critical here.)
*Plan on hard times — because they will happen. At one point or another in your mutual experience, one partner will be sick and in need of care, or suddenly lose their job. You may have to go without sleep, or get additional work, until life stabilizes. Fortunately, situations like this are usually one-sided, so the other person can step in and take up the slack. If everything happens at once, you both will need to make allowances. Then…
*Forgive your spouse when they fail you. At some point, they will belch during a party, say something cruel, or forget to pay a bill, incurring a late fee. (“And money is so tight!” you want to snap back.) They get tired, sick or discouraged at inappropriate times. They are not perfect.
Neither are you.
Finally, and most importantly, stay committed. Don’t marry that person unless you are in it for the long run. There will come a time when it’s easier to walk away, than it is to stay and work things out. Don’t give in. Stick it out — it will be worth it.
This post is by staff writer Cindy Brick. Cindy is a quilting expert with several published books on the subject and has also had many published articles on a variety of subjects. You can visit her business website at CindyBrick.com or visit her personal blog.