I have two daughters. Norah is 4 and Aspen is just 3 months. Their lives look very different than mine did as a child. My father left when I was a 9 years old. I was raised half by my single mother, and half by my widowed grandmother. When I got married, I didn’t know much about what it meant to be in a good marriage and I had to learn a lot of things through trial and error.
Even at their young age, I think a lot about my daughters’ future and whether I’m setting a better example than the one I had. Below is a list of things I’ve learned about marriage that I’d like them to know.
(Author’s Note: I know that views on marriage are changing. This list is based on my own experience in a straight marriage because it’s all I know.)
Don’t let your husband pressure you into sex: Most likely your husband will want sex more than you expect. Don’t let your husband pressure you into things you are not comfortable with. Talk openly about sex with him. Discuss your expectations and try hard to understand his. Although sex is important, be sure that you both realize that it is only one part of your marriage, it isn’t the whole marriage.
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Don’t lower your expectations of your husband after marriage. Raise them: After marriage, it’s easy to get comfortable. I’ve never understood why this happens, because marriage is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It’s easy to let things slide after marriage. To expect fewer dates, fewer flowers, fewer love letters. Don’t. In fact, expect more and you will get it. And do the same for him. Once you have children, those little trinkets of affection may be the only things that keep your marriage above water.
Tell him what you want as frankly, and plainly as possible: I know this sounds cliché, but men and women communicate differently. Most men speak plainly. They like the obvious to be spelled out. Rather than hoping that he will pick up on your hints, say things like, “Take me out more,” or “Don’t give me an answer, just listen to me for a while because I need to vent,” or “I’m really frustrated with the kids. It’s not you. Just let me be alone for a while and I will be fine.”
Sometimes the house will be a mess and it’s his fault, too: When I say sometimes, I mean most of the time. Especially after you have kids. He has as much of an obligation to clean the house as you do, so tell him to stop complaining and do the laundry.
Sometimes it will feel like he’s stomping on your feelings, when in fact he’s just wandering blindly: Your husband is going to forget to do things. A lot of things. He’s going to say stupid things, too. Give him the benefit of the doubt. Realize that most likely his actions or statements were not malicious. He didn’t intend to hurt you or not do something on purpose.
Don’t allow him to tell you your place or define your aspirations: When you get married, you may want to be a stay-at-home mom. Five years into marriage, you my decide you want to become a lawyer. Or perhaps when you get married you may be a lawyer, and five years in you might decide you want to become a stay-at-home mom. Your husband will most likely do something similar with his life goals. A successful marriage is one where both partners expect and support positive change.
Your husband is your partner, not your master: Never forget that you are equals.
Expect him to change with age (both physically and emotionally): Most likely your husband will get a little fatter over the years. He will grow more mature. He will go a little gray and a little bald. You will change, too. But at the same time, he will become different emotionally and intellectually. He will grow more mature. So much of a successful marriage is accepting and understanding change within your partner. As long as those changes are natural and positive, let them happen.
Don’t be afraid to frustrate your husband: This is a good thing. Keep him on his toes. Questioning his motivations and his sincerity will ultimately make him more aware of his actions.
Expect him to get up in the night with the kids: If your kids take after you, you are going to have some long nights. He will have a lot of excuses as to why he can’t get up. He works in the morning, and he doesn’t want to be tired at work because it’s going to make his job harder. You know what, you have to work, too. You might have a job outside the house, or you might be a stay at home mom. It doesn’t matter. You have stuff to do, same as him, so expect him to help. Marriage is a partnership. Never forget that.
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