You hear it all the time: marriage is hard work. Personally, any time I heard this in my first 26ish years of life, I wasn't quite sure what people meant by that. I always wondered, but never asked - probably because I felt like it was supposed to be obvious. Don't get me wrong, I completely understood that any relationship comes with its own unique set of challenges and compromises, but after living with Anthony for 2+ years before we got married, I couldn't understand how marriage might change the dynamic we had already begun to establish.
Anthony and I celebrated our one year anniversary last week, and with that came lots and lots of reflection for both of us. We reminisced about our wedding day, our first year of marriage, and all of the memories we've already made along with the things we've learned. It got me thinking: now that I've been married for a year, do I have a better sense of what people mean when they say marriage is hard work? The answer is yes, but of course, it's a bit more complicated than that.
WHY IS MARRIAGE HARD?
Disclaimer: I'm not a marriage expert. I've only been married for one year. My opinions on this subject are not the end-all, be-all and I'll likely change my mind within another year (or 10, 20, 50!). Marriage is of course different for everyone, but hopefully some of my opinions resonate with you and give you some clarity as you enter into marriage (or reflect on your own marriage!) yourself.
1. You can't take back marriage. It's no secret that divorce rates are at an all time high, but I've personally chosen to exclude the "d-word" from my vocabulary all together. To us, it's not an option (not that anyone enters into marriage thinking they'll get divorced, but that's a whole other topic). Being married is an incredible feeling, but once you're in it, you're in it. Before you're married, it's a lot easier to walk away from a relationship. Once you're married, you're forced to compromise a lot more often to be able to move forward after fights. It really forces you to pick and choose your battles and decide for yourselves if what your'e fighting for is really worth it.
2. You learn more about yourself than you ever thought you needed to know. If you're open and honest with yourself and your partner, and I mean really, truly honest, you will quickly find that you have a lot to learn. I, for example, have always considered myself an open, communicative person who's constantly trying to improve myself. Marriage has been a reality check. Whether I like it or not, I'm not always as "perfect" as I think I might be. Every argument or disagreement in this first year of marriage has forced me to dig deeply and ask questions like, "Why did I react that way?" "Was I being too defensive?" "Am I willing to back down from what's important to me for the sake of moving on from this fight?" and "Is it really this important to prove that I'm right?". I don't always like the answers to these questions, but I see it as my responsibility to ask those tough questions and be honest with myself so that I can be the best wife and partner I can be, and that can feel like a lot of hard work sometimes.
3. You constantly have to choose. A marriage is a partnership, we all know this. But when you've devoted yourself to your partner, there's a lot more give and take than I expected. I'm constantly torn between putting myself first, and putting Anthony's needs first, and it's not always an easy decision. Sometimes I've had a bad week, and Anthony pulls some extra weight to support me. Sometimes Anthony has a bad week, and I step up and make dinner or clean the house a little extra to help him out. Sometimes we both have a bad week at the same time and the stress gets the better of us. The way I see it is this: if everyone takes care of each other, then everyone is taken care of. Meaning if I take care of Anthony, and he takes care of me, then we don't have to worry about putting ourselves first or sticking up for ourselves. Sometimes it's more complicated than that of course, but hopefully you get the point.
4. Your decisions are no longer entirely your own. Almost every choice you make, at least the large-scale ones, are going to have to be made with your partner. I can no longer go on a guilt-free shopping spree because I feel like it, or lend a large sum of money to a friend in need. I have to consider things like, "Does this fit into the budget we've carefully set together?". If I'm having a terrible week (or month) at work and just want to up and quit, I can't, because now it affects not only me, but Anthony, too, and our future.
5. You can't always get what you want. Listen, I've got an eye for design and have always dreamed of decorating my very own apartment however I want. I'm a minimalist at heart and appreciate clean lines, tidy rooms, and minimal clutter. Anthony, on the other hand, is quite the collector and has rooms and rooms worth of baseball memorabilia and closets worth of clothes. As we've settled into our home together over the years, some of the biggest arguments we've had is over what color I want to paint the kitchen or which room we both agree he can display his Derek Jeter figurines in. It sounds silly, but it's a perfect example of how compromise and creative solutions come into marriage. And yes, the Derek Jeter figurines are proudly on display in our shared office, and Anthony got over the color of the kitchen walls.
There's so much more I could say on this topic, and I know that there is still so much we have left to learn in our marriage together, but I'm ready and excited to keep learning. No matter how many arguments we might have had in our first year, each one has taught us about ourselves and our relationship, and ultimately we've both committed to learning from each disagreement to be a better partner and teammate to each other. Marriage is a lot of work (I get why people say that now!) but we are 100% worth it, and we've been 100% better for it, as individuals and as a couple.
What questions do you have about why marriage is hard? Anything to add? Share in the comments, and stay tuned for next week's Authentically Wed.
Authentically Wed is a weekly series of wedding-related blog posts by Kelly of Kelly Golia Events intended to provide you with an honest approach to planning your own wedding by highlighting stories of real brides, wedding professionals, and experiences from Kelly herself in her roles as a bride and as a wedding planner. For real, customized advice on a wedding-related topic of your choice, contact Kelly at firstname.lastname@example.org or fill out the contact form here and let us know what you want to read about!