When you get married, you lay the baggage of your childhood at your spouse’s feet. You become your most vulnerable self and you build the foundation of your marriage on that. You look to your spouse in the eye and say that even after knowing all of their trauma and regrets – I love you. I’ve heard a few friends talk about how people change after marriage, and while I do not believe that to be all together true (maybe we just pay attention more once the parties and honeymoon are done) I think there is a sense of relief that comes when you are vulnerable. My husband is not an emotional person and if you ask his friends and family they will tell you that they have never seen him cry. He always masks a smile or a joke to cover up his feelings. I don’t remember a time where he wasn’t the class clown, but the truth is I see someone completely different. I know the man that balled his eyes out when the nurse said “Congratulations Daddy” in the hospital after our daughter was born. I know the man that was so upset after seeing something horrific at work, that came home and put his head in my lap and cried. As we grow older and further along in our marriages, maybe that seems as though your spouse as changed – try to see it as you have been trusted with seeing more of the real them.
My type A self, is a planner and I struggle a lot with asking for help. I know that in my marriage, the load is meant to be shared with my husband but oftentimes I feel like if I ask for help it means that I am not capable or worthy of the responsibility. I find comfort in pain and struggle in a strange way. For instance, I feel as though if I do not make sure that the house is picked up, the floors are mopped, the dishes are done, the laundry is prepared and the linens are clean and the house is ready for the next day I am not worthy of having this family to take care of. I would rather suffer hours of sleep and stress than tell my husband, “I need help.” It is a personality trait that I consciously try to work against and struggle with. The overwhelming need to want to take care of everyone and be the one who can be relied upon is due to my own childhood trauma.
I am not going to change overnight and I know this about myself. I am open with my husband about how I am feeling and he knows me well enough when to notice when I need him to carry the load until I can catch my breath. If I am being honest, most of the time I do not need to even tell him when I am overwhelmed. I will come home and dinner will be made, the house will be picked up, my laundry will be folder on my nicely made bed and my diffuser will have my favorite scents in it for when I go to sleep. This is my love language, like we talked about for Lesson #1, and I go from feeling like I am going to burst to being overcome with love.
Tonight, when you are talking to your spouse about your day I want you to ask them, “How can I help?” When they vent about work and all of the traffic they sat in and had to get home and rush to get dinner ready, what could you have done to help? When they response, use that response and recognize that you are in a partnership and are willing to carry the load. Sometimes people like me, have a hard time asking for help on our own, but need to be prompted. It shows that it is not that they cannot handle their responsibilities, but more so that you want to carry them together. Whether that means you order a pizza while you are working late and your wife is running behind or you put the kids to bed. The best part of a marriage is the everlasting team you create.
I want to preface this blog by saying marriage is the most difficult and rewarding thing in my life. I want to create a dialogue and be able to share true struggles and successes with other likeminded people about love, family and the balance of it all. I mean it with every fiber of my being, the world is a better place because my husband is in it. There is no doubt in my mind that I married my soulmate and someone that I am oftentimes undeserving of. I got married at 22 and was in no place to listen to anyone in my life tell me about my marriage. My husband and I went through marriage counseling before our big day (shoutout to Pastor Bill!) and were hit with some difficult questions regarding what expectations we were coming into this marriage with.
I am a child of a very messy divorce and it has tainted the way I view love. At one point in my life I found myself being very untrusting towards relationships (much like a “how long until you’re gone” game.) and at the first sign of a struggle, I was gone. My husband and polar opposite, comes from a household where his parents have been together for over 30 years and divorce in his family is not as common and accepted as mine. In fact, I can’t think of a single family member that has not been divorced on my side.
My expectation, I learned, was a very romantic view of marriage. Probably because I did not have a stable marriage in my household I had to learn what marriage looked like through movies. I expected love to be effortless and blissful (like the universe brought two people together). I knew that once you got married, you created a family unit and I spoke during counseling about how he would make me feel every day. For those of you who have been married for a while you’re probably laughing. Romantic, but not probable. My husband, however, was much more of a realist. His expectation is that we were going to go through some dark days but that he would never have to question that we were a team and approached struggles together. His expectation was that we would kiss each other every day and that football games were non-negotiable parts of his life.
Okay, so he didn’t say the last part although we schedule our Sundays around when the Patriots are expected to play.
If you are engaged or married and haven’t done the 5 Love Languages test I strongly suggest you and your spouse do it. I had been with my husband for 7 years by the time we got married, and after taking the test I felt like something clicked-for each of us. My husband feels love by physical touch followed closely by words of affirmation. So when he tells me his expectation is that we kiss every day, he is really saying that he wants to feel loved every day even when we don’t like each other. My love language is quality time followed closely by acts of service. Could we be any more opposite? My expectation in a marriage is that we spend time together and that he show me he loves me in small ways like making the bed so I don’t have to or putting my favorite soda in the fridge so it’s cold when I want it.
The harmful thing about expectations is that oftentimes we are not honest with ourselves or our spouses about what we want. So this week I challenge you to take the 5 Love Languages test or share 5 expectations in marriage with your partner. Even if you assume they already know what they are, share them and as your partner shares don’t feel the need to respond, just listen and discuss how your expectations in love and marriage can be met – as a team.