It was six years ago that a counseling website named Loripalooza as one of their Top 50 Blogs for Marriage Advice. I’m still astonished considering I had never given a single piece of sincere marriage advice. And why would I? I’m not a marriage counselor and I certainly don’t believe in the idea of the perfect marriage. In fact, I think anyone who claims to is either lying, or setting themselves up for a huge disappointment.
So on this day, as Brantley and I celebrate THIRTEEN years of marriage I am going to do something I’ve never done before. I’m going to give you the sincere-ish marriage advice that you never asked for.
Let’s start with the misconception of the perfect marriage. No one single person is perfect. Period. So why would anyone think that putting two people together under one roof and labeling them as married would create an environment that was anything close to perfect? It’s absurd. Each person goes into a marriage with certain expectations based on our families of origin whether they be good, or bad. Try not to get too hung up on the idea that My family is normal and my spouse’s family is weird. We are ALL weird.
Now, try and think of the most difficult thing you’ve ever had to do. Was it passing a field sobriety test, doing calculus, or training a litter of kittens to walk a tightrope? Forget about it. Communicating effectively with your spouse is the hardest thing you will ever have to do. Why? Because our brains don’t work the same. They just don’t.
Women tend to correlate our partner’s words and behaviors with EVERYTHING they’ve ever said, or done since the beginning of time. Men, however, are more singular in their thinking. Before you start sending me hate mail, I’m NOT saying that men are simple. I’m saying if a woman ever finds herself thinking, “What did he mean by that?” The answer is generally EXACTLY what he said. Unlike with women, there’s very little chance he’s making a snide reference to the fight you had with his sister three Christmases ago when he asks, “Did you empty the dishwasher?” Ninety-nine times out of one hundred the man is just looking for a clean spoon with which to eat ice cream out of the carton.
This brings me to another important subject- arguments. Arguments are inevitable. Things are often said in the heat of the moment that you wish you could take back. However, it doesn’t work like that. Hurtful words cannot be unheard, but if you keep your angry name calling on a middle-school level it can really facilitate a smoother make-up transition.
For example, if you’re arguing about housework and who does the brunt of it, instead of shouting obscenities at one another, take a page out of my playbook and try something like, “Hey, dingle-berry brains! Do you think your dirty socks and underwear just magically make their way to the laundry room?” or “Hey, you big horse’s ass! Stop leaving popsicle wrappers all over the damn house!”
See. There’s nothing above that Brantley would have a hard time forgiving me for. (I know this for a fact because I say both of those things quite often.)
In the event that you do encounter a problem in your relationship that you can’t get past, then by all means seek the advice of a counselor. I’m not talking about someone at your church reminding you that a wife should always submit to her husband. That’s not only unhelpful bullshit, but also a waste of your valuable time. I’m referring to a licensed professional who specializes in counseling struggling couples.
A few years back, Brantley and I hit a rough patch of marital road. We weren’t thriving and we weren’t communicating well. As awkward as it was, we took to couple’s counseling and within a few months we were stronger than ever. There’s a big misconception about marriage counseling. People often think of it as the last stop on your road to divorce and it’s only talked about in a whisper. This is far from the truth and there’s no shame in seeking help. A good marriage counselor can be a great tool in getting you and your spouse back in sync.
Lastly, don’t take yourselves too seriously, don’t set unrealistic expectations, and FOR THE LOVE OF GOD don’t feel like your marriage is less than that of a friend who boasts constantly about his/her perfect union. It’s these people who generally have the biggest problems behind closed doors.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this less than earth shattering marriage advice. However, if you think it’s complete nonsense and your way is better, then by all means keep doing you. There’s no one correct way of doing marriage, but being able to admit that we are all assholes is a great first step.