One thing you wish you knew before you got married?

hlmhrAugust 23, 2007

I'm not married yet, but my BF and I recently went ring shopping and are planning on a marriage date of January '09 (scheduling issues related to school for me require lots of planning - and we're both researchers/planners so we're looking way ahead here).

Anyway, I wanted to solicit advice from anyone who's been married for any length of time about the one thing you wish you knew or the one conversation you wish you had with your partner before you got married.

My boyfriend and I are in our 30's, and he has a young son that he is solely responsible for. We talk very openly about making sure that getting married is the right decision for our heads and our hearts. We've talked about money and are visiting a financial counselor to clean up some of his past issues; we discuss child raising and share similar beliefs about kids (although I'm the 'bad cop' and he's the 'good cop' we tend to play off each other well); and we talk openly about sex and general intimacy. It's a first marriage for both of us and we are probably overly analytical about it after having witnessed so many friends and family members go through heartbreaking divorces. We really want to go into it as strong and as prepared for success as we can be.

Any advice from seasoned veterans is welcomed and appreciated!

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I can tell you I wish I had known what marriage was going to be like. I wish I had known my feelings were so tender that ordinary spats would hurt so much. I wish I had known that by setting a good example for my children was not all it took to make responsible adults out of them. It sounds like you both are going about it in the right way, discussing possible problems before they happen and you may succeed where so many fail. If I had it to do over and could retain my knowledge I would not have married the first time. I spent 48 years married and I regret every year. But in spite of that I am not bitter, I just know NOW that marriage is not for me. I know a couple of women who have been with the same guys for years and the key to their success is that they keep their own homes and never live under the same roof. LOL

    Bookmark   August 23, 2007 at 11:06PM
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I think I read another post of yours - you married quite young? We're probably on flipped life schedules - you seem to be enjoying your independence and "freedom" maybe later in life than you would have wished. I spent about 5 years, 3 consecutively, not dating and completely single in my prime dating years - my late 20's. Most of that time I think I spent making myself an island. I figured out how to do pretty much everything for myself, and do it well (or at least up to my own standards of happiness). On the upside, I know that if/when I do get married, and if something should happen and I find myself single again, I can provide for myself and revert back to relative happiness again on my island. The hard part for me now is undoing some of the "island habits" I created. It's been a challenge for me to let someone else do things for me - not because I need him to do them, but because he wants to contribute and because he cares. I'm also struggling to release the idea that "my way is best" and very slowly starting to realize that "my way is best for me" but maybe not always "best for us." It's sometimes frustrating and occasionally exciting. It's weird how "single minded" I've become (pun intended). But slowly, thanks to his great deal of patience, I'm learning to let go a little bit, and so far, my world hasn't shattered just because I include someone else.

I'm also kind of experiencing some kind of mourning period. I know my single life will end soon and I'm realizing that I really like it more than I thought I did.

All that said - I really want to give marriage a chance. He is very, very patient with me and very persistent in his efforts to make this work. My girlfriends want to nominate him for boyfriend of the year...hopefully one day, husband of the year?

Anyway - enjoy your singledom, regardless of the time in life it comes around. There is something really freeing and gratifying about making your own world spin at your own speed and making your own decisions. Enjoy!

    Bookmark   August 24, 2007 at 12:24AM
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I wish I has read "All You Need is Love and Other Lies About Marriage". It discusses some of the myths that people buy into regarding marriage.

The one thing I wish was that I hadn't been so willing to overlook the things I didn't like about my (now) DH. I told myself that they weren't such a big deal, but I feel they've become magnified through marriage. Where before he was grouchy, now he seems to be a downright angry man. Before he was not as chatty as me, now he expressed irritation if I talk to him too much. Before he was generous with his money, now his is somewhat of a frivolous spender of OUR money (I've changed that trait somewhat). Before he was pretty stingy with compliments and public displays of attention, after marriage the frequency went down even more.

I don't think people change that much after marriage, I think our perceptions finally get a grip on reality and suddenly it's just not as wonderfully perfect as it seemed. I think the key is how well a person can handle that realization.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2007 at 8:41AM
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I feel like the success to my marriage (40 years) has been to not try to change each other. We didn't know each other long but we have had a great time. We raised 2 terrific kids. We both have had our freedom. I have never told him where to go or not and he has never told me. I can tell you one huge thing, one person trying to be the "BOSS" never works. I have seen many marriages end due to this.

I have always been a stay at home mom and now I wish I had atleast worked part time. But if this is the worst thing in 40 years I would say I have been pretty lucky.. We both gave up alot to see that our children had a chance at a college education. We have never had a new home, not alot of new cars, furnture and such and darn few vacations. We now have recooped our savings and all again and 13 years ago we purchased some acreage in Southern Indiana with an old schoolhouse on it.. Redid the house and enjoy spending time with family and friends. Sometimes during the middle of all of it you might think the hustle and bustle will never end. It does and life goes on.

Just let each other be who they are. Work together. Do some things with him that you might not want to and he should do the same. Come to the middle on things. Just have fun..

    Bookmark   August 24, 2007 at 9:25AM
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Letting each other be who you are is KEY, I think.

One of the things I love best about my husband (of 12 years) is that he doesn't expect me to be perfect and never belittles me for my mistakes or quirks, so I can tell him anything and be true to myself. And knowing that I'll tell him everything, I strive to be the kind of person I'd be proud to be. I don't want to let him down. And he's the same with me.

The one thing you've mentioned that concerns me is the 'good cop / bad cop' dynamic, because with you, the step parent, being the 'bad cop,' that's a dynamic that can all too easily backfire. Now if HE were the bad cop, it would be much easier. This is definitely an issue to work on prior to marriage.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2007 at 10:35AM
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Things I'm glad I/we knew/did before marriage:

**Had premarital counseling
**Wrote into our wedding vows the fact that we promised to love the other person for who they were in the present - not who they once were or who we'd like them to be.
**Read "The Road Less Traveled" back in college - it gives a wonderful definition of love as the willingness to give and sacrifice for the benefit of another. That's the definition we took into our marriage and it has proven itself true over and over.
**Committed to repeating our wedding vows - our PROMISE to each other - every anniversary, just to remind us of what we were committing to.
**Read John Gottman's, "Why Marriages Succeed or Fail" together.
**Committed to making our immediate family the priority - in-laws & extended family are important, but they can't intervene and direct the way our immediate family chooses to live.

Things I wish I'd/we'd known/done before marriage:

**Discussed our assumptions about parenting, and how our families of origin might impact them.

Best of luck to you both!

    Bookmark   August 24, 2007 at 10:52AM
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Thanks! Good words of advice.

halfdecaf - I love that you repeat your vows on your anniversary. That sounds like a very worthwhile tradition and one I might copy for us.

I know the "good cop/bad cop" role is pretty tricky. It's not really how we intended it, but it's how I feel usually. My BF's own father abandoned the family when BF was at a very young age and his mother essentially detached from the family as a result of her husband leaving. As such, BF had no healthy parenting images to look up to so he leans toward parenting out of guilt or giving in too much to his own son. I come from a fairly strict, but caring, family so I've tried to share my own parenting examples with them. The result is that BF's son now has a normal bedtime (when we met he would let his son stay up until midnight! And he was 5!), he cleans up his own plate after dinner, he's not allowed to throw things or act physically in anger, he's not allowed to hit his dad or be disrespectful to us without consequences, etc. So I feel like the "bad cop" because I implement/encourage a lot of the discipline and a lot of the rules about what's acceptable and what's not. The only reason it's working is b/c BF currently backs me up on the decisions and is actually a little grateful that I know a little more than he does about general parenting, while he knows more than I do about his son's specific needs. So I think we make a good team. Of course, if either one of us ever stops supporting the other, I can see how that might cause some mutiny...

We are also considering premarital couseling. One of my biggest challenges is learning to bite my tongue and not constantly tell him what to do. I was single for too long and have lots of rules in my own head about the way things "should" be done. On the flip side, he was single too long with a young son - essentially living the bachelor life with a kid tagging along (have you seen the Adam Sandler movie, Big Daddy - something along those lines, but not as extreme). So figuring out when my comments cross over into "nagging" seems to be a fine line. I never want to be the "nagging" wife.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2007 at 12:28PM
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To have the courage to look hard at some of the things that bothered me, and not just skim over them, in essence, playing them down, because when you are married, they are still there, and you can no longer ignore them. You have a much better chance of changing behavior that bothers you if you have the courage to face it head on, and address it "before" you are married, than after.

Life has its ups and downs. Do you both have what it takes to hang in there when the going gets tough? To hang in there when you don't feel like it, or when you don't feel "love"? To be able to stick by your commitment, when everything in you wants to walk away.It is being committed to this person, even when it is really tough. To really care about this person...even if __________. To understand that there will be times when you will think "what was I thinking"???? And days later, you will feel like you are so blessed to have this person to walk through life with!

    Bookmark   August 24, 2007 at 7:39PM
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"I think the key is how well a person can handle that realization."

Close, I think you are right on with the quote above. I did not know how to handle problems, I live by the Golden Rule and I like to please the people around me. I guess I thought everyone did. I did what I thought was my job for my family all of my adult life. The last 10 years I have been going through major burn out. I still live by the GR, but I am a widow now and have no responsibility to anyone but me.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2007 at 2:32PM
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I did not marry until I was 30. I had a great deal of fear before I walked down the aisle, not because I had doubts about my husband-to-be, but because every single person I knew told me marriage would ruin my life. The horror stories people liked to tell me about their cheating spouses, money wars, and power struggles had me shaking in my boots. Thank God I didn't listen to them---my marriage of five years is the most wonderful gift I've ever been given. The fears I had about giving up my single life/freedom and becoming "submissive" to another person proved unfounded. Yes, over 50% of marriages fail, and yes, love is a risk. Don't forget that the other 49% of marriages work out and are rewarding for those involved. Choose your spouse with care and be cautious---after that STOP worrying and give yourself over the the kind of love that makes life worth while. Good luck and may you have many long years of love in your future.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2007 at 2:38PM
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shiver - thanks so much for your reassuring words. I think I may be in the same situation - hearing lots of negatives about marriage and a little afraid of exposing my hard earned security for somewhat of the unknown that marriage can be.

I know that when I set aside the fears and it's just us together, doing our normal thing, I feel like it's all going to be ok. I'm just not the kind of person who jumps in blindly to major decisions and I feel like I need to at least acknowledge and plan for the problems that might come up. Sometimes I think I make issues where there really are none, but in my heart and my gut, I know that he's the one that will stick out the hard and messy parts with me and we'll both be the better for it.

I actually read your post Saturday afternoon and Saturday night my BF and I ended up having a really great conversation that kind of naturally spun back to your words - it is the right time for both of us to give ourselves over to the opportunity for the love and partnership that makes life worthwhile. We think we've each found the right person to just open up and give it a chance to be as good as we both think it can be.

So thanks again, and congrats, and I wish you continued good luck for a happy future with your husband.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2007 at 2:49AM
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I also want to add that the people I know who did not want the commitment of marriage etc. and poured their life into their careers and the various relationships that came and went over the years, seem to have missed out on what life is about. A few ended up losing their careers due to companies restructuring, and they seem to be hurting the most. The "friends" they thought they had at their previous work place who had "not" lost their jobs in the restructuring...never call them anymore. They look around and the old friends from college now have a spouse and kids and a very busy life, and they are really hurting because they not only lost their career, but they never built the family for support. The friends they used to travel with are taking the trips with their families now, so they seem to take solo trips, or go and visit a relative on their vacation. This is from my observation only. I think it is fine to go after the career and enjoy the freedom of being single. But at some point, if you do not put together more than that, I think later (beginning in your 40's) life can become lonely. Most friends will marry and have families. Many also can change priorities as their parents age and need help, or siblings have problems that intrude on their life. Unless you own the company, careers can fall apart as more and more companies restructure, or change hands in a buy out, or politics, etc. In youth, careers can be exciting, interesting, and it can be a great time in your life. But don't trade it for putting together other parts to your life that help you to grow in so many ways, and stretch you in ways you never imagined.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2007 at 10:25AM
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Hi there, some thoughts for you to ponder.

I have been married for 24 years, got married when I was 22, so I think that is really young ! When I look back, now, I think I just didn't know anything, or plan anything. We just sort of stumbled along and got on with it.

I really think a sense of humour is so important.

The ability to not make judgements, and just accept things the way they are. This is a really useful way to think when you have a looming disagreement.

We have very similar upbringings, in relation to family values, and life values, so I think that is really important.

Children bring out the best and worst in you as a couple.

I think all the stresses and strains in our marriage, the sleepless nights, when the children were small, the financial strains, the deaths of our parents, the stresses of the teen years...have made our marriage stronger because we worked hard, together to find ways of dealing with the problems.

Being united in your battles in life, brings you closer.


    Bookmark   August 28, 2007 at 3:18AM
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Thanks to all for the continued advice. I'm finding it to be very encouraging and thoughtful.

bnicebkind: your comment certainly hit a button. I'm in law school. I started single and will graduate married. It certainly does change my perspective on what I want to do after I graduate and the kind of career I want. I find myself really leaning away from the "high powered" track and much more towards something else that will allow me the time to spend with my new family.

Thanks to you too popi. My fiance and I have different backgrounds in family and how we were raised, but I think that they have brought us to the same place in what we want for our family together. He was raised without stability and without much support from his parents and family and I see him working hard towards that for his own son. I was raised in a stable home with parents who continue to support me in whatever I do. I want to continue that for my own family. We often talk about our differences in our childhoods and how to make the best family in our future, realizing that the differences have given us some pretty different perspectives on life and raising kids. I hope that since we've recognized it early, and talk often, we can make it something we're both proud of.

Thanks again! :)

    Bookmark   August 29, 2007 at 1:29AM
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