Our Marriage Is A Work In Progress

Marriage is a work in progress. Everyone’s.

It’s one of the misconceptions I would most like to go back in time and correct among my 25 year old self’s group of girlfriends.  The misunderstanding being that marriage is in some ways the goal and the after part is passive security, intimacy and joy.

I feel so grateful to have those things and more 5 years into marriage but it’s far from passive - we work, sometimes tirelessly, at it.  It takes a heightened level of consciousness and commitment to treat another person - another person who was raised completely different from yourself - with respect and care and humor. To appreciate the way they live and love.  To learn about them and ask from them and give to them.

So we took our anniversary seriously this year. We went to Paris and left the kids behind so we could slow down and notice the little endearing quirks and small kindnesses sometimes overlooked in the day to day.

Marriage after children is a special kind of adjustment. I think perhaps the most connected I felt to other mothers was in the months following having children when we commiserated and consoled each other about the change in our partnerships. The sudden unevenness, the scorekeeping, the shift in financial equality and more that came with this life change. In the few years since I’ve started Mother Untitled, I’ve cataloged some of the learning and all of it really boils down to communication. 

I considered pulling out the archives of posts and sharing the most popular. But that felt a bit like cheating.  

So instead here are the current five things top of mind for me as of this weekend at the 5 year mark, knowing that forever is a long time and this will constanttly evolve.

  1. Don’t assume, ask. This applies to asking for what I need personally or for the kids or in any given situatiton. It equally applies to if I or Dan notice a shift or a comment and want to know what the intention is before we let it offend or aggravate hte other.

  2. Protect your own standards. I used to often accuse Dan of a double standard. Benign examples like that I wouldn’t mind him being a few minutes late while my lateness would ruffle his feathers big time. Until I realized it was on me to tell him I expected the same and/or hold him accountable to the things I cared about. And vice versa.

  3. Speak kindly. Our words are so unbelievably powerful. We are so careful with them to strangers, on social media, in the workplace. But where they have the greatest impact is at home. We have the power to lift each other, to show care or simply maintain respect when we choose wisely.

  4. Apologize quickly. If either of us inadvertently slip on speaking with kindness or in any other way cause hurt, we have learned not to challenge the other person’s experience and defend what we said or did. If they experience hurt that’s all that matters.

  5. Ruthlessly prioritize each other. Sometimes over the kids. That last part was uncomfortable for me. But Dan constantly reminds me that our happiness and connection is good for everyone. And Paris was a reminder of that. More on that on Instagram.

There are loads of other habits - over-communicating on scheduling, supporting each other’s self-care, recognizing and respecting our partner’s sacred relationship with their families of origin, saying thank you, actively listening - that have become just that, habits with lots and lots of practice. Just listing all the things to be mindful of in marriage, can feel tiresome. But again, dear 25 year old self, this isn’t supposed to be easy. But the work is worth it. And we are better for it.

What have been your learnings in marriage? What do you work on in your partnership?

If you’re interested, you can read about other healthy habits, pattern recognition in co-parenting, arguing in front of kids and addressing parenting style differences.