I think we're all naïve before marriage. I've seen it in myself and I've seen it reflected in the attitudes of those who are newly engaged. Every newly engaged person I've ever spoken to has the same belief - That their marriage will be better than all the flawed ones they see around them because they're going to do it right. I remember thinking that. Sometimes I still do. Inevitably, though, we learn the truth, don't we? That no marriage can be perfect because no two people are perfect but that doesn't mean a marriage can't be wonderful. I think that's the genius behind the whole wedding process. a couple can't easily go through the stress of planning and orchestrating a wedding without at least one indignant huff or exasperated eye roll. I think those first signs of annoyance, the first pop in the "ideal marriage" bubble, is the first sign that things are going to be okay. (It's the people who refuse to acknowledge they're not perfect that scare me.) Marriage is work, sometimes hard work, and hard work builds character. I think it's impossible to build a life with another person without completely losing the life you held before, the self you were before. Marriage completely changes your priorities and your sense of purpose and it's impossible to really know what you're getting into beforehand. Here are some ways my marriage has improved me as human being.
1. I'm a better listener. I didn't realize before hand how often I just pretend to listen while my focus is really on facebook or the tv or whatever is happening in front of me. I used to get annoyed with how often Chad wanted my attention because it would be cutting into my "me" time, now as both a wife and a mother I know "me time" is a myth and I really enjoy the fact that Chad cares enough about what I think to confide in me. I didn't realize before that, even though he's been thinking everything through for probably longer than I can imagine, he still needs and wants to talk me through his thought process so that I'll know how he arrived at his final conclusion. This used to seem really tedious to me because I tend to arrive at conclusions more quickly. I use an "it either is or it isn't" type mentality that is totally not my husband. I don't know if it's the difference between men and women or just the difference between Chad and myself but it's been a big deal to learn how to appreciate each other's needs and learn how to communicate with one another.
2. I'm constantly made aware of how little I know about my husband. Even though Chad and I didn't even date for a full year before we got married I still stubbornly believed I was somehow the expert on all things Chad. We didn't really spend much time getting to know each other just after marriage either. The first six months to a year after we got married we still lived pretty independently and just did our own thing. It felt very much like having a room mate. Now however, we talk everyday, meaningfully, we joke a lot and laugh together and I'm constantly learning things about either Chad's childhood or his theology or his opinions on Miley Cyrus. Seeing him as a dad created a massive shift in the way I view my husband. The most amazing thing is that I'm not surprised anymore when Chad surprises me. I've grown accustomed to it and I love it. I love that he is able to surprise me and I love that none of his stories or anecdotes are boring. when you're single I think you're inclined to be quite shallow, to think that people are pretty one-dimensional. Being married I can now see that the human soul is infinite in depth. That Chad will never run out of amusing or surprising things to say to me and that I can be pretty certain I'll spend the rest of my life laughing at his jokes and enjoying his company.
3. Marriage has made me more honest. As a single person I think we build our own reality. I get really annoyed when I hear the phrase "I'm the type of person who... fill in the blank." because it's generally coming from someone who maybe doesn't have the best grasp on how they appear to other people. I shouldn't get annoyed because that was me before marriage. I think a lot of us create this fictional identity that we think we fill and the biggest shock of marriage is the realization that you were wrong about yourself. I thought I was pretty smart but here's this person telling me I'm wrong... a lot. I thought I was compassionate but here's this person making me feel as though I'm being selfish. I thought I was honest but here's this person expecting me to tell them exactly how much money I spent on something. I thought I was pretty humble but here's this person acting like I'm being arrogant. How dare they judge me. But they can judge because they see you better than anyone and that is a really hard thing for our pride. When Chad tells me I'm in the wrong, he's generally right, especially when it comes to offenses I may have committed against other people. that is a bitter pill to swallow. I read somewhere (or maybe Chad told me) That marriage is the most perfect mirror in which to view our own sin. everything is laid bare and we're forced to acknowledge the ugly parts of ourselves that we were previously able to brush under the rug. I say this has made me more honest because I'm no longer able to lie to myself about who I am. Marriage has made me face my flaws head on and address issues I would have otherwise chosen to ignore.
4. Marriage has made me stand up for myself more and I mean this in a very specific sense. Because we didn't date for very long we weren't able to fully take advantage of premarital counseling so we went through it for a while as newlyweds. During one of our sessions our pastor asked me if I thought I felt I was able to maintain my personality. He said that often a husband will be dominant and overshadow his wife's personality so much that she'll no longer really be free to be herself. (or something like that.) I'm certainly far from the submissive wifey and Chad is entirely not like the archetypal domineering husband figure but years later I found myself remembering that conversation. It happened very slowly and I'm quite sure it happened both ways but it did happen. When Chad's siblings or friends would come to visit he would suggest fun things for them to go do and not invite me. I'd be sad about it and later ask him quite pathetically why he didn't invite me. Several times his answer was "because I didn't think that would be something you'd enjoy doing." It wouldn't have hurt my feelings for him to just spend one on one time with people close to him but it did hurt my feelings that he would assume without asking that I wouldn't like to do something - often times the activity in question was something I really would have enjoyed doing and I was often confused by the whole scenario. It never served me well to act wounded by this because Chad honestly thought he was being considerate of me but this goes back to number two. I know that there is plenty about me that Chad doesn't know and even more so at that particular point in time. I also know that he will never know these parts of my personality if I don't make him aware of them. I felt hurt, I felt like he was excited to get away from me, I felt like he didn't want to make decisions with me as a team but was operating as a team with other people, I didn't feel cherished or enjoyed and basically I just felt left out. He had absolutely no idea I was feeling any of this and the longer I waited to tell him the more intense my confrontation would be. At this point in our marriage, I understand how to tell him when something hurts my feelings - gently. I also know that because I've said these things to him in an atmosphere free of accusations and anger that he knows the effect those actions had and he has made consistent efforts to figure out what would be fun for me to do, even when people aren't around. I also understand that if I want to have my own time I just need to speak up because Chad doesn't understand that it is hard for me to come by also. Again, I am more than supportive of him having one on one time with those closest to him. I just don't want to be consistently excluded because I "wouldn't enjoy" what they're doing anyway because that's just not the case.
5. Marriage has made me a lot less selfish. Not selfless, mind you, but a lot less selfish. There are so many differences between single life and married life. From the time I wake up until I go to sleep I need to know that Chad is going to be prepared for his day. He is incredibly self sufficient, of course but I still hate whenever he needs something and feel like a failure if I haven't anticipated something he needs. Whether or not I'm that much of a help I'm always thinking of what I need to do to make life easier on him. I know his pet peeves so I focus on those and try my darnedest to find extra ways to bless him. I try to run the errands he needs run and special projects he needs done. this often does not end up getting done as little Betty does keep my hands pretty full, especially when I'm also pregnant and not feeling great but it's a goal at the very least that I would not have imagined having before marriage.
6. Marriage has taught me to keep my mouth shut. not entirely but way more than before. I have learned that if I question whether something is truly necessary it probably isn't, and is better left unsaid. that goes for statements both about my husband and to my husband. It's just better not to keep something going if it might be better off dropped. Just like here, I've said all I needed to say. God bless and have a good weekend. (Is it labor day? I can never remember)