I'm not the woman my husband married. I feel a long way away from that carefree, long-haired, faith-full girl. We said our vows that sweltering day roughly 14 years ago, not having a clue what was coming.
I have been thinking about vows in an "and" sense instead of an "or" sense. It's really not for better or worse, richer or poorer. If you're married long enough, it will be and.
For richer and poorer.
In sickness and in health.
For better and worse.
We didn't know that richer and poorer are more about mindset than money. It doesn't matter how much we make if we have the mentality that money is scarce which means we'll never have enough.
We didn't know that sometimes our better is our partner's worse.
When we said "'til death do us part" we didn't know that navigating the death of one's partner alone might be easier than navigating the death of a child together.
We didn't know that we'd fight about sex, parenting, politics, church, extended family, money, movies, furniture, pets, hobbies, end of life wishes, holiday traditions,
and it doesn't matter how much pre-marital counseling we got because
we all change.
Here's the marriage advice I would give to engaged couples, newly married couples, couples that have been at it for decades:
Get used to disappointment. You'll have to work harder on yourself than you ever have before. Happiness is possible in any relationship as long as we realize that happiness is completely dependent on ourselves. We cannot make someone else happy, let alone have someone else's actions make us happy. I have been trying to teach my kids to not say, "He made me mad!" Go ahead and say, "I'm mad" but recognize our own responsibility in how we feel.
Also, don't look for the evidence to confirm our "justified" annoyed feelings. It's easy to notice the things our partners do that piss us off. Dirty socks one foot from the laundry basket? Check. Checks their cellphone right in the middle of a conversation? Check. Grounds the kids from TV right before leaving for work? Check double check. If we're determined to find reasons to be mad, we will.
So we work at finding reasons to be grateful. We open up when we feel like closing off. We divulge secrets. We talk when we feel like keeping it in. We walk, hand-in-hand into the unknown, knowing that we've got each other's backs.
I'm not the woman my husband married,
and thankfully, we're both okay with that.
If you are in an abusive relationship, mentally, spiritually, verbally, or physically, you can still love that person and leave. There is no shame in breaking vows when they were first broken by the one who vowed to protect you.