In real life, sometimes your Disney fairy tale ends up feeling more like a Wes Craven horror flick — and you’re the chick who keeps falling down and screaming for her life. I’ve been there. Let’s face it, marriage is not for the faint of heart. You want to believe your pure love for each other will pull you through. And it does. But it ain’t always pretty.
That may sound grim. But here’s a secret: Sometimes it’s the least romantic parts of marriage that have the most to teach you about yourself, your partner, and the nature of love. Read on for some simple truths that will unlock the surprising treasures and pleasures in your imperfect, unstorybook, real-life love.
You will look at the person lying next to you and wonder, Is this it? Forever?
When you get married, you think that as long as you pick the right guy — your soul mate — you’ll be happy together until death do you part. Then you wake up one day and realize that no matter how great he is, he doesn’t make you happy every moment of every day. In fact, some days you might wonder why you were in such a hurry to get married in the first place. You think to yourself, This is so not what I signed up for.
2. You’ll work harder than you ever imagined.
Early on, when people say, “Marriage takes work,” you assume “work” means being patient when he forgets to put down the toilet seat. In your naiveté, you think that you will struggle to accommodate some annoying habit, like persistent knuckle cracking or flatulence.
If only it were that easy. Human beings, you may have noticed, are not simple creatures. Your man has mysterious, unplumbed depths — and from where he sits, you’re pretty complicated, too. You have to learn each other the same way that you once learned earth science or world geography.
3. You will sometimes go to bed mad (and maybe even wake up madder).
Whoever decided to tell newlyweds “Never go to bed angry” doesn’t know what it’s like inside a bedroom where tears and accusations fly as one spouse talks the other into a woozy stupor until night meets the dawn. If this scenario sounds familiar, I’ve got three words for you: Sleep on it.You need to calm down. You need to gain perspective. You need to just give it a rest. I’ve found that an argument of any quality, like a fine wine, needs to breathe.
4. You will go without sex — sometimes for a long time — and that’s okay.
There are few men in the Western world sexier than my husband. And I don’t say this because I know he may read this article. I’ve seen women checking him out when they think I’m not looking. (Honestly, ladies, you don’t have to sneak a peek. I don’t mind if you stare.) That said, there are times that I just don’t feel like having sex — often for reasons that have nothing to do with Genoveso. (See? Even his name is sexy.) I can’t lie and say this is always okay with him. But the fact is, there are also plenty of nights when he’s not in the mood. So maybe a few days go by when we don’t do it. And then a few more. And…
Sexless periods are a natural part of married life. A dry spell isn’t a sign that you’ve lost your mojo or that you’ll never have sex again. It just means that maybe this week, sleep is more important than sex. (I don’t know about you, but between work, 3 a.m. feedings, the PTA, soccer, T-ball, and everything else, I sometimes crave sleep the way a pimply, hormonal adolescent longs to cop a feel.)
5. Getting your way is usually not as important as finding a way to work together.
I can be a bit of a know-it-all. There, I said it. It’s really not my intention to be hurtful or brash with people I love. It’s just that a lifetime of experience has taught me that in most areas, at most times, I am right about most things. What shocked me several years into my marriage, though, was the realization that the more “right” I was, the more discontented my husband and I were as a couple. See, oddly enough, throughout his life Genoveso has been under the misguided impression that he’s right most of the time (go figure!). So we’d lock horns — often. That is, until I learned a few things.
6. A great marriage doesn’t mean no conflict; it simply means a couple keeps trying to get it right.
Maybe you think that because of my newfound wisdom, Genoveso and I never fight anymore. Ha! As important as it is to strike a balance, it’s also important to have a big, fat fight every now and then. Because when you fight, you don’t just raise your voices; you raise real — sometimes buried — issues that challenge you to come to a clearer understanding of you, your man, and your relationship. I wouldn’t give up our fights for anything in the world, because I know in the end they won’t break us; they’ll only make us stronger.
7. You’ll realize that you can only change yourself.
Ever seen the ’80s sci-fi cult classic Making Mr. Right? When the stylish heroine, played by Ann Magnuson, is hired to teach a robot how to act like a human, she seizes the chance to create a perfect guy. A hotshot commercial whiz, she uses her marketing prowess to shape John Malkovich’s android character into her personal version of the ideal man — sensitive, eager to please, and willing to listen.
8. As you face your fears and insecurities, you will find out what you’re really made of.
I’ve got issues. Trust issues. Control issues. And others, I’m sure, that I’ve yet to fully discover. I guess I’ve always known I wasn’t perfect. But in more than a decade of marriage, I’ve been smacked upside the head with the cold, hard evidence.
That’s the strange beauty of marriage: It’s full of hard times and hard lessons that no one can ever prepare you for. But in the end, those are the things that give richness to your life together — and make your love even deeper and stronger than when it began.