||[Jul. 11th, 2005|10:55 am]
Life is filled with strange little concidences that bring ideas to a head and lead to lj entries. This time around, those coincidences have been a couple of online friends and some real life people bemoaning their poor choices in spouses and wondering why they seemed to choose wrong time and again. The spouses in question didn't appear, on the surface, to have that much in common, but discussion pointed to deeper issues that resonated across the pack. So much so that I think some generalizations can be made. And therefore, here for your reading pleasure - and nitpicking - is Z's Guide to Happy Marriage:
1. Date all the emo boys and goth girls you want, but marry a grownup. This was the universal "light dawning" moment for each person to whom I spoke. It's marvelous if he makes you laugh and is always fun to be with, or if she blows your mind with her sexual daring and prowess, but if he can't hold down a job or she spends the rent money on kinky shoes, all the fun will quickly go out of those other activities. The same goes for the puppy you feel compelled to rescue - that guy who is so desperately emo that your heart just goes out to him, the girl who is fragile as glass and needs you. If you really need to rescue a puppy, go to the animal shelter, 'cuz a mixed-breed terrier won't wreck your car, and the fact that it never helps with the housework is a given from day one. Irresponsible behavior that is cute and attractive in a boyfriend or girlfriend evenings and weekends will drive you bananas when it moves into your house and shares your stuff all day every day. If that means that your desired spouse doesn't make the cut, then you are better off making that decision now, instead of after five years of misery and a lot of bickering over who gets the big screen TV (let alone custody of kids). It might seem cruel or cold to set such standards, but it isn't - if someone isn't ready to be a grownup, then they aren't ready to be married, no matter how old they are.
2. If you're going to get married, be a grownup. It would seem like an obvious correllary to #1, but a surprising number of people go into marriage expecting that their spouse is there to rescue them from loneliness and boredom and the day-to-day grind of life. Doesn't work that way. All the grind continues, but now you've added someone else's priorities and expectations and quirks into the mix. You will have to compromise and work out differences, and you won't have the luxury of stamping off for a week of pouting - now that your love lives in the same house, every night the both of you climb into the same bed. The temper tantrums that used to bring flowers and candy will very soon just bring irritation and anger. You aren't a prized bauble that can simply flit away. No one likes a brat.
3. Marriage is hard work. "Happily ever after" is one of the most destructive lies ever foisted upon children, and it's too damned bad Walt Disney is dead because I'd hit him with such a class action lawsuit! Weddings are romantic events filled with smiles and happy tears. Marriages are filled with leaky faucets, car repairs, crying children, in-laws, more bills than money, housework, yardwork, work work - and that's just when things are going smoothly. If someone gets sick, or an elderly family member comes into your care, the stress level climbs up that much higher. When you are considering whether to marry someone or not, don't think about romantic evenings by the fireplace, think about how this person is going to react when the toilet overflows and the car gets a flat. Don't lie to yourself about how your certain that s/he will eventually learn to cope - what you get before the wedding is generally the person on good behavior. It's gonna get worse.
4. Respect your spouse. If you find yourself complaining to your friends about what a jerk your boyfriend is, what a bitch your girlfriend has become, putting on rings is not going to improve the situation. If you don't respect the person you're thinking of marrying, STOP! You are doing neither of you a favor by proceeding with the relationship. Either recover your respect for your beloved or realize that s/he actually doesn't deserve it and move on.
5. Respect yourself. Don't fear being alone; being alone is better than being with someone who treats you like crap. Don't settle. Know that you deserve to be treated well, because if you don't then others will sense that they can take advantage of you. Being truly strong allows you to be kind, generous, forgiving, sensitive, all the things that make for a good relationship, because you aren't continually scared that the other person will either leave or will steal your self-esteem. They can't if you respect yourself.
6. Mind games are tiresome. People set themselves up for failure when they can't express what they want, or inform their spouse that s/he has overstepped a boundary. Cold silence, emotional sabotage, and the cleverly hurled invective are all damaging to relationships. Don't engage in them; don't tolerate them. Grownups talk to each other, take a breather when the discussion gets too heated, and work things through without resorting to manipulation. You aren't always going to get what you want, and neither should your spouse. Fight fair, compromise, and do not spend your time filling your quiver with past transgressions that you can throw into your spouse's face the next time you argue. If you're having the same argument over and over, take the time to work through the issue.
7. Empathy! Before you do something potentially controversial, think about how your spouse would feel about it. Think about how you would feel if your spouse did it to you. A good marriage is a two-way street, with both spouses concerned for the well-being of the other. If the person you are considering marrying is only concerned about how s/he feels, run away. You are just asking for continual frustration and misery.
8. Remember to have fun together. Marriage is hard work, but it is also a comfort in a big, cruel world. Don't lose the things that drew you together to the push and pull of everyday life. If your initial attraction was based on the fact that you both love movies, don't stop going to the movies. Some interests have to change - if your single friends are all still single and that scene just isn't you anymore, look for ways you can make more mutual friends together. Don't let your interests get so separated that you share little except a bed and a checking account. (And if your potential spouse and you have nothing in common but a group of friends, don't get married - friends move away or get busy and you will find yourself staring across the dinner table at a person to whom you have nothing to say. Nobody needs to be married that badly.)
Any other suggestions?