In October Marie and I celebrate 10 years of marriage. Our wedding was on October 14, 2000 in Concord, New Hampshire. It was a nearly perfect day. Actually, it was perfect aside from waking up, taking a shower and asking, "Mike is this really what your honeymoon body was supposed to look like?" Thankfully, many things change in 10 years. Marie and I graduated from college, worked at six jobs, moved into eight homes/apartments, lived in three states, attended three grad schools (still no masters!), and lived in two countries. Oh yeah, we made one person (Ella). Looking back at all that activity I wonder if I've learned anything. Here's a brief list of the few nuggets of wisdom I've learned in my first decade of matrimony.
THE PAUSE BUTTON:
Marie and I survived five years before we had a DVR in our home. I'm not so sure if they were around in 2000, but we certainly didn't hear about this device until we returned from Japan. The thought of recording our TV programs on a hard drive automatically sounded Heavenly. We perceived that we were starved for American culture from August 2004-August 2005. The obvious answer was to load up on as much TV as possible!
This device surprisingly helped our marriage. We noticed one Sunday that Marie and I were getting along exceptionally well for an NFL day. Then we noticed every time Marie walked into the room I was able to pause live TV and give her my full attention. I owe much of my emotional health to the pause button. If you are married and you have a TV, you MUST get one of these.
DUCK AND DODGE:
This is a term that I learned from a book called Mars and Venus In the Bedroom. Another newlywed couple gave us this book early in our marriage and it helped a lot. I don't remember the sex tips, but I do remember this advice about gender differences in resolving conflict. The author compared conflict resolution with your wife to a boxing match. (of course this metaphor means WORDS ONLY!!!)
The idea is that women don't mean every word they say in a literal sense. They throw out a few emotional "punches" until the figure out what is really bothering them. Men, having fragile little egos, need to master the urge to take every one of these little jabs personally. The idea is to duck and doge some statements that feel like a personal attack. If those words don't stick, then the husband will be able to listen better and thus resolve conflict without escalating into higher levels of conflict. This concept helped me so much!
IT'S NOT ABOUT BEING RIGHT:
In our second year of marriage Marie and I both took some grad school classes at Oral Roberts University. She got the class for free because she was on staff and I had an elective to burn for my degree so we both took Marriage Counseling. We used John Gottman's The Marriage Clinic as our main textbook. There were so many helpful concepts easily applicable to our marriage: warning signs of unhealthy couples, different conflict resolution styles, and great statistics. Interesting side note, this class taught me an awareness of how culturally charged marriage is. We had several classmates from Africa in class and any time the professor mentioned men and women's equality, the guys lost it. One almost fell out of his chair laughing. I wonder what it would be like to be a marriage counselor in Africa or Asia.
I digress, Gottman's very thorough work on tracking relational patterns revealed that an overwhelming amount of conflict in marriage cannot be resolved. This means that MOST of the conflicts a couple have cannot be solved with a mindset that says "I'm right and your wrong" or vice versa. I learned very early not to seek a "win" in an argument, but rather an understanding of how we would deal with differences of opinion, household efficiency, or family gatherings etc. Now if I could just stick to what I know...
I have to remind myself of these concepts a lot. This list is by no means exhaustive. It's also worth noting that after ten years of marriage, I've got a list of three learned things. Five years ago my list was longer...