surprising, enlightening, and sometimes hard truths we all face after marriage,
and how they teach us about what love really means.
they lived happily ever after."
smart. You know life is no storybook. But admit it: Somewhere deep in your
subconscious lurk romantic visions of a fairytale ending. The images may be
sketchy and a little outdated, but you can still make out the silhouette of the
bride and Prince Charming riding off into the sunset.
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.
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.
will look at the person lying next to you and wonder, Is this it? Forever?
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.
it is. You just didn't realize it the day you and your guy were cramming
wedding cake into each other's faces, clinking champagne glasses, and dancing
the Electric Slide. Back then you had no idea that "for better and for
worse" doesn't kick in only when life hands you a tragedy. Your
relationship mettle is, in fact, most tested on a daily basis, when the utter
sameness of day-in/day-out togetherness can sometimes make you want to run for
the hills. That's when the disappointment sneaks in, and maybe even a palpable
sense of loneliness and grief. It's not him. It's just you, letting go of that
sugarcoated fantasy of marriage that danced in your eyes the day you and your
beloved posed in all those soft-focus wedding photos. You're learning that
marriage isn't a destination; it's a journey filled with equal parts excitement
from a good dream to face the harsh morning daylight may not seem like a reason
to celebrate. But trust me, it is. Because once you let go of all the hokey
stories of eternal bliss, you find that the reality of marriage is far richer
and more rewarding than you ever could have guessed. Hard, yes. Frustrating,
yes. But full of its own powerful, quiet enchantments just the same, and that's
better than any fairy tale.
work harder than you ever imagined.
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.
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. And getting married doesn't
mean you're done — it just means you've advanced to graduate-level studies.
That's because every time you think you've mastered the material, he'll change
a bit. And so will you. As two people grow and evolve, the real work of marriage
is finding a way to relate to and nurture each other in the process.
like losing weight," says Andrea Harden, 45, of Buffalo, NY. "You
want it to be a one-time deal. You lost it, now just live. But then you learn
it's a lifestyle. That's marriage. The effort is a forever thing." So
don't be too hard on yourself — or him — on those days when you feel like
you're struggling through remedial math.
will sometimes go to bed mad (and maybe even wake up madder).
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.
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.
A break in the action will help you figure out whether you're angry, hurt, or
both, and then pinpoint the exact source. Maybe the fight that seemed to erupt
over the overflowing garbage can is really about feeling underappreciated.
Could be you're both stressed out at work and just needed to unload on someone.
Taking a break will help you see that, and let go. Or maybe you really do have
a legitimate disagreement to work out. Without a time-out, sometimes a
perfectly good argument can turn into an endless round of silly back-and-forth,
rehashing old and irrelevant transgressions as you get more and more wound up.
you do manage to stay focused and on topic, there are some fights that
stubbornly refuse to die by bedtime. And if you stifle your real feelings just
to meet some arbitrary deadline, your marriage will surely be the worse for it.
"This was a huge lesson for me," says Andrea. "As women we've
been trained to make nice. But the whole kiss-and-make-up thing just to keep
the peace was eating me up inside. I'd let things build up inside me until I
just exploded. Now I wait a while to get hold of myself — let the emotions
settle a bit — and state my position. Even if that means reopening the fight
the next day."
will go without sex — sometimes for a long time — and that's okay.
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.
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
kid yourself; no one in America is doing it as often as popular culture would
have you believe. Instead of worrying about how much you think you
"should" be having sex, keep the focus on figuring out your own
rhythm. "I used to think, what’s happened to us? We always used
to be in the mood," says 35-year-old Kim Henderson of Oakland, CA,
who's been married for five years. "Now I know better. Life happens. My
husband just started a new job. He has a long commute, and we have two small
children. I think we're good."
is to make sure that even if you're not doing "it," you're still
doing something — touching, kissing, and hugging. Personally, my heart
gets warm and mushy when my husband rubs my feet after a long, tiring day. He
may not be anywhere near my G-spot, but that little bit of touch and attention
keeps us connected even when we're not having spine-tingling sex.
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.
that when it comes to certain disagreements, there is no right or wrong — there
is simply your way of looking at things and your husband's. "I used to be
very black-and-white earlier in our marriage," says Lindy Vincent, 38, who
lives in Minneapolis. "Now I see that I'm not all right and my husband is
not all wrong. There's more gray in life than I thought, and that's taught me
patience and the value of compromise."
I get to know and appreciate my husband for who he is, the more I respect his
positions. That doesn't mean I always agree with him. But I can see the value
in striking a balance that satisfies us both. And instead of harping on how
wrong he is, I can usually swallow the verbal vitriol and simply say something
like, "I see your point" or "I hadn't considered that."
After I sincerely acknowledge his view, it seems to become easier for him to
hear mine. And because I know I'm being heard, most of the time now, I don't
even want to prove how right I am anymore. Funny how that works, isn't
great marriage doesn't mean no conflict; it simply means a couple keeps trying
to get it right.
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.
realize that you can only change yourself.
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
a bit of that makeover fantasy in all of us — something that makes us believe
we can change the person we love, make him just a little bit closer to perfect.
We may use support and empathy or shouts and ultimatums, but with dogged
conviction we take on this huge responsibility, convinced we're doing the right
our motives, the effort is exhausting. Transforming a full-grown man —
stripping him of decades-old habits, beliefs, and idiosyncrasies — is truly an
impossible task. And you will come to realize, sooner than later if you're
lucky, that it is far easier to change the way you respond to him.
perfect case in point: "I used to go off on my husband because he didn't
empty the sink trap when he cleaned the kitchen," says Kimberly Seals
Allers, 36, of Bay Shore, NY. "It got me nowhere; my rants only made him
resentful. Now I come home and when the kitchen looks clean, I'm like, 'Cool,
now all I have to do is empty the sink trap.'"
8. As you
face your fears and insecurities, you will find out what you're really made of.
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
were clues when Genoveso and I were dating, especially with the trust thing.
Early on, I was super suspicious of him. He used to say things like, "I'll
call you at 8." Then, just to try to trip me up, he'd call at 8. I knew he
was up to something, I just couldn't figure out what. The same kinds of
experiences followed after the wedding. Except occasionally he would actually
mess up. And I had no sense of scale when it came to rating his offenses;
everything was a major violation. Whether he teased me about a new haircut or
came home late, I seethed for days and even let thoughts of divorce creep into
my head. I figured, if he loved me — really and truly — this stuff wouldn't
to be able to say that this irrational behavior lasted only a few months and I
eventually worked it out. Kind of, sort of, is closer to the truth. After years
of looking deeply into my soul and talking to good friends and the best sister
a girl could ever have, I've come to recognize certain things about myself. Not
to get all Dr. Phil about it, but I've had to examine my history with an
emotionally distant dad and a strong-willed mom and face up to all the ways,
both good and bad, that those relationships have affected how I approach my
I still struggle
as a work in progress. But I am completely clear in the knowledge that many of
the deepest frustrations in your relationship are an opportunity for you to
confront yourself. That can be difficult to accept — after all, it's so much
more comforting to keep a running tab of your hubby's deficits and tell
yourself that his failings are the only thing standing between you and a
better marriage. But if you let it, this bumpy journey toward self-awareness
can be one of the more fulfilling rewards of a committed, long-term
relationship — you'll learn to love your quirks and be compassionate toward
yourself, just as you're learning to do with him.