CATALYST interns Lacey Kniep and Jayne Ann Boud put out the word that CATALYST was looking for marriage advice from our readers. You responded, and they put together the results!
Allow us to introduce ourselves, Lacey Kniep and Jayne Ann Boud. We are University of Utah interns this semester at CATALYST. You may have noticed our work in the past few issues. Throughout this internship, we have learned about green living and cultural creativity in addition to learning all about the wonderful world of magazine writing and production. Our experience has been absolutely wonderful! But there is something crucial we have yet to learn as this semester comes to a close. We are both getting married this month! To better prepare ourselves for this next step in life with our soon-to-be spouses, we asked our friends and CATALYST readers, both married and divorced, what they have learned in their marriages—or what they wish they had known beforehand. Thank you for sharing your insights and experiences with us!
We divorced once but the divorce didn’t work! We married again on our anniversary so he didn’t have to remember two dates. I didn’t want to set him up to fail!
I’ve learned that the only person you can change is yourself. Don’t try to change him. I’ve learned that no one is perfect. I’ve learned not to do anything so much or so often that it’s expected, only enough to be appreciated. Support your spouse’s dreams but don’t forget your own and don’t stop pursuing those dreams. Compromise is a great idea but it’s important to agree on the compromise. You can go to bed mad, contrary to popular belief. Sometimes it’s best to sleep on it rather than force an issue when there is fresh anger or hurt. It’s important to laugh often and forgive easily. Forgetting is a little harder but worth the effort. Don’t hold onto grudges. It only eats at you from the inside. It also gives others power over you. Own your feelings and your mistakes. There are many stages of love. Relationships cannot sustain that fiery passion every day. It will reignite during various times of your relationship. Love grows in many ways during good and bad times. It’s the small things that add up. Be considerate, be kind, be faithful, be honest, be playful, be patient, be yourself. And last but not least, I’ve learned that when the grass looks greener on the other side of the fence, it’s time to water the lawn!
Good luck to the brides and grooms. It’s not always been easy, but it has certainly been worth it.
Debbie, married 39 years
You’re a team; work together. You are both are human and individuals, so it is natural to be annoyed at times or mad with each other. Just remember that you are on the same side. Look after each other’s needs.
Alison, married 15 years
Show more love when you least feel like it. Being upset doesn’t get you anywhere, but somehow service toward the very person you don’t feel kind toward will soften the hardest heart.
Angela, 25, married 5 years
Five years ago, our marriage was in pretty bad shape, and we couldn’t understand what we were doing wrong. We loved each other, but somehow our ability to communicate had atrophied, and things were going downhill. I [Grace] was in therapy, but it didn’t seem to be helping much.
I think it was an act of desperation at the time, but we attended a party where I took a large dose of LSD and had what you might call a bad trip. It wasn’t fun, but in the middle of all the chaos I suddenly realized I could really see my husband… and that there was something terribly wrong that he had been hiding from me. Afterwards, I confronted him about it, and he admitted there had been some sexual abuse going on in his house when he was very young. He’d always had problems sustaining long-term relationships as an adult, and he thought that these things were related. We went into couples counseling.
It has not always been an easy ride, but we have had a strong, loving, and trusting marriage now. After reading up on the therapeutic uses of MDMA and other psychedelics, we decided to integrate these experiences into our efforts to address our trauma and rebuild our relationship. Our therapist is skilled in pointing out the dynamics between us (both good and bad) but psychedelics have given us the ability to drop our defenses and really do the work of building ourselves as a couple.
Grace, 38 and Mick, 42, married 10 years
If your partner does things that annoy you, more than likely what annoys you is merely a reflection of yourself, not him or her.
Samantha, 24, married 7 months:
This may sound overly practical, but I really wish someone would have given me this advice before I married: Have the Money talk. Find out what outstanding financial obligations your partner has. Does he file his taxes on time? What you learn likely won’t be a deal-breaker, though it may delay the wedding date, allowing time to get things cleaned up. Honesty now is a lot better than resentment later.
Julia, 59, married 27 years
Let it go! Give each other a break. Remember that you’re both imperfect. Don’t ever think, ‘Well, I’m not going to do this until he starts doing that.’ You’ll never get anywhere that way. When one of you does something really dumb, don’t rub it in! Just use it as a good opportunity to show the other how much you really love them.
Lindsay, married 5 years
No matter how perfect you both start out being, there will be some differences and behavior/control games played. So learn to talk things over, with only each other. Never go to friends and family to get them on your side. You may not agree for a while, but you will each eventually understand where the other is coming from.
Generally speaking, men don’t talk over things, they don’t want to cause waves, so talking is at first scary to them. Jack [my husband] has loved it for many years now. There are a few circumstances that are unfixable—extreme personality disorders such as narcissism, sociopathy, substance abuse, etc. My advice is to get therapy, and then get out ASAP when problems are entrenched. Don’t hang in there for years hoping for a change that isn’t going to happen. Like I did.
Joan, 78, happily married 30 years after two painful previous marriages
Your relationship is more important than being right. Also, pick out your own jewelry…it keeps feelings from being hurt.
Bonnie, 32, married 9 years
Remember what’s important and always give your spouse the benefit of the doubt. Your spouse will probably not intentionally try to hurt you. If he ever does hurt your feelings, he usually just doesn’t know what he said. Also, discuss periodically how you can meet each other’s needs.
Melissa, 22, married 2 years
Marriage is not a 50/50 thing. You each have to give 100% and expect nothing in return. If you both always put God first and make sure he is the center of your relationship, things fall into place.
Kelcie, 20-something, divorced 2 years
My advice is: don’t take any advice from other couples because each couple is unique and different. You and your spouse have to find how you two deal with things. What works for you may not work for someone else .
Julia, 22, married 3 years
I used to think that it was a little hokey to have couple-related paraphernalia all over the place—such as a hallway filled with pictures of the happy pair frolicking on a beach next to a framed love poem by Anonymous… or tattoos of your SO’s face on your bicep. I admit that I judged… and I was so, so wrong.
Because that shit is crucial for managing snarky emotions the third time your husband gets flour from his bread-making project all over the lovingly hand-washed dishes in the drying rack… or you’ve knocked his toothbrush out of the holder and into the beard trimmings and dusting of girly makeup powder in the sink…again. Seriously, you need the most love-sappy stuff you’ve got hung up in every room of the house.
Because every time your spouse does one of those annoying little things, you probably remember Every. Other. Time. they’ve done that exact same annoying little thing—and it reinforces connections in your brain between the concept of your beloved and that feeling of tooth-grinding annoyance. I’ve found that using images or love-notes or love-gifts (I like to re-read our first conversation on OKCupid… or play with a little snail-shaped bottle-opener that my husband got me as a just-because gift) in order to reinforce the little pathway from the part of my brain that stores husband-related memories to the part of my brain that generates ooey-gooey lovey-dovies, and counteract the trail that leads to resenty feelings.
(So maybe when I finally get around to framing pictures from our wedding, one should go next to the toothbrushes and one should go in the drying rack?)
Adele, 29, married 9 months
There are three entities in a marriage. You and your spouse are each individuals but the marriage itself is also its own being. You are not blending your life with another’s. You are creating something new. Sometimes this new entity is strong and healthy. (This part is easy and feels great) Sometimes it’s weak or fragile and it will need care and attention or rest. (This is the work.)
Have many interests, some that you share and some that are your own. Time apart is as important as time together. If you are very lucky, like me, you have great role models. Both my parents and my in-laws lead by example in the marriage department. Happy 50th wedding anniversary Doug and Myrna!
Polly, 51, married 18 years
This is a trick I learned late in my marriage. Had I learned it earlier, we probably would have never divorced; earlier still, and we possibly never would have married. Here it is: Appreciate each other—not with nods of encouragement, or by entangling emotions, but simply as one appreciates fine acting in a play. We’re so much bigger than the dramas we enact, and it’s good to remind ourselves, every single day, that Hamlet was right. Two people, appreciating each other in this way, share such a gift. True love loves a drama-free zone.
Greta, 61, married 20 years, divorced 7 years
Have an attitude of gratitude and find joy in your journey together.
Always kiss goodnight.
Always make peace before you go to sleep.
Don’t let money issues dictate how happy/unhappy your marriage is.
Never use the word ‘divorce,’ even in a joking manner.
Honor, love, adore and serve each other forever and ever.
Jewel, 70, married 49 years