Today, I’m getting personal again. I am talking about the five things I wish I had known about marriage.
My husband and I have been married for 29 years, but we have been together for 32 years.
I wanted to share with you some things that I wish somebody had told me before I got married, things that would have radically changed some of the things that happened in our relationship.
Let me put out a disclaimer first. I am not a marriage therapist. I’m not a marriage expert. I’m just a girl who’s showing up here to share my experience based on being in a relationship with someone for 32 years of my life.
1. There is nobody who completes me except me.
Do you guys remember the line from Jerry Maguire where he says, “You complete me”?
I remember watching that movie and just being like, “Oh, my goodness, you complete me!” And I actually may or may not have said that line to my husband at some point in our relationship, then I saw the light.
The number one thing that I wish I had known before I got married is that there is nobody who completes me except me.
I think we’ve been taught that when we go into a relationship, I’m 50% of the relationship and my partner or spouse is the other 50%. And to get there, we make a whole – we make 100%. But the reality, and what I’ve had to learn sometimes the hard way over the last 32 years of being together, is that no one can complete you, you are complete yourself, you do not need to have somebody else who completes you.
That’s been a hard lesson for me to learn because especially in the very beginning, because we married so young, I was very much looking for him to make me happy, make me feel loved, make me feel safe, make me feel all of the things that you look for in a relationship. It took me a really long time to realize and to learn that no one can give you those things.
My gosh, what a lot of pressure to put on another human being to expect that they will fill every need of yours!
You are the source of your own joy. You are your own source of love. You are your own source of fulfillment. The other person just adds to it.
And that’s where we’ve landed. That’s what I now realize, that he adds to it, but I would have it without him. It has been a lot of work to get there. That’s where we ultimately all should be striving to get – to the place where I’m complete with or without you, to get to the place where I don’t need to be in a relationship with you to make me feel loved, that I want to be in a relationship with you, but that I would be just fine on my own.
2. Prepare for the marriage.
I didn’t have a big lavish wedding anything. I’m really glad about that. I still have people in our family who were like, “We need you to have this big production wedding.” We did things our way.
I love how we did things, but no shade no shame to anybody who wants the big production wedding.
I went through that with my daughter’s wedding. We had a massive production wedding, probably against her wishes. The family really wanted to celebrate her marriage.
We had the most epic wedding planner and worked with him for about two years in total to put together this wedding day.
I see that with a lot of my friends, where they spent a lot of time preparing for the wedding. But very few people actually spend time preparing for the marriage.
When my husband and I were dating, in truth, the person who would show up for every date was my representative – my polite, kind, sweet, amazing version of myself. I never let the mean, horrible, angry person out, because who wants to show up in a day at a date being your truest self?
Most of us when we’re dating, are sending our ‘representative’ to show up for the date. So when you’re getting married, you think that the person you married was the person that you went on dates with all this time, the person who ‘completes’ you.
And then you get married and live together. In our case, my husband and I are business partners, so we literally are together 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
When you’re with someone for a really long time, most days, there’s very little that you can hide until your true self comes out. One way that you can prepare for this is to have discussion, to have somebody. I highly encourage having marriage counseling, someone who can actually facilitate discussion, important discussion, because a lot of the time as well, when discussions are hard, it’s difficult subjects that maybe we don’t want to talk about. It’s easy not to have those conversations. And so when you go for marriage counseling, you’re going through all of the things with someone who is objective when talking about such subjects.
It really is important for you to prepare for the marriage, even more time that you spend preparing for the wedding.
One of the really important things to know before marriage is to know your roles and boundaries.
One of the things that led to us getting unstuck in the early years of our relationship is that we didn’t really know what our roles were, and we were trying to figure it out as we went. We hadn’t talked about it beforehand.
There’s an expression in my mother tongue that translates to “In that household, they’re two roosters.”
That’s what happened with us. We were both trying to be the lead in all areas.
A cool tool that my husband and I have used, which is based on us being both management consultants, is what we call a RACI chart.
RACI stands for is who is Responsible, who is Accountable, who is Consulted, and who is Informed. This applies in every area of your life. It might be in terms of finances, it might be in terms of deciding where you live, what house you live in, deciding who raises the children – of course, you’re both raising the children, but who has primary responsibility for certain areas of raising the children?
It helps for you to know your roles, to know what each of our roles are and what the boundaries are.
In all honesty, this should be number one. If we were ranking these, number three is the single most important thing in any relationship. It doesn’t matter what relationship you’re in, this literally is make or break.
Communication. It is the one thing that will make or break your relationship. It also is the one thing that will help you survive anything.
It is one of the things that I know is a big struggle. It certainly was a huge struggle for us. It is something that we continue to work on. And if there is one book that I would recommend, it is this amazing book called Nonviolent Communication by Dr. Marshall B. Rosenberg.
Here he shares what he says are the most effective ways for you to communicate. He has a process that he calls the Nonviolent Communication Process.
The Nonviolent Communication Process
1. Observe what it is that they are doing that affects your wellbeing.
When you’re communicating to the other person, observe what it is that they’re doing that affects your well being. Actually objectively observe. This isn’t how I feel. This is more of a, “Here’s what you’re doing that’s upsetting me,” or “That’s making me not feel good.”
2. How does it make you feel?
So how did the thing whatever it is that you think was done wrong to you? How did it make you feel?
3. What is the need?
What is it that you need, based on whatever it is that you observed?
4. What is the request?
What do you want the person to do in a tangible way?
What I can share with you that I have learned about communication in our relationship is to never weaponize your weaknesses.
You’re in such a privileged place of knowing what that person’s weaknesses are and what that person’s triggers are. When you use that against your spouse, you lose trust. They will feel that they can never trust you to show you who they are because you are going to use that against them.
So never ever weaponize something that you were told – something that is vulnerable, something that is a trigger for the other person. Don’t bring up the past.
This was huge for us. We would be arguing about the socks that he left on the floor or I didn’t fill up the car when I last drove it. And then it would become about five years ago, you did this thing. And seven years ago, you did this other thing. It’s so easy, especially when you’re trying to defend yourself to bring the past as a weapon.
Argue about what the argument is about. Not what happened yesterday, not what happened last year or last week. A lot of the time, we think we’re arguing about the socks on the floor, or you didn’t fill up the car, but really, it’s pent up frustration, it’s pent up feelings of not being heard, not having been heard.
And then it blows up, or as they say, the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
Make it a practice in your relationship to talk about the issue when the issue happens, so that you’re not bringing up the past and rehashing things that happened in the past.
Something else that really affects your communication in a relationship that I’ve learned from my experience, is that you will change.
The person I was a year ago, the person I was 10 years ago, the person I was 32 years ago when we first met is very different from who I am today. You’re both going to change that is the nature of life. Ee change based on experiences, based on things that we learn, based on things that happened to us. Know that the person you got into a relationship with is not necessarily the same person you’re in a relationship with now.
You need to adjust. This is done by communicating. What is it that I truly need from you now, in this version of myself?
Something else that was huge for me was letting go of ego.
If I’m being 100% honest, I still struggle with it. I had the need to be right. I wanted to be right. I would argue till I was blue in the face, because I wanted to be right.
What I had to learn to ask myself is, do I want to be right? Or do I want to be happy? Does this really matter?
I’m not saying and I’m not proposing that you become a doormat, but there’s some things that we argue about that really don’t matter and are really not that important.
Is this going to matter an hour from now, whether the shirt was blue or black? Who cares?
It’s the things that are important that you should have discussion about. If it’s things that are just not going to matter a day from now or a week from now, ask yourself: Is it more important for me to be right? Or is it more important for me to be happy?
4. Talk about money and finances.
According to research, this is the number one argument that couples have. I wish I had learned this before I got married.
Finances are the number one reason that people are getting in a relationship, and it is actually the number two cause of divorce.
If you think about it, our lives are so driven by how we handle money and how we handle finances. Something else that happens especially for us as women is that when we’ve made the decision to have a family, we tend to be the ones who will leave gainful employment to become the stay at home mom to be the primary caregiver. This impacts our ability to generate income and to bring money into the family.
Some of these conversations would be like:
- What are we going to do when you earn more than I earn?
- What are we going to do when we have kids?
- Are you going to stay home? Are you not going to stay home?
- How do you want to divide up your living expenses?
And then something else that fundamentally shifts when one of you now is effectively in the power position, the one who earns more money. How is that gonna play out in your relationship? What does that mean? Does that mean that one of you in your relationship feels disempowered?
Those are all such important conversations to have before it actually happens so that it doesn’t lead to arguments.
5. Sex: Keep the passion alive
I want to start with a quote actually from Tony Robbins. He says, “Relationships don’t die because of a lack of love. Relationships die because of a lack of passion.”
Whether we want to know it or not, whether we like it or not, the fact is, sex is an important part of our physiology.
It is if you look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, it is a foundational need in all of us. It is part of what is in our reptilian brain – the normal requirement for closeness for intimacy, for connection, for belonging, for reproduction. It’s a natural normal part of our being.
This is a really important thing for you to talk about before you get into a relationship with each other, before you get married. There are many myths that have been spread about sex in a relationship. There’s the myth that men want sex way more than women. There’s so many myths that are perpetuated by movies – they wake up, and the woman has flawless makeup and her hair looks amazing. Don’t these people have morning breath?
The reality is, you have to keep the passion alive. That’s something that you have to work on. That is actually work. Sometimes it really does feel like work, but you’ve got to keep the passion alive. You have to continue to date each other. What was it like? Remember those butterflies that you had when you were dating? How do you keep that up? How do you make each other a priority?
This is so critical. Tell each other what you like and what you don’t like. What are the things that turn you on? What are the things that turn you off? Knowing as well that how you get to the act is very different. What’s the foreplay that needs to happen for each of you, for you to feel like you want to be intimate with each other?
Intimacy is such an important part of a relationship, and allowing yourself to be vulnerable with each other. Really saying what you want, what you need in the relationship and understanding how you can fulfill your partner’s needs is very important.
So that’s all I had to share today about the five things that I wish I had known before I got married. I hope it was useful to you. If you found it useful, please share with somebody else who might find it useful. Please remember, whether it is in a relationship with yourself or with someone else, know that you are worthy to be, to do, to have anything that your heart desires.
Sandra has a podcast episode on this topic in the WORTHY Podcast:
You can also watch it on YouTube: