What Do You Know About Marriage That You Didn't Know Before?
I had 12 writing prompts in a bag and this is what I pulled today:
As I wrote this prompt, I had hoped that I wouldn't have to write on it early on, but life had other plans for me. Well, after all, this year's theme for me is "Challenge Yourself". (Hmmmm....how do I write on this and expose my mistakes and failures?) I press on.
The first lesson that comes to mind is that I didn't know that I didn't have to give up so much to make my marriage work. Marriage is sacrifice and compromise. That much is true and I knew that going in. I think what I didn't know is how much is too much. I gave up quite a bit because of my marriage: I left a great career, I left Trinidad, I left my large family, I left my independence, and I left a life that I had broken in and in which I was happy and respected and loved by so many. At the time, I gave it up knowing that being married to a Canadian meant that eventually we would live in Canada. I would follow him because that was what the right thing was.
I didn't know that I could have tried to keep some of myself and still be married. Marriage doesn't mean giving up yourself and who you are entirely. I means adding another person to what existed before. I didn't know that I could have done annual trips back home to alleviate homesickness. I could have had Mum come up every summer. I could have done a lot of things, but I didn't - that was my choice. I felt that I should focus on my marriage and leave the past behind. Funny thing is that once I divorced, I had to painstakingly go back and rebuild the life I had before.The past was that safe place. Luckily, people loved me and enveloped me and Kidlet back into the fold. I didn't know that when you marry, you have to bring yourself with you; you don't just turn into an amnesiac person with no past.
I know now that we BOTH have to be working on our relationship to make it work. My mother was from a different generation, one that believes the woman keeps the family together. As long as I did what I 'should' do, the family would be okay. What I know now is that I could have been the perfect person and done everything he wanted, but he had to do his part too. The problem is that I never expected it from him; I only worked to do what I 'should' be doing and never sought anything from him.
In the end, I realized that I had needs that he never knew he had to fulfill, but by then it was too late. I remember telling my Mum that I was so unhappy and that things were not going the way I had expected. My mother said to me very sternly, "He's taking care of you, he pays the bills, he takes care of Kidlet, and you have food on the table. You focus on doing what you have to do. What more do you want?" She taught me that I shouldn't expect him to do more than what he had to. I wish I had known that I could expect more and that I didn't have to be a martyr to be a good wife.
Marriage is about friendship and common interests as much as they are about separate interests. I thought loving each other was enough and that we didn't need to do things together. I didn't know that it was just like a friendship. We needed to do things together, make memories, have fun together, laugh together. I didn't know we had to go to our corners and then come back into the middle. (How did I not know this?) Your partner should be your friend. Just like with friends, you do things together - not just things you HAVE to do together, like groceries or being on the couch at the same time watching the same show or tagging along. You have to laugh together, have activities in common, have our own 'thing', and schedule things together.
I was (and still am) a romantic who thought that we would be happy forever together effortlessly. Everything would be perfect as long as we had love. Um....no. Love is the impetus, but there is a lot of work to be done by BOTH people. It's not enough to be in the canoe, we both have to be paddling hard, in sync, in the same direction, and with the same destination in mind. What I know to be true is that if I'm working hard and doing my best to make him happy in the way he wants and he's working hard and doing his best to make me happy in the way I want, there's a chance. It's about both sides doing whatever it takes at all times.
Maybe if all these things were different we would still be married, or we might still be divorced. I don't know. I will never know. Sure, not everything is my fault, but I take responsibility for my actions. I take responsibility for not putting myself and my needs first. All I can do is take the knowledge and the lessons and carry it in my heart to the next relationship.
Hmmm...in all my writing, so far, this is the most personal and I thought I wouldn't be able to do it, but I did it. Good news is that it's over! Ha!