I married late, but it wasn’t by choice. I waited longer than I wanted, yet I realize now I’m married that that time wasn’t wasted. I was looking for my husband, but here’s a list of the most helpful tools for marriage that I unintentionally found along the way.
It’s not the kind of patience you think, the kind that allowed me to wait for marriage (cue “Someday My Prince Will Come”). I never thought I ever had much patience to wait for a good man. The patience I’m talking about is more situational.
Sharing your life with someone requires some adjustment. You go through your life doing something like washing the dishes a certain way, and now suddenly there’s this other person telling you you’re doing it wrong. In the past, I might have shot back defensively and then felt bad about it for the rest of the day. But now I’m married I have this bizarre power to patiently pause before reacting and to weigh the situation: Does what my husband just said require me to feel hurt? How can I kindly explain to him this is the way I was taught to do something?
This certainly doesn’t happen all the time, but it’s happened frequently enough that I’ve noticed this strength I didn’t have before. Where did it come from? Then again, I think the years of waiting, dating, and taking the relationships I had one day at a time (and doing so over and over again) accustomed me to not have snap emotional reactions. Because, through all these years, I learned that the best way to decide if a man is the right one is to remain level-headed. And that level-headedness is something I bring into my marriage.
I think it goes without saying that I got to know myself pretty well when I was single: the values I wouldn’t compromise, the way I’d like to raise any future children, and the kind of life I wanted to build. Of course, I also learned what I wanted in a man and what I needed.
Most importantly, I learned how I wanted to be treated by a man. As a victim of long-term emotional abuse, this one was essential. I knew I was susceptible to being attracted to emotionally abusive qualities in a man, to what was familiar. I needed to break that cycle.
Self-knowledge has helped me both in the time before marriage and within marriage. By nature, I’m a follower, and it’s sometimes difficult for me to make my own decisions rather than just following what others decide to do. This isn’t a good way to act in a marriage; I can’t always just defer to my husband for all decisions. It’s helpful that I know myself enough—and am comfortable in that person—to be able to put my foot down when I need to.
It’s natural to be grateful when you finally receive something you’ve been waiting a long time for, and certainly I am. This gratitude is like a river that separates into smaller streams, and these streams actually strengthen marriage.
It’s saying thank you to my husband when he washes the dishes and being grateful for every time he says he loves me. It’s being thankful for the boring days of errands that I get to do with him and saying thank you for his hard work and sacrifice in supporting our family.
This gratefulness strengthens the foundation of marriage and makes it easier to desire to do the small things, like boring errands and washing dishes.
Many of the examples of marriage I witnessed when I was younger did not instill the necessary tools I’d need in my own marriage. Patience and gratefulness were definitely not things I ever witnessed in them. And so, although I still harbor some bitterness for the long wait and late marriage (something I need to work on), I am grateful that my single years were not wasted years, and these first happy and smooth months of marriage are proof of that.