Being in a committed relationship is a big deal – for me, at least. I’ve always been very independent, so when I met my future husband, it seemed like it was my first relationship, even though we’d been dating since high school. Those relationships seemed like child’s play compared to the commitment we shared, so I had to learn a lot about what I’d done in previous relationships, and what I’d done on my own, and why it wouldn’t work in a marriage. As a result, I found there were quite a few things I was doing wrong trying to be a good wife.
I know everyone has to be happy with themselves, I really do. But when you’re in such a serious, committed relationship, it’s easy to feel responsible for the other person. Because when he’s around me, all his troubles should fade away, right? Wrong! I had to stop and think, “OK, when I’m cranky, does being around someone else automatically make me better? No.” So why was I expecting myself to be that magic potion for him? Just because he’s unhappy or cranky or angry doesn’t mean I did anything wrong, and it doesn’t mean I have to “fix” him. In fact, sometimes when I try to smooth over an issue, he’ll ask me to stop because he needs time to be angry and blow off steam. I had to learn to step back and let him handle his own emotions, and take myself out of that equation.
It was too easy to think life was happier if the dust was just shoved under the rug. In reality, that made me angrier about small things because I wasn’t bringing them to my spouse’s attention. Once I started bringing up issues I had, I realized he had done the same thing! We had hidden a variety of problems from each other because we wanted the relationship to always seem happy and smooth. Truthfully, no relationship is like that. We all have problems and part of the joy of marriage is knowing you have a partner who will help you through tough times. After we started sharing every problem, big or small, it was so much easier to deal with daily life, even when there were no problems! We started talking more about positive things and stuff we had done during the day, too, so confronting problems actually opened up our conversations!
I’ve lived on my own most of my adult life; even with roommates, you’re still responsible for your own chores. As a result, I always think I need to do everything myself. I wash my own dishes, I do my own laundry, I take the trash can to the curb on pick-up day. In reality, this isn’t how it should be. When you’re married, you’re in a partnership, and both people need to take responsibility for what needs to be done. After we talked about it, I found my husband actually wanted to do some of these chores! He wanted to feel needed, and he didn’t think of household chores as “woman’s work.” Now he is in charge of doing the laundry every week, taking care of the yard, putting out the trash, and washing the dishes on alternating nights. He also likes cooking and grilling dinners! It’s such a load off my shoulders knowing not only do I have someone to help juggle these chores, but he actually wants to do so.
My husband loves art and painting, and would often ask me to paint with him. I was flattered because to say I’m not very artistic is being generous, and I love doing things with him – especially collaborating on something he loved that might hang in our home. But the more he asked me to do this with him, the more I realized it was taking away my free time. I didn’t have as much time to read or write as I used to, and as a result I felt more stressed because I wasn’t getting my creative outlet. Same as when I stopped say yes every time he wanted company to run an errand. Sometimes you just need to hold your ground and say no to something, even if it’s not a major issue. Did it hurt me to take time to paint with him, or run to the store with him? No, but it took away free time I craved. Always saying yes to someone – whether it’s your husband, another family member, friends, co-workers – means you feel walked on, like you don’t matter as much as they do. You need to be OK with putting your foot down and saying no to things that might give you more time, space or happiness.
This might just be my problem, not one all wives have, but I think it’s big enough to be mentioned. A lot of the time I thought I was right because I had lived on my own more, or because I had been more independent, or because it was stuff women were just “supposed” to know more about. I tried to always speak with authority and sound confident, but in reality, I often didn’t know if I was more correct than him. I had always been so independent I felt like letting a man be right meant I was weak or dumb. It took me time to let him be right, but I realized he’s actually a really intelligent man – I wouldn’t be with him if he weren’t!
I know how to get people to talk to me, and so I always ask a lot of questions to try and learn what they’re going through and what might help them. So I expect others to do this for me, too. I don’t come home and volunteer information about what happened during my day and how it made me feel. I expected my husband to read my body language and, yes, read my mind and see I was unhappy, then go about talking to me and soothing me on his own. This never happened. It’s just not how people work! He told me he was hurt when I didn’t share with him, because he has always been very open about his days and his emotions. So I started trying to make sure I told him things I’d done, or how I felt, and he started making a point to ask me about certain things so I’d know he wanted me to open up to him.
This is probably the hardest point for me to get over, and I bet I haven’t really stopped yet. Because I’ve always lived on my own and done things for myself, I can’t get over the mindset I need to do everything, and I need to do it now. Those dishes are stacked on the counter and have to be washed – now! The floor needs to be vacuumed – now! I want to crawl in bed and read a book – now! I know it aggravates my husband because he is much more laid back – especially about housework! But sometimes he just wants to cuddle and talk, or sit on the couch, or watch a movie. I always feel like I need to get things done, or multitask, and this makes him think I don’t want to be with him. I’ve explained to him how my brain works when it comes to this, but it’s not enough to tell in words – I have to show him with my actions. So now when I get frantic about housework or my never-ending to-do list, I take a deep breath and melt into his arms and enjoy being with him.
Featured photo credit: Matthew Hogan via flickr.com
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