“How would your marriage be different if you had been handed an honest, comprehensive guide on what to expect after the wedding?”
That’s the question Sheryl Paul asks in her article “Premarital Wisdom: The Truth About Marriage” in the Huffington Post Weddings section this week.
On the surface that sounds like a cool thing. Really, who would object to having honest and realistic knowledge of what married life would be like? The problem is, of course, that no one can predict certain things, like who’ll become verbally or physically abusive, who’ll have an affair or affairs, who’ll stop having sex, etc. If we could know that beforehand, we probably wouldn’t marry that person (although in truth, many people have red flags flying at full mast and we still ignore them and get hitched!).
And we also can’t predict how having kids will impact the marriage; there’s research on how having kids doesn’t necessarily make us happy (especially in the first few years), but we don’t talk about what having an mentally ill or developmentally disabled child will do to a marriage. Because we don’t expect that we’ll have a mentally ill or developmentally disabled child. Perhaps those are unrealistic expectations, too; about 8 million children a year are born with serious birth defects, many are born premature (which often creates a host of life-long complications), and about 10 percent of children and adolescents in the United States suffer from serious emotional and mental disorders.
We already know quite a bit about married life if we’ve carefully observed our parents’ marriage (and what teen hasn’t?) and the marriages of our friends. We have a concept of the many types of dysfunction that can come with the title of wife and husband. Of course, most of us believe we can do it better (and I believe people can; that’s why Susan Pease Gadoua and I are writing The New I Do: Reshaping Marriage for Cynics, Commitaphobes and Connubial DIYers).
Yet, I’m just as wary about anyone offering “honest” insight into “what to expect after the wedding” as am I about those who talk about ways to “affair-proof” a marriage. You can’t affair-proof a marriage, sorry. You can be the best possible partner that you can be (and you should, just because you want to be, not because you feel it’s expected of you) and your spouse can still cheat on you. You cannot control another person’s actions, and that’s just how it goes; of all expectations of married life, that is one to embrace.
So, getting back to that “honest, comprehensive guide on what to expect after the wedding,” what are some of the issues she brings up?
It’s OK, and even healthy, to want to be alone for a day or two.
It’s OK not to want to do every activity with your husband.
It’s OK to find other men attractive (just don’t act on it).
It’s OK to feel nothing but love one minute, hatred the next, annoyance the next, ambivalence the next, back to love toward your husband all in one hour.
It’s OK to want to be selfish sometimes.
It’s OK to do things and think about things in different ways. It doesn’t mean one of you is right and one of you is wrong.
IT’S OK TO GO TO BED ANGRY!
Basically, that means it’s OK to be human! We have feelings and those feelings change, we have needs and those needs change — no one would argue with that. The bigger question is, how honest are we going to be with our partner about those feelings and needs? If it’s anything less than 100 percent, there’s going to be trouble.
It’s clear she’s modeling her guide on the uber-popular What to Expect When You’re Expecting. The big difference is there are relatively universal and predictable realities in a pregnancy; there aren’t any in a marriage except the birth of kids, and even that affects people differently.
But perhaps the biggest thing that troubles me in her post is her statement that, “It’s OK not to like your husband.”
Really? It’s OK not to like your spouse? I can understand that there may be moments when your spouse does something you don’t like and you perceive that as not liking him or her, but the truth is you are not liking the particular action or behavior at the moment, not the person in general.
Because if you truly don’t like your husband or wife, I just don’t see how you can have a happy, health marriage — do you?
What do you wish you knew before marrying?