We’ve been married a long time. A. Long. Time. Recently, one of our daughters, who has been dating a guy for about two years, asked me if men change much after they get married. This was the first time she had asked me for my words of wisdom in the love arena and it got me thinking. Here are my Top 3 guidelines/observations/thoughts to consider I gave my daughter and that I’d give anyone regarding love and marriage:
- It’s okay to go to bed angry. That old adage that says to stay up, talk it through, argue, wrestle, wrench and steam until you are completely depleted is just plain dumb! When you’re tired, even if that’s 9pm at night, emotions are raw. You’re going to say, think and feel wrong stuff that comes from a heightened and stressed out state of being. Nine times out of 10, what I was worked up about before bed is no big deal by the light of day. And the things that you still feel just as worked up about probably do deserve a good talking-through – just not when you’re tired.
- People do change when they get married, and they don’t. I’ll never forget hearing Maya Angelou say something to the effect that people will always show you who they are right away. It’s just a matter of whether or not you see it. That has come to be so true in my life. Hindsight is 20/20 but when endorphins and passion and just wanting a relationship to turn out well are in play, our vision is blurry. Then, years down the road, we wonder why we didn’t see this coming. Beyond that, people do change over time. There’s something wrong if a person doesn’t grow, adapt and develop with age and life experiences. So, yes, they are going to change. And you might not like who they become or you might think they are just becoming better and better.
- Don’t lose yourself in the other person. True, when you start sharing an address, a coffee maker, your body and a toilet with someone else, there is definitely a joining together of people. But don’t buy into the theory that “we are now as one.” You do need to go through the majority of things thinking of each other and kids and the greater good of the life you’ve created but do not give up your sense of self. While you’re busy trying to please others and be what others need, be mindful of, and develop, what you like and what’s important to you. Ask yourself often things like “what’s my favorite color?” “How do I feel about this issue?” “Where would I like to go right now?” No one needs you to be an adaptable blob. They need you to be the person you really are.
I agree with Courtney and her three cautions. When a couple decides to become parents, I would add these love lessons for the men. These may sound sexist and are based on personal experience only and not scientific evidence. Read at your own risk!
- Accept and embrace that your life is all about taking care of your child and wife. EVERYTHING you do from now on for decades MUST be considered within that reality. If you can’t accept that responsibility, you aren’t ready to be a father.
- Surrender yourself to the wisdom of your wife and mother of your children. Nature rewards women with innate wisdom at childbirth beyond anything men are capable of. As irritating as it is to accept, a new mother has a greater grasp of what is most important for a family’s well-being.
- Focus on the newfound joy in your role as a father and make every day count. Likewise in your new role as a parent with your wife, and plunge into that new relationship. No greater meaning will be found in work or other pursuits. Not always fun and exciting, to be sure, but meaningful.
Choosing to wed and to become a parent should be done mindfully to improve the chances for success and a rich life experience.