Evening folks. For a long time I wanted to do a marriage series with women who have practical wisdom to share that will help those who want to tie the knot. There are so many books about how to be single, how to find a husband, etc., and to be honest I am not sure how helpful they are. I have not read any for the simple fact that I do not believe there is a formula for getting married. Staying married, well, I’m all ears. Anyway, I often hear people say they prayed and fasted, others made a list, and still others said they worked hard on themselves and when they were ready God sent them a spouse. Then there’s those who did not pray too hard, or fast, or did any special work on themselves and are in long-lasting marriages. When the rubber meets the road, there are many ways to meet and keep, and experience appears to be the best informant of what and what not to do.
My first interviewee has been married for over 10 years and is still very much in love with her husband. Despite this, there are things she wishes she knew before she got married that would have determined if she would have even married him at all. Her husband is a great person with a generous heart, but over the years their marriage has been met with some challenges. In this candid interview she shares some of her struggles and answers questions to provide wisdom for singles as they consider jumping the broom.
What were some of your ideas about marriage before you transitioned from Miss to Mrs?
I always imagined that when I got married I was going to marry my soul mate, someone who I could rely on who would always be there for me, love me unconditionally, respect me, and have the same dreams that I have. Someone who would take care of me, be my best friend, my confidant, my secret-keeper, and all of the above. Someone I could sit on the porch with later in life sitting in the rocking chair reminiscing about what our life was like. Good, bad, indifferent, or otherwise.
What kind of advice were you given about marriage when you were single?
The only advice that I got from family was, well, my grandmother always said you should love who loves you, not necessarily who you love. I don’t think we ever really spoke about marriage in my family.
In general how close to your ideal did you come in your marriage?
In general it’s not too far off. There’s just certain things that kind of rub me the wrong way. Circumstances kind of altered the dream that I had. Circumstances beyond my control that changed the dynamics. It’s not like what you see on TV where you get the house, the husband, 2.5 kids, etc. That’s what they show you but that’s not reality.
Before we go into what shifted, describe your marriage during the honeymoon phase.
It was perfect. My husband was very attentive. He was very loving. He, you know, he wined and dined me. Romanced me too. It was good! Life was good and everything seemed to be going according to plan how I hoped it would.
Share when things begin to shift that made you question your decision to marry your spouse.
Things began to shift once we had children because then the responsibility totally shifted. So it’s no longer just you and this person, happy-go-lucky and do whatever. Now you have people who need you just as much or more than your husband.
Why would having kids bring division versus unity?
I would not say it brought division but it just changes your priorities. My children have special needs that require more care than the average child would, which in turn puts a lot of stress on our marriage. The first year of their lives they required 24-hour supervision. We had to constantly monitor them. Needless to say they were in the room with us. I kept them close to me out of convenience. That breaks up your sleep, your cuddle time, and your intimacy. We just became roommates; two people taking care of their kids. Not to say the intimacy wasn’t there, but it was few and far between. As the years progressed it grew further and further.
Outside of the children, what other issues arose or were ongoing?
I felt like I always had to be the bigger person to compromise when situations happened with his kids from a previous marriage. I guess I always I felt as if I was the adult, so I felt as if he should take care of them and their needs instead of me and mine because I was more understanding of the situation.
In light of that, didn’t he understand that he had to balance things since he was in a new marriage with newborn children?
He would always say to me that he had to take care of those kids [from the previous marriage] so that he could get them situated like going to college, etc., and by doing so it would make it easier for him to then focus on our kids. He felt I had help from my family members with our children, so he felt he did not need to step in.
In a way you gave him the green light to do so, which means there were greater repercussions than you imagined. Is this an area where you feel you compromised too much?
What are your thoughts about that?
I think in retrospect I should have given him like a time frame, or should have insisted that he balance the two families. I thought that I was kind of like alleviating some of the stress on him. He couldn’t afford to take care of both families on his budget. For the most part I took care of our children. Had I said to him that it was not fair and that I get that the other kids are his, but we [my kids and me] are also his family. I allowed him to enable his other kids. They don’t call or talk to him because I think in their head they think he is busy taking care of us, the new family. He feels guilty because he is not there with his older kids. He doesn’t allow them to grow up or give them the tools to learn how to become responsible, productive members of society. Because of the guilt he does everything for them.
How did this make you feel and how did it change your perception of your spouse?
It made me feel as if I was not number one–as I should be as his wife–but rather number two or number three; the bottom of the totem pole like I didn’t matter. He didn’t put me where I was supposed to be as his wife. I felt like I had to constantly accept the fact that, you know, I was number two and had to deal with it. I felt horrible. I was disappointed. I felt somewhat upset and still do. Maybe a little bit angry. I really felt like my knight in shining arming armor, the man who swooped down and knocked me off my feet, was no longer that person. I no longer valued his opinion. I think that’s when I lost respect for him. Even though he was in the house his opinion really didn’t matter, especially when it came to the kids and how I should raise them. I felt that he was not providing for them so he should not tell me how to raise them.
What would you say to a woman who is thinking of marrying a divorcee’ with children?
It’s not the fact that he’s a divorcee’ but if he has kids don’t do it. I don’t care how old they are. If he is a man who really cares about his kids, it doesn’t matter if they are child support age or not. He will always be concerned about their well-being. The [new] wife will always play second fiddle.
I think it depends on the man as some men are able to balance two families.
Well my husband is not that person.
Did you see those red flags before you got married?
Yes. I want to say there were some red flags I chose to ignore because I felt because the kids were younger when we met, I kind of felt like they really needed that support. They needed their father. As time went by and they got older, nothing changed. It is a problem of epic proportions. To keep the peace and maintain my sanity, there’s a lot of stuff that I hold back. I tend to bite my tongue a lot.
So what gives you the strength to continue in the marriage when you have this huge issue that has not resolved itself?
Maybe hopes that things will get better. That despite his shortcomings he is genuinely a good person. He may not support our kids [financially] but he adores them and he takes care of them by feeding them, giving them a bath, etc. He’s very nurturing.
What else gives you strength?
Unconditional love. There’s not a doubt in my head that he loves and cares for me and that he will be there for me until the end. There’s just certain things that I wish I didn’t have to deal with.
How does he show you that he loves you? Love has to be demonstrated in order for it to be truly meaningful.What is happening in the present that tells you that he loves you?
I don’t know. He tells me that he loves me. He might not do the things I want him to do in the way that I want him to. Every now and then I get a card. Once in a while he will ask me if I want to do dinner or watch movies. If it cost money it’s not going to happen because the money is really not there.
Do you tell him what you need from him to feel valued?
No, why should I have to tell him?
Why not? The needs you may have had when you first got married may be different now as you grow and change.
We just don’t talk about that.
Don’t you think you should have that conversation so that you can hold him accountable for what he knows versus what you think he knows?
I guess I should but I just never thought about it. I guess I have to rectify the situation.
Let’s shift gears. What questions should you have asked prior to betrothal and why?
I should have asked him where did he see himself five years after marriage. [Or] does he think he has what it takes to sustain a healthy marriage? I should have asked questions about how he handled his money. We should have sat down and had a discussion about finances. I should have found out how he would balance two families before we had kids. I should have watched how he handled stress and managed life. Certain things I look back upon now and realize there’s just certain things I should have watched. I should have asked him what his ex-wife’s complaints were about him because then that would have allowed me to better understand the situation I was getting myself into. I might have made more informed decisions, not just lead with my heart but put some brain matter into it. It’s easy to say that you’re in love and doing things out of love, but sometimes you don’t see the forest for the trees. You’re so caught up in the moment that you’re not looking at the bigger picture.
Why do you think some women compromise or settle when it comes to relationships?
Some women don’t think they can do any better. Some women just settle for the first man who sweeps them off their feet and makes them feel good. They are in the here and now and not 20 years down the road. Might be less than that! You just don’t see past what’s in front of you. You really don’t. Everybody has this idea that when you meet this man, you will get married and live happily ever after. That’s not the case.
What would you have changed about yourself that may have made things more positive in the long run?
I think I should have listened to him more. In my heart I think sometimes when he talks I tune him out. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m tired of hearing the same old same old. I should have let him be more of a husband, more of a father, more of a man. Maybe I should have fallen back and let him take the lead instead of doing those things for him or being the one to step forward. In retrospect maybe I created a monster. Maybe I said certain things that made him feel like less of a man.
What about God and religion?
My husband said that he grew up in a different denomination so we never agreed upon where we would worship as a couple. He is against going to my denomination and I am against going to his. We tried a couple of churches and they never really worked. Now he’s going to my church and I’m hoping that things will get better. Conversations will open up. Communication will get better. Whatever little dent or crater in the marriage will close. We never really prayed together and if he did, he’d be the one leading the prayer. But for the most part no. He talks about God at length but we never really had that kind of relationship per se because we were from two different denominations. We didn’t agree except that there was a God and we both prayed to Him. I started going to church because I became stagnant waiting on him [husband]. Now he’s going to church with the family.
What are the most important qualities a couple should have to make a marriage last?
Mutual respect. Compassion. Understanding. Loyalty. Selflessness. You got to be able to bounce things off each other and communicate.
Last question. What is it that, despite the struggles and some regret, makes you committed to making things work?
What else is there other than love?
Stay tuned for next week: Marriage Series Part II: Single and Ready