The Hamster’s Wheel

I’ve been told that I live my life in a circle.  I remember anniversaries and dates, so throughout the year I remember events that have occurred in my past.  Some are happy, some not so much and some are just incidental.  But, they are memories that come with attached emotions.  I’m told that not everyone cares about dates, or history or remembering.  I guess I’ll have to take that under consideration.

However, we all live life in a type of circle, like it or not.  We carry with us our past and our memories.  Whether it’s the way your mom cooked pot roast or the way your dad took care of household tasks, there are memories and expectations that we carry with us into our adult lives.  These are the things that can lead to some heated discussions as we are building our own homes and families and merging our expectations.

Some small but significant differences that I’ve come across in my two marriages are:

  • Birthdays:  This is YOUR day.  Everything is YOUR choice.  Of course that’s not too much!
  • Thanksgiving:  Cornbread dressing makes the holiday meal,  is rice really an appropriate dressing?
  • Christmas:  I guess we can decide on a budget. . .
  • Red Beans and . . .:  Cornbread! What do you mean you want rice?
  • Starch with a meal:  Don’t you ever get tired of rice?

This doesn’t even begin to touch on the intricacies of balancing the wants and expectations of  two established families with those of the newly minted family.  You have to decide  where and how you will spend holidays.  There’s that tricky obstacle of building your own life without requiring the approval of your parents/family.  If you have a close and trusting relationship with your family, your new spouse may not understand your desire to seek advice about issues.  If your spouse comes from a home where disagreements were punctuated with loud voices and hurling items, you may be offended the first time it happens in your home.  Are you willing to be subservient or do you need to be in charge?  Take a look at your spouse’s family dynamics and you may discover some expectations for your future.

Years ago, I was told that you don’t marry someone and expect to change them.  I think that’s even more relevant in today’s world where “trial marriages” or living together are becoming the norm.  You may have lived with that person for some time, but there’s still the underlying expectation that things will be different and/or better AFTER the wedding.  We want the fairy tale with all the happiness and romance available.  But, just as you expect things to  better after the wedding, your spouse may expect  things to loosen up a bit after the wedding.  For instance, as roommates, chores/bills may be split evenly.  But, as a married couple, is that still the norm?  These are things to ponder and discuss.

One of the biggest failings in marriages today, I believe, is the way we talk to and about our spouses.  You may think calling your spouse a derogatory term is just “being funny”.  But, I guarantee, there will be a time when the name-calling is not funny and the pain will become evident in your relationship.  I don’t care if you refer to the “dumb blond” or the more derogatory “a$$&@A#”, neither are good for your relationship long-term.  They will come back to you in the future.  Complaining about your spouse is another dangerous habit to form.  As you tear apart the person you are vowed to love and honor, you diminish your own self-portrait of your relationship.  Studies have shown that speaking positively about your spouse even during challenging times  will help you make positive strides in your relationship.  Be mindful of the difference between seeking advice/assistance and just complaining to get the sympathy vote.

Every person who gets married has (or has had) a mother and a father in their life in some form.  My advice the to brides of today,  don’t act like you are his Mom.  He doesn’t need you to tell what to do and when to do it.  When my first husband and I were newlyweds, I got frustrated with his inability to put his dirty clothes in the hamper.  The more I brought it up, the less he wanted to comply.  So,  I stopped nagging/asking and just did the laundry that was in the hamper one weekend.  It soon became apparent that he didn’t have any clean underwear.  I never had to mention the laundry again.  The same goes for new husbands.  Discuss issues, come to an agreement and then do what you need to do.  Stop berating your spouse.  No one wants to be nagged over and over and over.

We all bring our past into our marriages.  And intentionally or not, we will recreate our past in some form in our marriages.  We must be aware of both the weaknesses and strengths we bring into our relationships and get off the hamster wheel of needless repetition.

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