“Once Upon A Time” Versus Forever & Always

A Facebook post came across my Newsfeed yesterday. The original author, Abbey Elizabeth Boone, stressed how important it was to wait to find someone who appreciates you and who you can appreciate back. Her simple little blurb was picked up by Love What Matters and has been shared numerous times, cementing its purpose to thousands of readers.

I encourage you to read Abbey’s original post (at the link above). Her comparison between her past toxic relationships to her current, healthy one made me smile. Today is G’s and my second wedding anniversary. Two years ago we stood in front of our loved ones and expressed vows of unconditional love, unfaltering companionship, and endless date nights. Marriage has been the best adventure of my life so far, even if it is also the most difficult. G and I have waged through a number of wars only to come out stronger in every situation. And that is the greatest difference between my own past relationships and present one.

So here is my own little version of my “Once upon a times” compared to my “Forever and Always”:

Continue reading ““Once Upon A Time” Versus Forever & Always”

Expectations vs. Reality

Last week my fortune cookie had a little piece of paper in it which read, “What is the speed of dark?” I was more than a bit confused and wondered how this could be a fortune. I’m not superstitious, but I do like having a sweet, little fortune hanging on the fridge every now and then to make me smile. But this one had me scratching my head.

Fast forward a few days and that odd fortune is still stuck in my mind. I’ve spent the last few nights laying in bed, staring at the ceiling, and reciting, “What is the speed of dark?” Then I happened to reread my notes from our first pre-marital counseling meeting about expectations in marriage versus the reality of marriage and had this surreal connection in how to apply my fortune.

Expectations are those dark little inklings which can break a marriage. They may creep up slowly or come crashing into existence at lightning-fast speed. Our belief systems are what we hold to be true about the world and that plays a key role in our relationships. They are a set of hard facts we live by and guide how we act and think. Expectations give us standards for how we treat our partner and in turn expect to be treated by them. They are the very mindset we bring into our marriage.

The darkness of marriage is your expectations, be they rational or irrational. For example, expecting a spouse to change a habit or belief system once you’re married is irrational. No one changes their characteristics simply because of a wedding and marriage license. But even if your expectations are rational (like you expect your new spouse to partake in daily chores without asking) they still create a shadow in your marriage should your partner fail to meet your standards.

The bright reality of expectations is disappointment. You and your partner are not the same person and you will never always agree on performing the same habits, doing the same chores, handling finances, approaching a disagreement, parenting your children, etc. If you go into marriage expecting life to be a breeze, you are in for a shock. Exceedingly high expectations can be hard to satisfy come reality, and if there is not an adjustment in those expectations there is the risk of being continually disappointed.

Then what?

Disappointment can lead to demotivation on building your relationship further. And the lack of investment in your marriage ultimately will lead to its end.

Unsure if you have expectations? Well, have you ever thought, “I wish he would do this and not that, I wish he earned more, I wish he wouldn’t say that, I wish he believed this, I wish he was better at that, etc.”? Wishes and requests for changes in your partner are what make up expectations. Expectations require us to compare our partner’s words and actions to what we wish they were, and then gauge them on how we feel based on their measuring up to those wishes.

When that happens — which it will if you are working towards a long-term relationship — then you have two directions to take: forgiveness or abandonment. You can choose to forgive your partner’s “lack of measuring up” and adjust your expectations to better fit your partner. Or you can part ways and search for someone who better fits your needs, beliefs, or lifestyle.

Unfortunately, the abandonment direction this is a lot more difficult to do once you are married.

So, with that in mind, there needs to be a discussion between you and your partner prior to saying “I do” on both of your expectations for the marriage. Keep an optimistic mind on realism and flexibility. If you expect your partner to follow a certain path and he is honest with you on that expectation being unrealistic, you need to compromise. If compromising is nonnegotiable on either end, then you need to take a long, hard look at your relationship before moving forward into a lasting contract.

A few things you SHOULD expect in marriage:

  • Your partner has shortcomings, just *clap* like *clap* you *clap* do.
  • Your partner is not going to change who they are, and if that is what you are expecting to happen then you need to reconsider your partner choice. (It is not better to settle than to be alone.)
  • Hiding your expectations for marriage makes no one happy in the end. And don’t you want a happy marriage when you finally reach your 70’s?!
  • Maintaining an open line of communication is Number One in having a happy marriage. Start the conversation now!
  • Marriages evolve into a partnership with time. When you’re past your “honeymoon years” you won’t only be defining your relationship as romance and love. You also will need comfort and security.

Following this discussion on marriage expectations with our counselors, G and I had a long talk on our expectations for one another following our nuptials. We discussed our families’ influences on those expectations and what we would like to utilize and discard from our perspectives of our parents’ relationships. We gave examples of positives and negatives of marriages we witness from our friends and what parts we want to include in our own marriage. We talked through specific issues we foresee for the future and how we will handle them once they arise.

It was an emotional and eye-opening chat and ended with my heart feeling incredibly full.

The reality of expectations is that we all have them for our marriages. However, the make-or-break of any successful marriage is the investment. Both partners have to be willing to work through the hard times (such as when an expectation meets disappointment) and openly talk through the issue in a loving way to move forward into the good times. When you’re realistic, you are less likely to experience disappointments in your marriage and more likely to keep a positive perspective about your relationship.

Marriage is not easy, but the companionship, love, and meaning marriage brings to one’s life are irreplaceable. This shared knowledge between G and I is one of the many reasons I am so excited to become his wife.

I know the road won’t be easy, but I feel as if we have a solid foundation to have a happy and fortune-bound marriage for life.

Now, maybe you’re thinking to yourself, “This girl has gone crazy. That little piece of paper honestly meant nothing — it was just some rambling of someone who has run out of fortunes to put into cookies!” Perhaps that is so, but with my late-night mind wanderings, I like to think that fortune was a thought-provoker sent to make me a bit more aware of expectations versus reality in my upcoming marriage.

In the very least, I’ll be more considerate of this whole concept every time G and I grab take-out.

Many well wishes to you, friend, 

 

 

 

P.S. I came across this old post in my Archives from four years ago and was kind of amazed at my resolve and reflection on a past relationship. I don’t remember writing this piece actually, but sometimes Old Ashley can surprise me with her wisdom. I had already started to consider expectations of a future with my partner then and what exactly I craved for my contentment in marriage. For anyone questioning their current situation, let me give a gentle nudge — settling for the wrong one is a lot more lonely than being single and finding the right match. I’ve been there, friends, and I know it is an incredibly tough decision, but it is also invaluable. Lots of love. -A

 

4 Wise Tips on Preparing for Marriage After the Wedding

I know I’ve said it before, but here I am saying it again: the wedding is only the beginning of what should be the rest of your blissful married life. As husband and wife, you’ll be embarking on years of new adventures after the one day of festivities. Your wedding day is only a grain of sand in the grand beach of your entire life. It is best to prepare for life following the Big Day and not only the day itself.

I am a big believer that if you adequately prepare for something — that is, to prepare mentally, emotionally, spiritually, physically, all of the above — then your chances of success increase substantially. Though I know there will never be enough wisdom and information I can gain to fully prepare for marriage, I do feel I’ve gained a few gems of advice in which to set a firm foundation as a newlywed.

These four gems include advice on communication, clarification, adjustment, and agreement between both the husband and wife in order to have a happy marriage. They touch on possible challenges once you’re married and encourage you to invest in your partner following your vows. They are all examples of how G and I plan to enter our marriage, and I would love to share them with you!

1. Learn how to resolve conflicts with a team mentality.

When it comes to mentors granting marriage advice, resolution of conflicts and investing in your partner are the two tips advised from every role model. For conflict resolution, the healthiest way to do so is with a “team mentality.” By this I mean that each individual approaches the conflict with an “other-first” way of thinking. You want to understand the other person’s perspective, relinquish the need to be right, and extend both grace and understanding while you communicate the issue.

Marriage is hard work. I’ve witnessed the hard work put in from my parents, grandparents, and other role models. I cannot predict specific problems in my future, but I do know hard times will roll through. Sometimes it may be your partner’s fault, but it’ll be yours just as often. Look inward before pointing the finger and always try to look at things from both sides. Compromise is key, and never be afraid to apologize.

“You can have peace or be right, but seldom both.”

This is a quote one of our dearest friends and mentors has said to us several times while giving advice on marriage and happiness. G and I have actually taken to quoting it to one another when we are having a disagreement. It reminds us to stop, think, and consider what the other is thinking before jumping to conclusions or fighting for our point. Perhaps creating a similar “pauser” with your partner may help cool heated situations in your future as well.

2. Make your relationship the priority.

This little tip was exceptionally difficult for me at the beginning of my relationship with G. Since college I have kept my schedule busy, penciling in this-or-that every evening in order to never have a second’s rest. I spent more time in group meetings, going out with friends, leading discussions, playing sports, and sitting in appointments than I did actually sleeping. If I wasn’t moving, I wasn’t happy.

Then I started dating G and I realized why I kept myself so busy: to stop from feeling so lonely and unsettled. I was continuously searching for more in my life, but once I met G I realized he was the more I needed.

As our dating became more serious, my to-do list became less scheduled. And in my free time I found not only more time for worthy relationships in my life but also more time for myself. Even if evenings were only binge watching Netflix, making dinner, or sitting around reading a book. I no longer felt like I needed to be so active in order to be happy. Instead, I found contentment in my downtime which always seemed to involve G.

Nowadays, I’m almost a homebody. If I have more than two evenings occupied by responsibilities, I will be sure to leave all others empty in order to enjoy time with my fiance. We agreed early in our engagement to make boundaries in our schedules and actively build our friendship and love every day in order for our dreams to come true.

Looking back, I could not be happier with this decision. Opting to invest in our relationship rather than continue on my own path allowed me to truly get to know the man I’m going to marry. G and I do not only go on dates — actually going out to movies and dinner are rare for us — but we do LIFE together. We grocery shop together, cook dinner together, do book and Bible studies together, exercise together, do errands together, etc. We spend more unplanned time together than “penciled in” time. This has allowed us to get to know what each of us does when nothing in particular is planned, which (we’ve been told) will be what married life is like.

3. Talk about your finances.

I know it’s usually taboo, but when you’re blending your life with someone else, finances must be discussed. Especially since finances are the top reason for couples to fight in marriage and the number one culprit for divorce. Be open on all financial topics with your partner and start venturing into the idea of merging your lives in this capacity as well.

It might be a smart idea to create a budget together and a savings schedule before you’re married. G and I were given this advice and though it was new to both of us to include another person in our financial affairs, we are so thankful to have this started! Not only can we visualize what a blended financial life will be, we also can set goals as a couple in which to work towards following the wedding. (Because, you know, we’d like to buy a house someday…)

There are also the topics of taxes, insurance, and debt settlement. You’ll now be checking the “married” box when it comes to tax season, but you need to decide whether you’re going to file together or continue to file separately. Your various insurances may also change with a marital status update. Will you be sharing health benefits through work? Will you be including your partner as a beneficiary for life insurance? All of these things should be discussed before marriage.

If you’re just as confused as me by the possibility of so many changes, there are endless tools for you to use to scout out the best offers. One such tool is Reviews.com which allows you to search for the best car insurance options now that you’re married and moving out from Mom and Dad’s house. This is something I am facing since I am getting married within the same fiscal year of turning 26-years-old and Reviews.com provided me a listing of all options in my area for the best auto insurance rates — something which I am so grateful! Or perhaps advisory tips like this one when it comes to health insurance and wondering what options are best. Do you join your partner’s business’s benefits or find another choice? Blogs and advisory articles across the Internet may assist you with your decisions.

Another not-so-fun topic is debt. Yes, this means you need to discuss that $80,000 school loan you plan to pay off when you’re 90-something. Or that credit card you say you use only during emergencies, but emergencies usually involve Starbucks and Charming Charlie. Debt does not have to be a “way of life” nowadays, and discussing a plan with your partner to create a debt settlement schedule is crucial for a happy beginning in marriage.

Also, watch your partner’s money habits. Is he careful with money or does he not care about debt? Does he work hard for his money and is motivated to provide? If he spends money he doesn’t seem to have and doesn’t like to budget, this will definitely continue into your marriage. Discuss both your financial situations now before you marry and start making movements to blend your finances gracefully.

4. Know you have a lot more room for personal growth and that you will both evolve over the years.

There’s something that gets under my skin while watching movies and it’s when an unhappy husband or wife say, “He/She changed.”

Well… yeah!

Every single person in this world changes over the course of their lives. Life experiences, hardships, and evolving opinions and beliefs mold a person on a yearly basis. Think of the person you were in high school/college/a year ago; have any of your habits or thought processes shifted? Mine definitely have even within the past year! I am proud to not be the woman I was a year ago and I am excited to meet the woman I’ll be a year from today. 

However, it is not enough to recognize change in yourself and to be happy with those results (or unhappy and choose to shift for a better future.) You need to realize this is occurring in your partner as well. So keep the conversation going and share the experience together over the years in order to not grow apart. Instead of being ignorant to this fact, embrace it and embrace your changed partner on a daily basis. That is one of the best things about marriage — you can continually fall in love with the same person! It is all about constant investment and wanting to lean on one another through those changes which truly captures what Love means.


To summarize all these points: learn to communicate and understand your fiance(e) prior to the wedding day so you’ll begin marriage with a steady foundation built on two lives becoming one.

Doing so is a great way to open your mind to the changes, adjustments, and challenges that are bound to occur in marriage.

Heck, I’ve never been married. I don’t honestly know what I’m talking about when it comes to preparing for marriage. I’m as lost as the next bride-to-be who’s scratching her head at why she loves this farting, burping, heavy-metal head-bashing, leaves-the-toilet-bowl-seat-up-EVERY-TIME man so fricken much.

It is all a process.

And I am so blessed to have been granted some awesome role models when it comes to married couples and been given great advice on marriage. I am soaking in all this wisdom like a sponge, hoping to keep a few key snippets in my mind once the wedding is complete and I’m a new wife.

In the end, that’s all I can do and I’m happy enough to think I might be able to stumble through marriage just as gracefully as I am with wedding planning…

Best of luck to us all,