Let me start off by saying I’m still a newbie and by no means an expert in this marriage business but hells bells I have learnt a lot! I wanted to share a few of the lessons I’ve learnt and some things that I wished someone had told me. But maybe before I jump into that, I should give you some background on Dan and I – it definitely isn’t your typical love story…
We first met through a mutual friend when we went out to good old Long street in Cape Town. We ended up getting home at 4am the next morning after intense conversation over many, many drinks. This quickly progressed into a full blown relationship. A few weeks later, Dan realised what I was still yet to – we weren’t ready for a relationship, we both had some growing up to do. And so he broke up with me and we went our separate ways, although we still saw a bit of each other as we moved in the same social circles.
A good 8 months later, I had moved past my anger and was able to actually hold a conversation with Dan without wanting to wring his neck. I had had a terrible day and just wanted to go out for a glass of wine, unfortunately for me, all my go-to wine drinking partners were busy and so I swallowed my pride and asked Dan if he wanted to meet me. One glass of wine turned into two which turned into dinner and suddenly we were deep in conversation, enjoying each other’s company again.
Fast forward two months and we were a young couple happily in love. Unfortunately, Dans days in Cape Town were numbered and three months later he moved to Johannesburg for work. Long distance was tough but it taught us so many valuable lessons (but that’s for another post another time).
A month into dating for the second time we knew we wanted to get married and so 4 months after moving to Johannesburg, Dan surprised me in Cape Town and proposed in one of the most romantic gestures I’ve experienced to date (also, another post another time).
Six months later we were married and I bid farewell to my beloved Mother City.
And that is when the lesson learning really began… Marriage is an incredible gift and something I feel so honored and privileged to share with Dan. 18 months in, these are some of the lessons we’ve learnt:
1. Learn how to fight fair
Believe it or not, there is a more correct way to fight. I quickly learnt that slamming doors and sulking wasn’t achieving anything good and so I’ve had to learn how to still be respectful towards Dan when we fight. This is definitely still a work in progress for me as my emotions often tend to get the better of me.
2. “Me time” is so important
Before I moved to Jozi, we both lived by ourselves in our own apartments and so we have found that sometimes we just need to be by ourselves whether I’m sitting in our room reading a magazine or Dan has gone out climbing. Alone time helps us to recharge, I also find that it helps if I’m in a bad mood – instead of taking it out on my poor hubby, I’ll just be quiet by myself for a while and let the fury pass.
3. Don’t avoid the difficult conversations
This is still difficult for me. I hate awkwardness and confrontation – two things that often go hand in hand with difficult conversations. But if you just leave it, it festers and can start to snowball. Which brings me to my next point…
4. Getting help doesn’t make you a failure
Moving to Jozi was so much much more difficult than I ever imagined. After months of me crying every day because I was homesick, I swallowed my pride and sought professional help. This was a really tough decision for me to make – I didn’t want to admit that my first few months of marriage consisted of me being depressed and Dan feeling guilty about it – it made me feel like a failure as a wife. But after seeing someone once a week for a few weeks, I could see the incredible difference in me and my emotions and how it was positively affecting my marriage. I still use the tools that I was taught in therapy even though I no longer go.
Asking for help doesn’t make you a failure – it shows that you treasure your marriage for the sacred thing that it is.
5. Be yourself, warts and all
For the first month of our marriage I would wait for Dan to leave the house before I would wee – how ridiculous is that?! We had to learn how to be 100% ourselves around each other, and I learnt that very quickly after a vicious tummy bug.
6. Your friends are your life lines – don’t neglect them
I cannot tell you how much my girlfriends have helped me. Whether we speak on the phone (on a hands free kit of course!) while we sit in 5pm
traffic or send a quick text during the day. They’ve been with me through so much and often slap some sense into me.
7. Date night is more important than you think
Our lives get so busy so quickly, we try to make sure we have date night at least once every two weeks. This means no tv, no cellphones, no laptops/tablets. It’s amazing what you start to talk about and how connected you feel once conversation starts flowing and you aren’t doing the dishes/making lunch for the next day/watching The Office (I’m pretty sure we’ve watched all the seasons a good 20 times…eek!).
8. Don’t compare your marriage to someone else’s
“Comparison is the thief of joy” – no truer words have ever been spoken.
9. Your marriage will go through seasons
Like everything you will have highs and lows in your marriage. Dan and I had a terrible low for many months while I adjusted to being in Joburg and suffering from major home sickness. Today we’re in a completely different place. Life isn’t consistent but what you learn through the tough times will stand you in good stead for when curve balls are thrown your way.
10. It’s not all work – remember to enjoy each other
You fell in love for a reason – don’t ever lose sight of that!