Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Paying it forward

I'm not gonna lie -- I've really liked living with my parents. Maybe it's because my mom cooks me dinner and insists on cleaning up. Maybe it's because my dad rents movies I want to see and lets me watch them. Or maybe it's because they're saving us a boatload of money through their generosity.

In any case, the situation has been a lot easier than I expected. I've always gotten along really well with my parents, and it's good to see them getting along with The Hubs and getting to know him more.

Granted, there are downsides to co-habitation: lack of privacy, and not just for what you think. We always have a mediator for our arguments, whether we want one or not -- and someone who can tell me after-the-fact, "You know, you were kinda bitchy." (My parents don't always pick my side!) Plus, as the only one who's lived with all of them, I sometimes feel like the middle man, working to make sure my husband isn't driving my parents nuts and vice versa, and explaining each other's quirks ("I don't know why The Hubs slams cupboard doors, Mom"; "I don't know why my dad likes spaghetti but not elbow macaroni, Hubs." Etc.) Even though everyone seems to be getting along perfectly fine, my constant worry over little wrinkles has left me feeling a little drained.

We've learned some lessons from my parents about what it means to make a marriage work. And now, I'll share them some of them with you!

(Note: I'm going to use male pronouns here when referring to a spouse, because I'm married to a man, and the linguistic gymnastics required by the English language to make it gender-neutral would make me give up writing this half-way through. This is not some kind of some heteronormative gesture -- it's a gripe with grammar!)

1. Marriage is work. I kind of already knew this, but it's always a good reminder that the romantic comedy ending -- the realization that they belong together, a sappy speech and then smooth sailing -- only exists in the movies. The marriage is not the ending, but the beginning of a lifetime of new experiences, happiness, challenges and yes, work. The Hubs and I both acknowledged that things wouldn't always be easy, and hopefully anyone else who's gotten as far as the altar (or the birch arbor, in our case) has figured this out.

2. People don't really change. Again, romantic comedies -- not on the mark. Sure, it seems awfully sweet when the notorious ladies' man suddenly decides he wants a wife, two kids and a place in the 'burbs, but in reality, a complete 180 rarely happens (I won't say never because, well, I don't have that kind of authority on the world). That doesn't mean people's attitudes and reactions won't change as they get older, because our experiences do shape how we view ourselves and the world. And anyone in a happy relationship wants to make the other person happy too. A messy person may become less messy with lots of coaxing, and an impatient person might ease up once kids enter the picture. But a messy person will never become a neatfreak, and an impatient person will never become the picture of patience.

It sounds obvious, but so many people stay in a relationship waiting for the other person to become what they want instead of accepting the person they are. Marriage won't make a person grow up, want to clean a bathroom, like jazz music or care about politics. If you're marrying someone wishing he were different or, worse, expecting him to become different, then you might as well get your divorce lawyer ready.

Check back later for more marriage lessons!

In the meantime, The Hubs and I will be busy packing to move into our new house at the end of the month. Despite how nice it's been living with my parents, The Hubs and I are ready to move on to our first home -- and a whole new set of lessons to learn. Like how to paint.

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