04 June 2009

Return of Q&A

At least for now. :)

I started getting a lot of really good questions, and then I promptly defaulted on the Q&A the last couple of weeks. Sorry.

I think that's my little way of revolting. I am a rule follower. Like to the point of detriment. Example: If the brownie box says to bake for 18-22 minutes, I put them in for exactly 20 so I can make sure I'm right in the middle. And if there are 20 seconds left on the timer, I will sit there and wait for the 20 seconds to be up and the timer to go off before I open the oven to check them.

Ridiculous. I know this.

Anyway, why am I talking about rules? Oh, because of my self imposed "Q&A Every Thursday" rule. The rule that I've been breaking.

I feel like such a rebel.

Anyway, at least for today, I'm back with the Q&A.

And with rhyming, apparently.

So, my closely related single friend sent this question to me. And I thought it was a good one. Except not a good one for me to answer. Because my name is Cynical Cindy these days. So I'm mostly putting this one out there for all of you. Here goes:

It seems like a lot of my friends are in this boat right now, and it might be interesting.

With all of the heartache and sadness that I seem to hear from all of my married friends, it makes me wonder if anyone is really as happily married as they thought they would be when they were dating/engaged. It also has me completely on my toes with dating – every little issue that comes up is automatically a red flag, and I find myself saying that it’s probably just the tip of the iceberg and will get way worse once we get married.

So I’ve been wondering a lot lately which is the right answer – do I hold out for someone and a relationship that is all happy-go-lucky and never has any issues, because there will surely be issues later? Or is that naïve? Maybe it’s best for me to suck it up, and realize no relationship is perfect, and our issues are normal? I feel like everyone that I say that to looks at me like I’m crazy though. I get the big DON’T DO IT talk from my family/friends because they see my relationship has problems.

I want to say that we are just much more aware of our problems than most dating couples, but will I kick myself years later for justifying those things? I’m not sure.

A: Like I said, I'm not sure I'm really the best person to answer this question. However, I can say that for me, I was happy in my marriage. At least at first. And those of you who know the full story know the details of that. But I have thought this myself lately. Are there really any truly HAPPY MARRIAGES? Are people really, genuinely happy 5, 10, 25 years later? I am jaded from my own experiences, and also from being in the therapy world, where I see couple after couple in dysfunction.

Do I believe it's possible to be happily married? Absolutely.

Do I think many achieve that? Eh.... (insert nonchalant shoulder shrug)

As for the red flags thing... PAY ATTENTION TO THOSE. But there is not going to really be any way to know for sure. The only way you can know is through the spirit. You might date someone for 2 weeks and get married and live happily ever after, or you might date someone for 10 years, and the second you get married things change and you're unhappy. There is just no guarantee. Which is why it's so terrifying.

And also why I plan on being an old, single Bag Lady. Alone, safe, and plenty of luggage.

And I would also suggest this (here come some therapy words for you): In looking at red flags, make sure you are looking at the PROCESS of your relationship. Instead of saying "we fight over whether to go out or stay home" say "how do we resolve those conflicts? Do we communicate well? Does he listen to me? Are we quick to admit when we're wrong?"

Because in a marriage, you cannot avoid the fact that you will have disagreements. And what the disagreement is about is pretty much not important. What is important is how you guys handle the disagreement. If you respect each other. If you are both willing to compromise. Pay attention to those kinds of things.

Everyone out there, please put in your 2 cents. I would love to hear from some of you who have happy marriages. GIVE US HOPE!! haha. Cynical Cindy is pretty powerful.

Okay, I've got to go organize my bags.


Dyanna Moore said...

I have been married for 28 years and I have never doubted for a minute that my husband is the man I want to be with for eternity. Does that mean that we haven't had some pretty good fights and disagreements? No way! We fell in love when we were 16 and 17 and have never looked back. We have very different personalities but we have the same core beliefs and goals and that has made all the difference. We don't always agree on how to go about achieving our goals but we are both committed to never even thinking, let alone saying, the "D" word and therefore we do whatever it takes to make things work. Our faith is the strongest link in our marriage. We both believe the same things and we trust our church leaders when they tell us to do something. Neither one of us thinks that there might be someone better out there for us. We just make ourselves into who the other one wants as best we can. Communication is huge. Also, having realistic expectations. You both have to realize that you can't change each other, you can only change yourself. You have to decide, sometimes daily, if the quirks and irritating things about your spouse are something you can adjust to and live with or if they are just too big and something needs to be done. It seems to me though that there are going to be things about everyone in the world that will bug you. The choice is whether you want to deal with the familiar "bugs" or seek out new ones and start a whole nother battle from scratch. I believe that anyone can make it with anyone if they are willing to change enough. The question is, do you want to try with someone you are attracted to in the first place (there must have been something that attracted you enough to marry them) or keep looking for greener pastures, possibly until it's too late? Relationships are the hardest thing in the world and, of course, that's what makes them the most worthwhile. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Ok, so I am trying to find the best way to add my two cents without sounding naïve. I realize that I have only been married for 2 years and most would classify us as still being in the “honeymoon” phase, but I honestly can tell you that I am very happily married and thank God everyday for being so blessed. Before meeting my husband I had good relationships, bad relationships and ones that I left feeling very indifferent about. All in all, learning and reflecting about the qualities that I was looking for in a lasting marriage. My husband and I dated for 3 years before getting married and although we had our share of ups and downs along the way, I must say overall, our relationship came naturally and that made the downs fairly easy to navigate through. We shared the same morals and values (which was a non-negotiable for me); put our faith as the foundation of our relationship, agreed on all the core elements of life; family, finances, goals and life achievements – even agreed politically and shared the same sports team obsession (Go Cowboys!). Now, through all the similarities we shared, we are two completely different, unique individuals that go about executing on all these similarities we share very differently – and we used our courtship to ensure that although we respond to life and circumstances that come our way differently, because we knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that ultimately we have the same goals, dreams and visions, we could learn to come together as a team, through intentional communication and come out on top together. Before I stated that our relationship came naturally which made the downs easy to navigate – please know that while this is true, we both chose everyday to work hard at our relationship and life together. Not to take the romance out of the life I share with my husband (because there is plenty and I do believe that is a key ingredient to a lasting relationship), but I believe that fairy-tale like vision for marriage comes naturally for most women – I want to take a moment to address the less-romantic part – that marriage and a lasting relationship is still a choice that is made daily. Marriage (for me) is not a one time commitment you make before God and in front of 100 of your closest friends. For me, it is a choice I make everyday and have found someone that does the same and together everyday we work to intentionally refine our relationship to be the best it can (with major help from God – remember I said I feel blessed from Him, because it’s not always blue skies and sunshine). My husband and I worked very hard during our courtship to work through not only every issue as it arose, but issues that we knew we would/could encounter a life progressed – and to be honest, the way we handled those issues – every disagreement or argument that we had – is what made me confident that marriage was right for us. It wasn’t the romance, or the attraction or the chemistry or even the commonalities we shared in regards to faith, family, finances etc. (don’t get me wrong, those are VERY important to me, but I had shared those with others before – not nearly as intensely as with my husband, but on one level or another). For me, knowing that with God’s help, the two of us would work together to get through whatever life threw our way is what solidified for me that we could share in a lasting, HAPPY marriage together forever…and 2 years in, I couldn’t be happier – I’ll let you know in another 20 how we’re doing, but I guarantee I know what I will tell ya. It IS possible, it IS a risk but there is a way to make it a calculated risk - please keep the faith and most importantly listen to your heart, listen to God and never ever settle!

You know who this is said...

Yes, marriage is about two imperfect people getting together and trying their best to both be a bit better when they die than they were when they got married. :) We’ve been married for 11 years, and have had some very, very dark times during those 11 years. We’ve almost gotten divorced more than once. Having recently come through our most difficult time, we’ve realized that those dark times have come from our commitment to deal with real issues head-on rather than sweep them under the rug and grow increasingly distant over the years. After recently coming through the most difficult time of our marriage by far, we can both now say that our marriage is rock solid. We’re happier than we ever thought we could be and ever have been. Our marriage is solid, stable, secure, fulfilling, committed, trusting, and HAPPY! We still have problems, to be sure, but they don’t affect our fundamental commitment to be there for each other. Having gone through all of this, I could offer tons of nuanced advice (most of it learned from screwing up :) ). All in all, however, I think it boils down to these four things:

1) How available and responsive to my needs is my partner?
2) How available and responsive to my partner's needs am I?
3) How well does my partner communicate his/her needs to me?
4) How well do I communicate my needs to my partner?

Are they humble? I’d rather be with someone who was 90% baggage yet humble than someone who was 90% well-adjusted and unwilling to acknowledge their 10% baggage.

Change happens so much more deeply and quickly as we honor our temple covenants, because the Lord then makes our relationship into something it couldn’t if we were left to our own devices. Do we honor our temple covenants? If one of us is struggling, does the other one lift us up or add to our spiritual burden?

So, all in all, I think that happiness in marriage comes after (and even during) going through difficult, challenging times. You never know what a relationship is made of until you go through difficult times. Just be sure you’re with someone who is willing to look honestly at themselves – and you’re willing to do the same – during those times.

Anyway, those are my two pesos. So yes, pay very close attention to who you date, and do your homework on that more carefully than anything you’ve done in your life (then rely on the spirit – if you just do the spirit without doing your part, you’ll get revelation equal to your effort, in my opinion), then take the leap and stop asking if it’s the right one or not.

Okay, one last dating thought: you see what you want to see, so the most important question isn’t necessarily “what do I see,” it’s “what do I want to see?”

The Drinkwater Family said...

I don't think that there are any marriages out there that don't have their share of struggles. If any says that they do have tht marriage, then they're not being true to themselves! There are flaws in all things it seems. I have been "happily married" for 6 1/2 years. We have had our share of challenges, that's for sure, but they've definately taught us a lot about ourselves, our marriage, and our relationship with our Savior. One thing I must say, is definately pay attention to those "red flags" whatever they may be. You can't change people! You can only hope that they care enough about you to make the changes in themselves to make your relationship better and stronger. That's a lot of faith to put into someone! So, if those "red flags" are things you want to change, then look at them carefully! Certain qwerks may be obtainable changes to make, but the core of who a person is is not. I truly don't think you will find a relationship that is "happy-go-lucky" with no issues, so you'll be looking for a long time if that's what you choose. You must find someone that's perfect and right for you. My sister calls her husband her perfect 10. He was everything she was looking for. I have faith that you'll find someone with everything that you're looking for, and with some things that your not, but he or she will be perfect for you. Just remember compromise, flexibility, and communication are key! Good Luck with your search!

Julia Kelly said...

haha. 'i've got to go organize my bags.' funny.

As far as giving my 2 cents, I'll have to think about it. I have a certain 3 year old distracting me at the moment and can't think straight.

Alyosha said...

Six years and three children later, my marriage is currently as strong as ever. The one piece of advice I have is to try your hardest to overlook and forgive and not even mention little things, but instead to get over them on your own. This strategy obviously doesn't work for big things, but if you've stuck with this strategy, then the love should be strong enough to get you through the big things. And my marriage isn't always happy, but I'm convinced that I'm WAY happier than I would be otherwise. The decision to get married should primarily be about love, not an analytical assessment of how compatible you are.

Anonymous said...

Something my parents taught me from very young...Happiness is a conscious choice, it doesn't just happen. I have been married almost 13 years, I have the most wonderful husband who treats me like a queen and is SO good to our kids. I still have struggled with feeling content and happy. I think the marriage relationship is hard, it can get dull and boring after so long. But I think finding the positives in your spouse and relationship and being so grateful for those does the trick. Finding things to spice things up like taking a trip together, finding a new hobby together etc will help with the boring parts. I love being married and know that I found the right man for me. GRATITUDE is key!

Imperfectly Happy said...

I've been with my husband for five years. Looking back five years ago, I'd say I definitely had red flags-but that's because he wasn't and still isn't perfect. There isn't such a thing as a "perfect". These red flags did only this- indicated which things I was going to have to "learn to love" or "help him get through". So, while I do think its important to analyze these "red flags" to an extent-I think you can over analyze yourself into bachelorette-hood (or bag lady-LOVE it, Nikki-do you know I wanted to be a bag lady growing up after a lifetime movie about a bag lady played by Lucille Ball?? Hilarious memory!)-for the rest of your life. Obviously there is different intensity's of red flags- be it deep blood red, or a pinkish-red. My wonderful husband, had the pinkish-red flags and so today, I can honestly say I saw those things that are difficult and I chose that I loved him enough to work through it and love him unconditionally. Because afterall I have my pinkish-red flags too-I like to think they are hot pink. But definitely, the times I threw my tantrums during our engagement and stormed off, gave him a good indication that I was going to be a tantrum throwing wife. Don't love these things about myself-but hey, I'm working on them and I know that in all of my "emotional-ness" I know that there is someone who covenanted to work through it with me, even during all of my "hot pink flag" times.

Okay-I'm taking the red flag thing way too far--on to my next thought.

I LOVE me some Dr. Laura (I am my kids mom, btw)...and something that I read in her "Proper Care and Feeding of a Marriage" book, made me take a profound step back and look at, not just my marriage, but marriage in general. She talked about how when we are searching for that "true love", we tend to look for someone who will give us a release from all other cares in the world. Someone who can make us happy-regardless of the circumstances surrounding us because, well we are just SOOO in love. But somewhere after the giddyness of the new love wears off (because honestly-how can you ever make that NEW feeling last? It wouldn't be called NEW if it lasted...which, in my opinion, is why I think a lot of people move on from relationshipe...because they think instead of transition into a deeper connection that may not be as much "I just want to make out and hop into bed with you" feeling, that they are no longer "in love" because it doesn't feel "new")...anyway, whenever that wears off, Dr. Laura says, is when we end up doing a 180 on our spouse, and instead of being a refuge from all of our cares in the world, we use our spouse as some personal punching bag to take everything out on. It's someone that we think we have full right to sit an analyze, criticize, chastise and all the other "izes" on whenever we are feeling the slightest bit unhappy.

I'm ashamed to say, that when Dr. Laura said that I backed up, took a look at myself and thought, "I'm totally punching my husband in the face every night when he gets home from work. I'm telling him he's late, I'm tired, I've been parenting, cooking, cleaning, errand running, bill paying, (blog updating/facebooking...oops), disciplining, organzing...whatever I was doing, without one measure of sympathy for HIS day or what he might have gone through. I wasn't using our marriage as an oasis from the world in which to fill my emotional cup in order to continue taking on the things in our life that we have chosen together.
I can't tell you how much HAPPIER I have been and what a difference THAT made in my relationship and my family. I truly think that as women, we set the tone for our home and family relationships. My husband doesn't notice a sink of

Imperfectly Happy-contined cause I'm hecka long winded, I guess.... said...

dishes if when he gets home I give him a big smooch and take a few seconds to share in our day together.
THIS is why, after five years- I still have a TRULY, HAPPY marriage and I know that I always will as long as we both are working hard at it to make each other happy and not rely on the other person to make both of us happy. I've also realized in these five years that I'm lucky and married an incredibly amazing, imperfect man. And that's perfectly wonderful in my book.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

It also takes luck.

Marrying again, or at an age past 20...I think it takes more faith than ever. Success - though...takes all that everyone has talked about - study, list making, preparation, prayer, covenant keeping, talking..but it also just takes luck.

I have seen some marriages, the 'ideal' one that is held up in church mtgs, etc. as near perfect -go down in flames. I have seen men who I would have written in blood that they would NEVER break their covenants, do it. I have seen imperfect men and women with, what seems to be, sketchy relationships, last happily over 35 years and counting.

Luck has to play some part, right?

Anonymous said...

I agree with the person who just posted about luck. I think that anyone is capable of anything, and that most people/marriages/families are not entirely what they seem on the surface.

Stephanette said...

I had a very wise professor (of nothing marriage or religion related) say, "While you are hanging out, having friendships, or dating keep your eyes wide open never blinking or looking away. Take in each flaw or imperfection (or red flag in this case) and carefully weigh whether or not that is something you can wake up to everyday. Also, carefully look inward to see if the reason it is such an irritant is because it's a reflection of your own behavior that you would rather change. Decide now if this is something you can handle. Every relationship that you have will have those momentsor even days where those flaws are magnified and the only thing you can change is your own reaction to them. Once you have made this decision and you are married to this person, close your eyes and squint with the lights on low-you'll be less likely to let the small things affect your relationship."

Obviously this wouldn't work for all problems, but I think relationships are often worn away a little bit at a time with small grudges mushrooming into large and damaging habits that tear people apart.

I agree that it's more important how you disagree than why you disagree a lot of the time.

I hope that all makes sense. Good luck to you questioner. My relationship with my husband has been the most worthwhile endeavor. But it has also been one of the hardest things I've ever worked at....along with being a new mom.

Anonymous said...

I think that one important thing is whether or not you feel motivated by that person to become better. Do you want to change yourself, to get rid of your own red flags in order to make that person happy? Do you feel a strong desire to do whatever it takes to be eternally married? Or do you feel complacent, indifferent, stubborn, or always in the right? Does your boyfriend feel the same?I agree with the person who said they would take the person with lots of baggage and lots of humility over the person with little baggage and lots of pride. Once you both feel that desire to endure to the end, then work together to achieve it. It's the decision to strive TOGETHER toward perfection that keeps marriage and love intact. Without that common goal, you'll grow apart.

Anonymous said...

One of my YW leaders gave some great advice...she said that everyone has their package of problems, you just have to decide which package you can live with and help them through. Some people can live with some issues, while the next person could never put up with it. One of my favorite quotes, "choose your love, love your choice!" Once you have made that choice to marry them, it is important to do all in your power to support and love your spouse. There are problems that are definite deal breakers, abuse, infidelity etc...but other than the deal breakers it is our responsiblity to work through issues and problems, we have covenanted to do it!

Alisa said...

Dear Uncertain,

Of you aren't sure! You can't see the future! That's part of life. It's also why "faith" is first on the list of things that successful marriage and families are built on. Faith is critical every step of the way, and it's particularly important at the stage you're in.

We only have 6 years of marriage behind us, but they have been six years filled with a large measure of joy, far beyond what I experienced in my *very happy* single years. We are happier than I expected we'd be when we were dating/engaged, if you can believe it. Yes, it can be done! No, it's not impossible! There are lots of reasons, but the "how" is not what's in question, other than being careful about who you pick... which is definitely the biggest and best first step to a happy marriage!

It sounds like you have a particular person/relationship in mind, but we don't get any details. (That's okay. You don't want a million opinions about those specific issues anyway! Ick.)

There's no way to answer if you should walk away or not. Maybe. Maybe not. If all your closest friends and family are seeing BIG red-flags, you should probably look at it *very* carefully. Since they aren't the ones in love, they can often see things you won't. Sometimes a little time away from the person can help you sort things out.

I can't answer all your questions. It's doubtful that any one person can. What I can tell you from my own intense personal experience is this:
The decision about who to marry is exclusively YOURS. You own it, and you own the consequences, which will be huge. You have to grow up and really own this one.

YES! A happy marriage is worth hoping and trying for! Sorry this is long -- it's a subject I love to talk about. Every moment of every day is not going to be filled with that butterflies-in-the-stomache feeling. You aren't going to go all melty every single time you kiss, or every time your eyes lock. Sometimes you'll get frustrated, sometimes you'll be mad... Just make sure you have the tools to deal with hard times thoroughly built into your relationship. I did a lot of research about marriage before I was married and I think it helped.

I also got lucky (blessed) and picked someone who not only appeared to be faithful and active in his faith - he still is, and that has made all the difference.

Anonymous said...

Lately I have heard more than is needful regarding some of my friends relationships, and I don't mean that in a negative way (that I don't want to hear it) I just mean due to the circumstances they have opened up quite a bit more than ususal. And because of this I have really come to appreciate my marriage much more. My husband is funny and sweet. He is also stubborn and oblivious. He would prefer a conversation about sports and cars over our relationship and feelings. There are moments when I wonder why I married him and there are moments when I wonder how I got so lucky.

I think marriages and relationships can get anaylzed to death. Meaning we think about all the things we aren't doing and think that they have to be fixed or else the marriage/relationship won't survive. Sometimes we just need to chill out and try to see the beauty. It's there and some days it will harder to see than others, but the more we look for it the more it will grow.

Tiffani said...

Amen to the last anonymous! I feel the same way, as I am sure most do. Some days my husband drives me crazy and I wonder why I married him and there are others days where I think about the reality of our relationship and wonder why am I so lucky, he chose me!

As far as relationships go if you are always wondering if there is someone else out there that could make you happy-there is! However, it only takes one person. Sure your relationship with someone might else be different but it could be different either good or bad. Every relationship has it's quirks and that is because we are humans and are not perfect. If there are things that are bothering you, are they things that you most definitely could not live with or could you learn to love the flaw (or ignore it!) If you commit yourself and are practical, realizing that marriage will take work then you'll be ok.

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