Marriage: 13 Things You Need to Know Before You Walk Down the Aisle
Growing up, every time I thought of marriage, the most I got out of my imagination was what kind of bride I'd be, what dress I would wear, what my wedding hall would look like, and how my eventual husband would surprise me with a kitten on one of my birthdays and I'd just be so madly in love with him. Oh how wrong was I, I never got the kitten.
When I got married, I was that bride, as you can see in the cover photo, who didn't cry at her rukhsati. I had already spent five years living in Lahore, away from my parents, with another room mate. To me, moving out from my parents' house to live with my husband wasn't going to be any different. Again, how wrong was I. Unfortunately I was not prepared for what came my way, and I feel most girls, like myself, are also not. Hence this post. To new parents, please make a note of talking about these things, from the very onset, with your children as well. Preparing for marriage doesn't come with research, or by reading a blog post. It comes with experience and time. Through this post, I just hope to clarify some doubts that may arise in the heads of newly weds or to-be-wed-soon brides.
1. Moving to a new home or with a partner isn't easy
A week into my wedding, Ramzan started. My Mother-in-Law (MIL) would make a spread of Iftari for me every day to make sure I wouldn't miss home. However, to her dismay and mine, I couldn't eat much. I couldn't understand it for a while, until other friends told me that it's normal. I was apparently so used to my own home's way of cooking that it would take me some time to adjust to a completely new style. I would have never realized that on my own. My bed was different, the room I was in was different. I was in a new home, with a new set of faces, and my husband was there too. It didn't feel okay no matter how I thought about it. I felt displaced. I was happy to be married, and to be living with my husband. His family was super nice to me mashAllah. But I felt displaced. And I felt horrible about it. Like I was being a terrible wife and daughter in law (DIL). Long story short, it's OKAY if you feel displaced. It's perfectly normal. If you don't, great. If you do, don't beat yourself over it. Talk to your husband, let him know how you feel, without expecting him to make it right. The only way this gets fixed is with time. Change isn't easy, yet we expect newly wed brides to embrace a new home as soon as they wake up the next morning of their wedding. If it makes you feel any better, your husband is also adjusting to this change. He might already be concerned about you feeling at home, settling in, navigating between the family and you (if you're in a joint family), and letting you in his comfort zone.
2. Romance isn't what Bollywood shows you
I had been nikahofied for 8 months before my wedding, during which time I was meeting my husband almost every day for dinner after work. He would laugh, make me laugh, we would plan our futures together, go out on dates. It was magical. Fast forward to post wedding, the dates went down, he wasn't laughing all the time like I was used to, and we had moments where you hear crickets in the background coz no one has anything to talk about. I started doubting if he loved me. There were times I was SURE he didn't love me. He wasn't getting me flowers on his way from work, or complimenting me when I dressed up nice, or threw me a cheesy surprise on Valentine's Day. What I was overlooking though was that time he ate the french toast I made for him with (accidentally) salt instead of sugar (true story) and told me it tasted delicious. Good thing I tried the last bite to see 'how well I made it'. Or that time he would warm my feet on the freezing winter nights despite feeling super cold himself. It's the little things that show you how much your husband truly loves you. Notice them, appreciate them, and cherish them, rather than looking for a social media perfect moment that may or may not come. This brings me to the next point.
3. Space - His and Yours
So I already talked about how a week into the wedding when all the hoopla went down, my husband was watching shows, and I was existing in his life, wondering if he really did love me. I had completely disregarded the concept of 'Space' for him or myself. I was expecting him to be the romantic all the time, do exciting things together all the time, and basically just be together in everything. See what I look like there? A clingy girlfriend. Lol. I realized that watching shows, or reading books were things that my husband enjoyed doing before the wedding, and he told me about it all the time. They were his comfort zone. Somehow I expected things to change and that was wrong of me. While giving him space was important, I had never even given a thought to how I would need my own space. Girls time, family time, chill out time. I needed to have my own hobbies as well that didn't involve my husband. I later read how this was actually healthy. Not only does it create a positive energy in spouses, but also gives them something to share with each other and talk about. Of course, it's important to do things together too, but your own space is equally vital to a healthy relationship.
4. Communication takes time
This might sound cliched but I can't stress the importance of it at all. I'd read countless articles about how communication is the key to a healthy relationship, but trust me that ain't helpful to a bit. When shit gets real, you realize how communication is probably the hardest thing to do for the couple. How to get your point of view across without fearing judgment, without looking like a bad wife/DIL, without coming off accusatory, without hurting my husband's feelings. It took us a while to understand each other, how we perceive nuances and process them to get it right (more like a year). The key is to voice your feelings whenever you're in the slumps though, otherwise it will take a mental toll on you. Sometimes just letting it out helps a lot. Often times my husband was actually clueless about how I was feeling or what was going in my head, all the while I was furious at him for not being understanding about how I was feeling. Eventually when he would get it out of me or I'd finally muster the courage to talk about it, he would support me and I would feel better too. It's important to encourage each other to share. There's so much that I learnt on this one aspect through our relationship, that I think it's better to put it in another post.
5. Fighting is good
This one was probably a brain picker for me. I hated conflicts, and decided I'd be the bigger person and 'let things go'. Besides everyone keeps telling you to be patient. Of course fights happen when you give 'communication' a try, and you're both unable to understand each other. There are times when you're not listening to your partner or he's not listening to you. By that I mean, truly understanding what one is trying to say. Falling back and avoiding seems like a good idea most of the times, but at times, not pushing for something you strongly believe can leave you with negative feelings and emotions and that eventually gets to you. Women are more likely to get depressed because they continue to be subjected to circumstances that result in negative feelings. However, this is one situation that is within your control. Rather than backing out, fight for it. Because relationship counsellors actually recommend fighting. It breaks the monotony of the relationship, may spice things up eventually (if you know what I mean), and result in the spouses actually reflecting over the issue at hand. Of course, fighting too much isn't healthy and if you're getting in that, then it's time you consider reading up more on communication. This is not to undermine that some couples have serious issues which are bigger than menial day to day disagreements. Pick your battles wisely, and don't avoid fighting, that's the worst of all the options available to you.
6. Meet him halfway
We keep hearing that marriage is about compromises. What that really means is that you need to learn how to meet the other person half way, and how to make sure you're being met halfway. If you're in a situation where you're not comfortable with a decision that impacts both of you, or vice versa, then you or your husband are not being met halfway. It's like bargaining you know, na aap ki na meri, somewhere in between. As long as it's not something that is crucial for your mental health, your personal growth or development, try and negotiate to reach a mutually agreeable position. Otherwise exercise points 5 and 6 till you get what you need. Don't you back down sister.
7. Thinking for two
You know how before you're wedding, you dream of backpacking through the world, going to Tomorrowland, getting a pet cat that your mom never let you keep and told you to do after you were married. Well guess what? You still might not be able to do them. Your husband might not be fond of backpacking, might have already attended Tomorrowland and sees no point of spending so many bucks doing that again, or be allergic to cats. No matter what decision you'd be taking now, would take into consideration this new member. Same goes for him of course. If he's planning to move to a new country, he needs to run that by you first. You start working like a team. Your budgeting takes into account two people. Your big decisions like when to start a family, career, where to settle, where to study, as well as your small decisions like how to decorate your living room, or what show to watch, or what to eat tonight, all depend on the team's decision. This doesn't mean if one vetoes the other has to abide by it. It means that both parties must meet each other halfway or the whole way without pushing the other away or alienating them. You are both equal in this relationship so both of yours say counts.
8. Financial Independence
I can spend my money whatever way I want now, Yippee! How naive. A few months into our marriage, I was caught in the budgeting frenzy, where my husband and I were planning how to budget our honeymoon, how much to save, how much to spend on shopping, you know real things. I couldn't just swipe my daddy's credit card with the intention of paying him back when I'd get the money. It can become overwhelming initially, especially if you're a very organized person about these things (as I am), but with practice and the understanding you develop with your husband on the subject, it gets better. The important thing though is that you should be a part of these discussions even if you're not earning. Remember, your husband's money is yours and your money is his. It's the team's money. So why be oblivious to how it's being spent or where it's going.
9. Your Husband comes first, yes, even before your own family
I know this sounds confusing but trust me this helps. Being in close knit families, there are times when things don't particularly go great with the family, be it your husband's or yours. You may be put in a position to defend your family because well they're your family. This rule helps you in such situations. It is important that you categorically define this as a golden principle to your relationship right after the wedding. No matter what the issue may be, you must consider your husband's feelings first, or he must consider your's first before the family's. There are also times when a spouse ends up sharing information with their families (be it the wife or the husband), or may take a decision that appeases the family more than the spouse. That can leave with the spouse with negative feelings and that's unhealthy. No one is saying that you shouldn't love your family. But if there needs to be a priority, then it goes to your husband. That's really why marriage is a big deal, saying Qabool hai is a big deal, and the maulvi saab asks you thrice just to make sure you know what you're getting into. Lol. Your priorities have changed, your family has changed (not necessary to change surname for that btw).
10. Settling in with the in laws is not easy
If you're living with the in laws, then this clarity is extremely important for your mental health. Your MIL is NOT your mother, neither are you their daughter. You can't fight with her like you would with your mom (at least that's the case with me, you should hear my mom and I fighting and that's just how we show our love). You also tend to be a lot more respectful for your in laws. The initial stages of moving in with your in laws comes with constantly wondering what's okay with them or not. At least moving with a husband isn't a change enough, you have to figure out a whole set of new individuals as well. And they could be gems, the most kind hearted people you know. But that doesn't mean that it's going to come naturally or easily. Don't beat yourself over it. You're not being a bad wife of DIL. Trust me. There will come a time, where your MIL will be your MIL. She will never become your mother, but she will have her own unique place and that's fine. Similarly you might never become their daughter/sister, but you will also have your own unique place eventually that will be just as important but different. Empathy is extremely important here. Just as you're adjusting, remember that they're adjusting to a new individual in their house as well. They might be stepping out of their comfort zone for you too. If you're frustrated, think of how you would want your brother's wife to react to your family member. Practice diplomacy, courtesy, but most importantly kindness. And when all else fails, communicate with your husband. Tell him how you feel and work on a solution to make things better. Remember, you're a team.
11. There's a lot of sexism in this relationship, grow a thick skin
We live in a society where when a guy gets married, his friends start cracking jokes about how he's whipped already, or the wife is wearing the pants in the family now. Or extended family would make small talk by asking you when you'd 'gift them with a child' or what YOU cooked in the dinner you invited them over to since it's obviously your job to cook. It's frustrating, it's unfair, but it happens. And it happens a lot. If you're going to sit and pine over it, then you're only going to hurt yourself. Just learn to ignore, and do whatever you need to do. Don't succumb to pressure and just overlook it as background noise. Work on things that are within your control, like encouraging your husband to support your ideas of equality, to participate in household chores, to take ownership of tasks that are not just for you, and to trust you like an equal.
12. What do you want?
And lastly, the question you should really be thinking about is not which photographer you want, but what you want your life to look like in the next ten years. You are starting a new journey together with another man. This means you might have to re-evaluate your plans but more importantly it calls for a discussion with your husband preferably before the wedding or right after. Ask yourself when you want to have kids, and how many, if at all. Do you want to go to a grad school? Do you want to pursue a career and if so in what and where? How will you both manage family with work? What are some things that are not open to compromise for you? What are some things not open to compromise for your husband? Are you okay with those? What kind of protection do you want to use if you want to wait on starting a family? Have you had this discussion with your husband as well? What are some of the things on your bucket list you want to do with your husband and on your own?
13. The Numerous Gynecologist Visits
Not to forget, once you're married, and you know stuff starts happeninnnn, you will realize how complicated a woman's anatomy really is. You will learn about the gazillion kinds of infections, like the Urinary Tract Infection (which doctors apparently refer to honeymoon cystitus) or yeast infections, etc. or you may have allergies to latex (if you're using protection) or may not finding the birth control to be working well with you. Brace yourselves! And make sure to let your husband know that this shit is real and he should appreciate women even more because hey, he doesn't need to wait for hours at the doctor's for a five minute appointment to get prescription for a stupid infection.
Marriage is a beautiful relationship, but it takes effort and lots of work. While one should not force another person to change, both individuals change throughout the course of the relationship to adjust and accommodate each other. It takes time, patience, trust and lots of laughters and beautiful little moments to walk through this journey. As long as you and your husband are both growing in some way, you're nailing it! To all the ladies who have been married for a while and have any other words of wisdom to share, leave them in the comments and I'll make sure to add those in.