Happily Married Doesn’t Mean Always Happy

June 22nd, 2020 marked the day on which I have been with my husband for half my life. We started dating when I was 19, and I’m now 38. We have been married for nearly 14 years (we’ll be celebrating our 14th anniversary on July 29th). We are very happily married, and we make our marriage work. But being happily married doesn’t mean we’re always happy. Actually, I believe we’re happily married because we’re willing to be unhappy at times.

We’re happily married, but we do have unhappy times

We’ve frequently received compliments about our relationship. At least one couple who has gotten separated has wondered aloud how we make it work. The truth is, we are committed to making it work, and we do some difficult things to make it happen. Dan and I have tough conversations, and we have them frequently. We have conversations that some couples may not feel comfortable having outside of therapy (or even in it). And back when the world wasn’t under quarantine, we were actually comfortable going to therapy too. But going to therapy was easy for us because we were already very open in our communication before getting there. We didn’t wait for some huge blowout to get help. 

Happily married doesn't mean "always happy," www.marianamcdougall.com. Background photo of interlocked hands by bhuvanesh gupta on Unsplash

Marriage means give and take.

Dan and I have had this conversation. When you get married, you give up some freedoms, no question about it. Marriage is give and take; both spouses give up some things to make a marriage work. Sometimes, this will make one of the parties unhappy. The key is asking ourselves: is only one of the parties always unhappy? Is only one of the people in the marriage having to give up things to make the relationship work? That’s when those tough conversations come in… when you decide to have a frank, calm, and quiet conversation with the person who’s “your person.” Neither of us bottles up emotions and then blow out; we have those uncomfortable conversations before they become even more uncomfortable.

Marriage means not listening to the naysayers.

The way we do marriage doesn’t sit well with some of the more conservative people in our lives. It doesn’t sit well with the ultra liberals in our lives either. I’m often judged for leaving my kids and taking a weekend off each year (even though my husband does the same thing and not a peep is said about that). And I’m also judged for taking my husband’s opinions and feelings about what I do into consideration. It seems like you can’t win. So we just do what works for us, and we ignore the naysayers. We have our own beliefs about marriage, beliefs that some folks may not agree with. And that’s OK. We do what works for us. If others disagree, it doesn’t matter. 

Marriage means commitment

Perhaps it’s because we’re practicing Catholics, but from the moment we were married, we knew divorce would never be on the table. When we married each other, we made a commitment to stay together forever. Both of us believe that. Many a divorced person has told me that they never planned on divorcing, either. I get that. But as far as we both know, divorce is not something either of us is interested in. We love each other, so we have those tough conversations before they become even bigger problems. We’re committed to making things work. I know that this isn’t possible for every couple, and that’s OK. But this is what works for us. And this is how we stay happily married: by knowing that in every happy marriage, there will be unhappy times. As long as we’re willing to support each other through those times and figure out solutions together, we’ll stay happily married.

We don’t know everything

We’ve only been married 14 years. There are couples in our lives who have been married for much longer and have happy marriages, too. We are still learning as we go. We don’t know everything, and we know that. We don’t pretend to have some great advice to give every couple out there for a happy marriage, neither do we pretend to be love gurus. I’m just sharing what has worked for us. As long as we’re willing to keep learning together, to keep having tough conversations, and to remember that our spouse is our priority, we’ll continue being happily married for another 14 years and beyond.

Do You Believe in Romance After Kids?

Romance after kids: Is it possible?

I’m not going to lie: romance after kids is hard. After having my third child, romance fell to the bottom of my priority list. Between diaper changes (and EC life), caring for two toddlers while breastfeeding and getting used to a newborn, keeping up a house and cooking, there wasn’t much time left for anything else. By the end of the day, I was completely exhausted, and I just wanted to sleep. And many moms of young children feel the same way. But it doesn’t have to be like this. Keeping the romance alive in your marriage is not only possible, it’s an important part of a thriving relationship.

do you believe in romance after kids? www.marianamcdougall.com, woman and man's hands holding each other,  Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

 

It’s a sad statistic that 13% of marriages end within 5 years of a child being born. But it’s also not difficult to see why. You’re adding a whole new person to your life, after all, and priorities certainly shift when this happens. A baby needs their parents 24/7, and there’s often resentment on the primary caregiver’s part when their partner isn’t as involved as they should be.

There’s also the sheer exhaustion of interrupted and low quality sleep, because babies don’t care how tired you are. While dealing with all of this, it’s no surprise that some (or a lot) of stress is added to your marriage. But there are some things you can do to make romance after baby a reality. Here are some tips.

1. Adapt.

Before any tips will work, it’s important to remember that when you have young children, the ability to adapt is paramount. So maybe you can’t leave your newborn, breastfeeding baby for three days while you go on a romantic vacation, but you can certainly still have a few romantic moments. For example, you could get a baby carrier and take a stroll holding your partner’s hand. It’s not a honeymoon in the Bahamas, but it’s something.

2. Make date nights at home a regular thing.

Sometimes, moms and dads alike are way too tired to get out of the house after caring for baby. When that’s the case, a romantic date night at home makes sense. You can have dinner by candlelight with baby nearby, watch a movie or an episode of a TV show while sharing a drink (yes, breastfeeding mothers can drink in moderation), or look at old photos together. The options are limitless; you just have to be a little creative.

3. Show your partner your appreciation.

Whether it’s thanking them for doing their part in the hard job of parenting, telling them you love them on a frequent basis, or committing to giving them a passionate kiss everyday, show your partner you love them and appreciate them, despite your shifted priorities.

4. Remember: the days are long, but the years are short.

Believe it or not, there’ll come a time when you have fond memories of the difficulties  of parenting. My kids are still pretty young, and I still remember how hard things were when they were newborns. Yet, sometimes I miss it when they were babies and dependent on me for everything (and didn’t have the words to talk back…) 

Don’t let the stress of parenting take away from the love that made you a parent in the first place. Sometimes, when we’re exhausted, it’s easy to only see the negatives. Remember to see the positives, too—chances are, your partner is also exhausted and you both need each other’s support. And if you really feel like you’re taking the brunt of the parenting tasks, it’s time to ask for help.

5. Communicate clearly about your needs.

If you’re exhausted and feel that you need more help, simply ask. Many women complain that their partners aren’t involved enough in household and parenting duties; yet, they have never spoken to their spouse about their frustration. Your partner can’t read your mind, so it’s important that you simply ask for the help you need. Tell your partner lovingly and specifically what kind of help you require. You will probably get the help you need, and save yourself a lot of resentment and friction in your marriage.

Remember to keep communicating, set aside at least one day a week when you spend some one-on-one time with your spouse (even if it’s with baby in tow), and remember the love that made you parents in the first place.

How do you keep romance alive in your marriage?

Valentine’s Day? No thanks.

Valentine’s Day has never been a big day for me and hubby. Perhaps it’s because Valentine’s day is not celebrated in Brazil (where I’m originally from); perhaps it’s because I smelled consumerism from a mile away the minute I heard about this holiday. Perhaps it’s both.

Whatever the reason might be, early on in our relationship I let my then-boyfriend (now husband) know that I neither expected nor wanted anything for Valentine’s Day, save maybe a letter or a card. And this was not a test; I actually meant what I said (why do women do that? “Test” their partners? Mean what you say, please).

Continue reading “Valentine’s Day? No thanks.”

An open letter to those sharing anti-immigration sentiments on Facebook.

The following post isn’t about writing. It isn’t about following dreams (well, at least not directly). But something has been on my mind since seeing a terrible meme on Facebook, and I needed to get these words out there. I was too disappointed for words after seeing someone who is supposedly a friend post anti-immigration sentiments on Facebook. What does that say about our supposed friendship? How does this person truly see me? Why is there this hatred of people in search of a better life, who are fleeing from unspeakable acts of violence? It is this kind of hatred and prejudice that creates the need for refugees to immigrate in the first place. Please, take the time to read my letter, and really consider the impact of your posts on social media before clicking the next share button on such a thoughtless meme.

Please note that this letter is my sole opinion and sentiment and does not represent the views of the Canadian Naval Reserves or any other military branch.

An open letter to those sharing anti-immigration sentiments on Facebook.

Continue reading “An open letter to those sharing anti-immigration sentiments on Facebook.”