I'm celebrating nineteen years of marriage. Time still gets away from me, so like everything else, it doesn't feel that long ago. I can picture the day of my wedding as if it happened yesterday. When I start to look back over the years, I realize that I've come a long way in myself and my relationship with my husband, Eric. I once foolishly believed that self-improvement was a solo job. The reality is we learn more about ourselves and others when we are in a committed relationship.
I grew up with brothers and sisters. We learned the value of sharing early on. We had to find ways to compromise and get along regularly. It wasn't easy. We had some terrific fights, and perceived injustices happened all the time. Our parents didn't want to be constant referees, so we heard the phrase, "work it out" a lot. Little did I know those three words would be the saving grace for my marriage.
My husband grew up with a sister who was eight years older. She was more of a mother than a sibling to him. He didn't have to share or compromise with anyone. There wasn't anyone to fight with. Oh yes, marriage was going to be a piece of cake for him.
The fantastic thing about marriage is the need to be right in all things. Play the video back, and you can plainly see that I was correct in my actions and words, and Eric was not. Of course, if my husband were writing this, it would say, "Celeste was wrong, not me." I took a friend's great advice, and I read the book, "Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus" by John Gray, Ph.D. It helped me understand that our experiences shaped our perceptions and opinions. Our disagreements, many times, stemmed from miscommunication. Each of us taking a stand believing that the other person was not listening or understanding our side of things. Our past is always with us, and that can color our position. It can make us dig in and not allow us to see another point of view.
Over time, we got better about not jumping to conclusions and taking the other person's feelings for granted. We try to avoid getting defensive when we have disagreements. I've had to learn to open up and be vulnerable. I talk more about my upbringing, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Eric has become more communicative about his past experiences as well. We've gained a better understanding of each other, and in turn, we have grown individually. We have learned to "work it out."
Working on my marriage has resulted in understanding myself and others in a whole new way. I've learned to be a better listener. I want to hear about a person's upbringing, where they come from, and understand their perspective. It's easy to misunderstand other people's intentions, and they yours. I'm willing to talk about myself more and not be as guarded as I once was. I know I'm a constant work in progress, but it's nice to have someone who wants to take the journey with me.
Happy Anniversary, Eric!