Here you are, healed, strong, and feeling ready for what life has to bring to you post-divorce. What a long road it’s been! You’ve spent some time in the dating pool, some days were more of a struggle than others, and now, after kissing multiple frogs, (perhaps a few toads, even) you’ve finally found your Mr. or Mrs. Right. The two of you are head-over-heels in love, ready to get married, join your families together, and say your I dos. Well, as a girl who’s marched along that road before, let me be the first to tell you, don’t ever be married again!
From the day my husband, Brandon, and I began dating seriously, I would explain to him that I didn’t want to be the “wife” or a “mother” to a husband ever again. “I want to be the sexy girlfriend!” I’d exclaim. What that means is that I want Brandon and I to put as much effort into our relationship, every day, as we did in the early-days of our dating. Back then we both had four kids (each!), full-time jobs, jam-packed schedules, and we bent over backwards to see each other. Each of us came into this partnership as individual people with confidence, strengths and responsibilities, and we want each of us to keep those areas intact throughout our marriage.
When you’re first dating, you’re wrapped up in blankets of love, lust, and there are butterflies in your stomach. You send sweet texts: I miss you baby! xoxo. At the grocery store, you stop in your tracks when you see his favorite snack food, and you pick it up for the Giants game on Sunday, because what’s a good football game without his favorite snacks? You shave your legs and rub on scented lotion after your shower because you want to feel beautiful when he sees you. He brings you flowers just because he wants to see your face light up when he walks in the door with something–just because. But then, after months and months of being married, the texts are fewer and fewer and you become just another family member to one another.
We humans have this terrible habit of getting “comfortable” once the rings are placed on our fingers. In first marriages, after saying “I do,” mortgages and kids come along, and couples tend to start living a parallel existence together. That’s definitely what my first marriage looked like in the later years. The same is true in second marriages; those mortgages and kids are usually still there, you end up discussing Jimmy’s practice schedule or Jane’s doctors appointments, and you leave little time for any real conversation. Add to that issues with ex wives or husbands, child support responsibilities, and various schedules for various family members, and it’s a wonder if you have money to go out or lie down in bed at the same time!
If a wedding ceremony is something the two of you want, great! Get married! But do your best to avoid “being married” to your partner. Instead, keep dating him or her, every day.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind to avoid “being married” and keep your relationship on the top of your list:
- Keep laughing! Near the end of my first marriage, I swear I hadn’t seen my first husband laugh in 5 years. He became so serious! I should have known there were bigger problems on the horizon. In my relationship with Brandon, he and I giggle over the stupidest things, constantly. With or without the kids involved. When I notice we are beginning to take life too seriously, and we aren’t snickering at something stupid, that’s when I know we need more “us” time on our schedule.
- Keep your grooming habits the same as when you first got together. Men, you didn’t look like Sasquatch’s relative when you lovingly kissed us goodnight at the doorstep on our third date (well, perhaps some of you did, because your women are into the disheveled, bearded look, but not me). And ladies, Alec Baldwin’s character may have been into a woman “going native” in the movie It’s Complicated, but it’s highly-unlinkely your man will appreciate the “forest” (men, this goes for you too–if you manscaped before, keep that shit up!).
- Dress to impress, still. Yoga pants are for working out…period. And sweats? Well, they’re for days when you’ve got the flu and can’t make it out of bed. Otherwise, they stay in the closet.
- Let the small things go. You didn’t snap his head off when he didn’t change the toilet paper roll when you were first together. And he overlooked your 50 bottles of lotion, scented lotion, deodorant, gel, mouuse, hairspray etc. you’d leave on the bathroom counter when you left for work, so don’t bicker about it now. Keep the respect levels high–always!
- Keep the affection coming. (Pun definitely intended here!) Keep up the heat! Sex should be a priority, but more than that, keep up the touchy-feeling things you did when you were first together: hold hands while you’re in the car, give him a hug and a kiss when he gets home from work, kiss her neck when she’s cooking dinner. When the sweet, contagious touches go away in a marriage, you may as well move into separate homes next door to each other and Skype about the kids and schedules at that point.
There’s this strange spin-doctoring and creative marketing that goes on out there, that we all buy into, that makes us think that marriage will solve all of our problems. Being married isn’t an answer to anything–the work still needs to take place. In life, we want someone to show love to and someone who shows us love. We want to know we’re special. We want to know that the person we’re with is proud they spend their nights with us. The best way to do that is to not be married at all. Be dating. Be in love. Be giving love. Always.