{5 Things I Learned from My Parent’s Marriage}

January 16, 2013

I’m prefacing this by stating that I lived a charmed life. My memories of childhood are nothing short of pink ribbons and ponies. I used to walk to school with my sister, hand-in-hand, and eat dinner with my entire family each night at 5:30 p.m. It was, what some would call, a dream childhood. We lived in a small house in Southern Virginia, in a middle-class neighborhood, surrounding by families much like ours. Hard working parents, with 3 or more kids, just trying to do what’s right and best for their kids. It was wonderful.

After my sisters left for college I finally realized that things weren’t as great as I thought they were in my house. Money was tight, no, like super tight. I started to recall times, when I was much younger, my mother would be on the phone with someone asking them to “please not shut it off.” I also had visions of my mother sitting at the kitchen table picking which bills she would pay in full and which ones she wouldn’t. My dad lost his job several times, and my mom picked up second jobs to help keep us afloat.

But even with those circumstances, I never knew the extent, not until much much later (my late 20’s). And because of this fact, I learned some extremely valuable lessons from my parent’s marriage. Some awesome, some not awesome, but I thought I would share them with you {and hope my mother doesn’t kill me for doing so}.

  1. Never Fight in Front of Your Children
    I cannot tell you one time my parents fought in front of us. Not once! I don’t even remember being able to hear them fight at night, if they ever did. I’ve still never seen them fight and I’m 32 years old. Do they bicker? Of course they do! But, I’m so grateful that they shielded us from everything going on during those extremely tough years. As a child, there was absolutely no reason I needed to know the extent of what was going on, no reason. I wouldn’t have comprehended it anyway, nor would I have understood. I hope that I too, will have the sense to keep my sharp words to myself should Andrew and I ever be blessed with children. There is no good that can come by arguing in front of your children.
  2. But it’s okay to fight!
    Because my parents didn’t fight in front of us, I had no idea it was okay to argue in relationships. I didn’t even know how to fight. So I would just sit there and never argue or fight back, assuming each disagreement was the last we would ever have. Because clearly people break up if they fight, right?!?! Only unhappy people fight, right?!?! Not so much. It took me a while to learn that lesson and a man who finally said to me “Just because we got into a fight, doesn’t mean we are going to break up.” to realize that a little fighting is healthy. If you don’t fight, you aren’t talking, which leads me to Number 3.
  3. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
    Did I mention communicate? My parents never talked about anything. They never discussed long-term, they never addressed any disagreements, they never sat down face-to-face and had a real discussion about what had royally pissed them off and how they could work to resolve “it.” They still don’t, and it’s still the reason they get so agitated with each other.

    When I first started dating Andrew he would get so frustrated with me because I wouldn’t just say what was bothering me. I was notorious for holding things in for 3 months. 3 months! I mean the whole world has changed in 3 months. But I could remember what you did, the exact moment, words, everything to hurt my feelings 3 months ago. Slowly but surely Andrew taught me to “JUST SAY IT DAMMIT!” I truly do feel that is one of the reasons Andrew and I have one of the most awesome relationships. There are no secrets, there is no harboring, everything is transparent and communication happens every single day. Maybe a little too much communication at times {laughing}! But I’d rather over communicate than spend 40+ years pissed off at someone, for something they did 29 years ago. That’s just no way to live.

  4. Talk About Your Finances & Make a Plan
    Money. It’s a betch isn’t it? It’s the root of all evil and can lead to many a fight and many tears. To prevent this from happening, have a discussion (multiple discussions) about where you want to be financially in 5, 10, 15, 20+ years. Have this conversation prior to getting married. If you’re already married, have this conversation tonight! Then have that conversation often.

    While dating Andrew and I were in full agreement about how much we wanted to put towards our savings and retirement each paycheck. We discuss all major purchases with each other, PRIOR to making the purchase (except for gifts, we don’t tell each other gifts). We decided early on how we want to spend our retirement and our goal age for retirement. Will some of that shift through the years? Probably. But I knew we had the same financial goals before we got married and because we openly discuss it, I know we are still on the same page.

    While you can have on person paying the bills, the other person needs to at least see them. If not, there is a certain sense of “ignorance is bliss” that starts to form. If you don’t know how much is going out every month, why would you be stressed out about the bills? I learned this mistake from my parents, and I will not let it happen to us.

  5. Don’t Let Your Children & Life Trump Your Marriage

  6. I don’t have kids, so I’m not claiming to be any type of expert on how to balance the time between work, kids, schedules, life, and marriage. I probably won’t even know how to balance it all if/when I have children. But I watched my parents forget why they fell in love and become strangers passing in the night, because we trumped their relationship. Is there a certain part of me that will be forever in debt to them because they allowed this to happen? YES! But is there also a small piece of me that pains for them? Yes {insert sigh}.

    After my sisters and I left the house, I realized my parents didn’t really know each other any longer. They may have been married for over 40 years, but they were just “friends” at this point and maybe not even friends anymore. Did they love each other? Of course they did. But did they have any recollection of why they loved each other in the first place? Sadly, I don’t believe they did. So, per the suggest of my sisters and me, they began “dating” again – going on bike rides, dinners out, the movies, shopping together. Slowly but surely I feel like they are beginning to see what they really loved about one another when they first met. I think they are starting to “like” each other again. My dad is a kind and gentle giant who loves my mother to the moon and back. And, my mother is a hardworking, feisty, warm-hearted soul. Those are direct quotes from my parents people!

    So to make sure you don’t have to rekindle your love or lay in bed at night wondering who that person is next to you, keep the love going. Forget the laundry for a night and carve out time for just the two of you. Snuggle up on the couch together while watching television. Have relations!!! DO IT PEOPLE – literally do “it.” {giggling} Just make sure you never let the kids and life make you lose sight of why you married that person across the dinner table. Because once the children grow up, and they will, it’s just the two of you again. And you definitely don’t want that person to be a stranger.

There’s my five things. I could definitely make another five so maybe I’ll turn this into a 2-part series. I didn’t realize how much I really have learned from my parents until I started typing…funny how that happens.

Anything you’d like to add? Do you agree/disagree with me? Thoughts? I would love to get your feedback.

Linked up at: House of Hepworths, The Thriftiness Miss

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Claire @ A Little Claireification January 19, 2013 at 3:57 pm

Such a sweet, insightful post. I am coming up on 15 years of marriage this Fall and it’s always good to step back and evaluate things. We don’t really “fight” often but we certainly could remember to not argue in front of the kids from time to time!
Thanks so much for sharing!
xo,
Claire

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themcbaileys January 20, 2013 at 4:20 pm

I definitely don’t have as many years under my belt so I could definitely learn a thing or two from you! 🙂

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themcbaileys January 17, 2013 at 3:32 pm

The communications piece is still challenging for me, so I’m constantly working on it. Glad you found it helpful and hopefully you can put it to good use. Look forward to meeting you as well!! 🙂

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April January 17, 2013 at 3:11 pm

I’m not married or in a serious relationship but this is great advice. I am guilty of the communication tidbit, I really need to work on it. Looking forward to meeting you soon!

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Mia January 17, 2013 at 9:10 am

I really love this post! I think hubby and I are guilty of letting the kids/life/work trump our marriage sometimes. But I’m really trying to work on that, trying to find things to do with each other etc. 🙂

Great reminder, Megan!!! 🙂

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themcbaileys January 17, 2013 at 10:57 am

I think everyone is Mia! And that’s okay, just as long as you recognize it and make an effort to carve out some adult time for you guys. Glad I could be a gentle reminder. 🙂

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