How My Life Has Changed Since Getting Married.
As many of you know, I got married nearly two weeks ago. The wedding was beautiful, the temperature and sunlight were perfect for photos, the food was exactly the way it was supposed to be, the music and celebration were awesome, and the girl… Oh my, the girl. Words cannot describe the girl.
Most people would likely claim that getting married will change a relationship. Depending on who I asked randomly on the street, some could be quoted saying marriage has a negative impact on relationships, and might compare it jokingly to a prison, and a spouse to a “ball and chain.” Some, however, will argue that marriage has many benefits and complexities that will only create problems if you let it. They’ll say that fundamentally, your relationship and love for one another is the same, but the changes that life brings makes for a curveball here and there that will alter the way both people are forever.
Now I’ve only been married for 12 days so far, so I can’t really speak at all about how married life affects people. What I can say, however, is that I don’t feel any different than I did when I wasn’t married. At least, not yet. Hang and I, in my opinion, did everything right in terms of our relationship, and our lives have changed in a rather minimal way since being married. I’ll take you through a few things that I believe caused this:
1) We were together for a long time
The investment of “time” has been a good one in our relationship. Having been together for over four and a half years already, we have a great understanding of each other, have the experience to deal with various ups and downs already, know the tastes and preferences of one another, and have developed a firm grasp on each of our strengths and weaknesses. We know each other better, simply because of being together a longer period of time than many newlywed couples.
2) We’re from completely different backgrounds and cultures
Many people may think that being from completely different backgrounds is a negative thing. After all, if my wife comes from the same place as I do, both culturally and geographically, then surely they would have a better understanding of me, right? While this claim comes based on some solid evidence and common-sense, being from entirely different cultures has its advantages too. For starters, we’re ALWAYS learning, and things are never boring.
Even though I’ve known her for nearly half a decade, I’m still discovering simple things about her that I would have easily known already had I been in a relationship with somebody that grew up near me. While others are spending time comparing themselves to one another, we spent a large portion of our time simply learning who we were in other ways. For example, instead of asking my new girlfriend what movies they like or something similar, and having that small-talk conversation starter hopefully take off into something more, we first began learning cultural differences between our likes and lifestyles. We learned about how our lives and beliefs differ in a more broad way, learning about a changing lifestyle between a nation of people rather than individuals. Our learning has more potential than most couples, and as a result, there are always more things to learn and adapt to… and (going back to number one, which I’ll do often) since we’ve been together so long, and have had time to feel each other out as far as how learning new things about each other works, we naturally find one another more interesting than people from our native countries.
3) We spent lots of time apart.
This doesn’t mean we broke up and got back together a lot. It means we lived in a long-distance relationship. It wasn’t as long-distance as some try to make theirs (like an internet relationship between people living in different states). Instead, we started out living quite close together, but with college, I had moved two-hours away for school. We saw each other on every other weekend, or as close to that as possible. This is the “time apart” I’m referring to. It’s purely geographical.
As much as people love spending time together, spending time apart has helped a lot in our relationship, and it’s played a large part. If you’ve ever been in a relationship with a “clingy” person, you understand how frustrating it is when your significant other becomes too attached to you, physically, not just emotionally. They are no longer themselves, and seem to be only interested in you, and what you like, and what you want to do. They lose their individualism, and thats a very bad thing. We want to retain our individualism. That’s the entire reason we love one another in the first place.
At our wedding, we had a sand ceremony. During this ceremony, we each hold our own vases of sand, each with a different color. For ours, we had turquoise sand, and coral sand. These were our two wedding colors, so that made sense. The vases of sand, and the individual colors, signified the individuals that were present at the wedding. We are unique people, with our own goals, passions, ideals, beliefs, and personalities. It’s the entire reason we love one another in the first place. We don’t want each other to change… we simply want them to remain who they are, and be with us forever.
The wedding, however, was about uniting two people still. So, on a table in front of us, was another larger vase. Together, we slowly poured our sand into this vase, going one at a time and taking turns on the pouring to insure that multiple layers would be formed in the sand. This creates a metaphor in two ways. Firstly, the large vase represents our lives together from that point on, and we are both a part of it. Both colors (both of us) are now merged into a single life. Two lives (two vases) have become one. This sand, and all of the grains within it, will be impossible to separate. You cannot “un-merge” the sand. However, we poured in layers, so while we can never separate the sand within the vase, we can still plainly see the individual colors and layers within it. Even though we are together, we are still individuals, and can be easily seen as individuals within.
This is exactly what time apart has done for us. It has allowed us to live our lives, and pursue our own goals and interests without getting in each other’s way. A common problem that people who live together will face, is that the goals and needs of one person conflict with the needs of the other. We didn’t have this problem early on, and it’s not until now when our relationship has matured, and our individual careers have started that we have to worry about something like that happening. We are more prepared for such conflicts, and are able to handle them with minimal problems.
4) Our families like us
This one is actually something that many couples cannot say, and while I cannot actually speak completely about this yet (her family will fully meet my family later this year), I can say that each set of parents likes us being together. Having total family approval is very important for any relationship to survive happily.
I won’t say it’s easy. There a usually hoops that must be jumped through, and details outside of your own personal norm that you have to adjust for, but gaining the approval of parents is critical. I’ve been trying to adjust my attention to some details for years, and it wasn’t until the actual wedding day that I actually felt as though I had met the criteria to actually be completely welcomed. One challenge of being with a woman from another culture, in my experience, is adjusting to the way of life of that other culture, and accepting that not everything will be the same. Some of the core values your culture lives by on a daily basis may be something that is simply overlooked lots of times by the other. Things like saying “hello” and “goodbye” in a certain way, or addressing certain people by a certain title rather than how you would normally address them.
I can again reference number one when I say that having spent a long time together already, we’re much more able to defend against these conflicts and problems. We have a firm understanding of each other, and because of a strong bond built on trust (from long distance) and time investment, everything is handled much easier in this area.
5) We have no conflicting political or religious views
In this day and age, perhaps even more so than with previous generations, political and religious views can cause problems between individuals. Even worse, these are areas in which a fully-grown human mind cannot easily adjust. Even when presented with concrete evidence against their own viewpoints, an adult will use such opposition to strengthen their own position, rather than think objectively outside of their own narrow minds. It is an instinctual development that is engrained in everyone who doesn’t pay attention and learn to control it.
In regards to Hang: She’s simply not political. She isn’t from this country, and has grown up not knowing about things that happen here. As a result, she just doesn’t care much (although at some point when becoming a citizen, she may in the future). There are also no religious conflicts between us, because there is simply no religious context between us. One of the most wonderful things about Hang is her lack of religion. It makes conversational reasoning and logical conversations between us so much better, and I don’t feel like I’m speaking to a robot that’s been regurgitating stories from her childhood over and over again. Our relationship is healthy being based around reality, standing firm with morality at the forefront, surrounded by family values and a love of family, and enjoying the presence of one another and time together, unobstructed by external requirements and rules brought forth by archaic teachings.
Not that there is anything wrong with being religious… but if you are, you’re now limited to people who don’t conflict with you. If you’re both happy, that’s cool. Religion has huge benefits, as far as fulfilling oneself and being happy in life… but it will be harder if the person you love doesn’t share it with you. Much harder.
6) We both moved into a new place, and we both lived with each other shortly before getting married
I’ve heard from numerous people, and have even read online as well, that couples who mutually start fresh do much better in the beginning stages of marriage. If one person moves in with the other, it can get a little messy and awkward for the couple, because one person has their environment exactly as they like it to be, while the other one is, quite literally, coming into that other person’s environment to change things. If I had moved in with Hang for this marriage, I wouldn’t feel like the place was mine as well as hers, even though my stuff was there too. I would feel as though it was her space still, and I was simply occupying it with her. I may not feel like i’m free to adjust things in this environment to better suit what I want.
Alternatively, if I was comfortable with the move, I may adjust the environment too much for her, and what used to be a solid routine for her has now been obstructed by a new person’s wishes. The environment she was comfortable with and potentially loved, now has been modified in ways she may not have liked. This creates early conflicts that are much harder to get through then what Hang and I did. We built our own environment from scratch.
We shopped around for apartments, checking listings to see which were in an area we’d like, in a price range we’d be satisfied with. We then visited the locations together, and moved our stuff into our chosen place at the same time. Effectively, we were both sculpting our environment together, and creating something as a team. This resulted in a much more fluid transition, since we genuinely felt as though it was “our place” having done it all together as a team.
We also did this a month BEFORE the wedding. This allowed us to get used to living together early, and gave us time to get all of our stuff moved in and sorted about before our wedding. Now we’re able to begin our married life together without much “moving” left to do, making it an even easier transition again. We make a good team.
That’s what we are. We’re a team now, and our relationship hasn’t changed all that much since being married. At least, it hasn’t for me. Sure, I have a ring on my finger now (which takes getting used to), and I can now call her, and refer to her as my wife (also takes getting used to), but I still care just as much about her, still love her, and still act and say the same things as I’ve always said… I just say them a little more often. We also get to see each other more often now, but since we were living together before getting married, things seem similar to when they were before the wedding. The act of moving in together changed things before being married, so now that we are, we don’t really blame the changes felt on being married… just moved in together. It’s a great feeling so far, because we’re super comfortable being married, love the life we have so far, and we STILL haven’t even done the whole “honeymoon” thing yet!
… we’ll get to that in a couple months. :)