After the wedding
Hello sweetheart. Laden down with shopping bags, are you? My baby likes to shop like her mother does, and well, like her grandma too. Why is it that all the girls in this family get wild when let loose in a dress shop?
Are those the white shoes for the wedding? Whoa, they are so sparkly and so beautiful and so so you. You know, white and beautiful and innocent just like you are. And they do have that silver stripe, just like you have that fire in you. And they would match the wedding gown so perfectly. I can’t believe it’s just three weeks away. Can you, sweetheart? Can you believe that you will soon walk down that aisle, on your father’s arm, on your way to married life with Simon?
I’m so excited I almost cannot stand it. And if I am this excited, I can imagine you are almost crawling out of your skin with anticipation. Come take a seat and let’s have another girl talk.
Well, don’t look at me like that. I’m still a girl, am I not? Okay, okay, you can stop laughing now. I am still a girl, although I will be the first to admit that I am an old girl, one with deep wrinkles and laugh lines and gray hair.
And do you remember that gray hairs do not lie?
I want to talk to you about the wedding, but much more about the marriage. I can see that you are wrapped up in the preparations for the wedding and that you’d like the day to be special, the day you have dreamed of since you were a little girl. Remember all those sketches you used to make, of couples getting married? Remember how you used to draw your wedding gown and go almost crazy with the sparkles and sequins? You can’t wait for that perfect day, can you? That’s a good thing, a great thing, and I want that day to be perfect for you, a day that is made exclusively for my little sweetheart.
But even much more, let’s get you prepared for the marriage. You know the difference between the wedding and the marriage, don’t you? You are shaking your head. You are not sure about the difference?
Okay, let this big girl break it down for you. The wedding day is the day you get married; in your case that would be April 23rd, three weeks to today. And then the marriage would be your lives thereafter, your lives until till death does you and Simon part.
The problem with the world that we live in today is that couples are often so preoccupied about the wedding date that they forget to prepare for the marriage, the most meaningful part of the union between a man and a woman.
Sweet granddaughter, how prepared are you for married life? I believe you wouldn’t mind if I gave a few pointers, some lessons I have learnt in sixty years of marriage.
Are you a good listener? Can you hold your tongue long enough to really hear what Simon says? Have you learnt the art of patience, the art of listening more than you talk? Well, no one really told me about this, and I went into my marriage mouth-first. It was a good thing, is still a good thing that grandpa is the quiet type, the one who doesn’t talk too much. But do you know that even people that don’t talk much want to be heard once in a while? There are times when they just want you to shut up and listen to how their day had been, about the frustrations and triumphs they had, and about their dreams and hopes and fears for the future.
As I said, I entered into my marriage mouth first. While grandpa read the papers or watched news, I would be there beside him, talking about everything underneath the sun. I would talk about what the children did that day, and what I did, and even what my mother did. Even while he did his business in the toilet, I would be there, constantly talking.
And I found myself repeating the same things over and over again, until it hit me that grandpa usually tuned out most of the time and couldn’t usually repeat a word of all I’d said, even to save his life. So it happened that even when I had told him something important, it got lost in the midst of all the other junk I’d put out there.
Now, don’t get me wrong. It is good for a couple to have an open communication, to be able to confide our best and our worst in each other. Where I beg to differ is when one person does all the talking, when that person commandeers each and every conversation.
Baby, be the talker that you are, just like your grandma is. But there will be times when you will just have to shut up and listen to your husband. Give him the freedom to talk, give him the chance to be your best friend.
And you will have to learn the non verbal languages too. You will need to be able to read your husband’s moods, to communicate with him almost on a telepathic level, because I have since found out that the best communication sometimes are non-verbal.
What makes Simon the happiest? Does he like gifts? Then express your emotions to him by giving gifts. Does he like to hear how much you love him often? Then tell him. Does he value it best when you pitch in and help him with chores? Then do that. Does he just want to spend time with you and you alone? Find the time, honey.
Please baby, learn your husband’s non-verbal language and learn it fast. And teach him yours too. We women often assume that our spouses should know what we like instinctively. Well, they might not.
If you like your feet rubbed, tell him. If you’d like him to prepare dinner once in awhile, tell him lovingly.
And my dear, please, never become a nagger.
I have yet to meet a man who enjoys being nagged by his wife. When you tell him something once, twice, thrice, stop. Take the matter to God in prayer. Leave Simon be, because the more you harp on the matter, the more resentful he becomes. No man likes to feel like he is his wife’s wayward child.
Grandpa was never a particularly organized person. He’d come back from work in those days and fling his suit and shirt on the living room sofa. I would encounter his shoes in the corridor, and he never hung the towel back after bathing. I complained until I was apoplectic with rage, but that didn’t change him. When he came back from work, I’d greet him surly with the expectation that he was going to undress right there in the living room. And he’d reply right back surly. And then we’d have a strained evening, even when he remembered not to litter the house. It wasn’t worth it; it still is not worth it. I am still tempted to nag, but I don’t. And grandpa has improved. Even after sixty years, he is still not the neatest person in the world to live with, but we make it work. And his preoccupation with the evening news; that’s something I have learnt to live with.
All I am saying, baby, is that never go into marriage expecting to change someone. You have the capacity and power to change only yourself, yourself and yourself only. Simon will change, only when and if he wants to. If he doesn’t do dishes now, don’t expect that he will. If he is not a party person now, don’t expect him to become one. You can ask for a change from him, but don’t nag him if he doesn’t change the way or the time you want him to.
Love him as he is, with the knowledge and expectation that he can be better. But baby, love him as he is right now. Accept him, because he was never Mr. Perfect and he will never be.
Grandchild, you and your husband might disagree on as many things that you agree on. It is a given fact that you will quarrel. But never let a quarrel turn into a full blown fight. I know it’s hard, but it’s best not to go to bed angry. And if you do go to bed angry, try not to wake up angry. I know you have your father’s temperament, the one that makes you want the last word in any quarrel. Well, the thing is, that doesn’t work in marriage. When you disagree, let it be because you want the best of and for each other, and not because you want to prove a point.
I have found that when you leave self and pride out of a quarrel, better results are achieved. And the best marriages are those where the couple has never had a third party come in to mediate a quarrel. Endeavour to make peace with your husband each and every time by yourself. Don’t invite me into your marriage. Don’t invite your parents or your in-laws. Most especially, don’t ever invite friends into your privacy.
Will you take these words to heart, grandbaby? Will you go on this adventure with Simon with these words at the back of your mind? Will you do that much for me?
Thanks, love. Your grandma will always lift you and your home up to God in prayers. One day, I’ll look down from heaven and watch you celebrate sixty years of married life, seventy even.