Marriage: Take 2

The other day, a friend of mine remarked, “Don’t you remember when you vehemently said that you’d never get married again? Wasn’t that just a couple years ago?”  He was totally right.  I only knew him in the span of time when I had already been dating Mark, too.  I’ve been so swept away by life that I forgot that I felt that way.

I’ve been trying to reflect on what changed for me in the past couple of years.  I never really felt like I had role models for good relationships.  I would call my parent’s marriage a very traditional Bengali marriage, and that wasn’t what I wanted in life. I have some friend’s marriages that I think are great, but it’s weird to compare the relationship you’re in to the one with your friends.  I had this notion in my head that *I* was just bad at relationships and it wouldn’t really ever work out for me.  All of these things were factors in me thinking that I wouldn’t get married again.

One of the things I value the most in my relationship right now is the willingness to learn and be open-minded.  We’ve definitely had the fights where one person wants to get out of it “winning” and the other person is “losing”, but a lot of the things that would have previously been fights are now just what I consider “intense discussions.”  I call it that because it has more of an exploratory nature to it instead of a you’re right/wrong reactionary feeling.  We’ve adapted our speaking patterns to try to assume less of what the other person is saying and actually listening to why they think/feel certain things.  I can’t quite pinpoint when that shifted for us, and it’s still a work in progress, but I think it’s one of the most important areas of growth in our relationship.  Our fights used to be centered around Mark saying data-driven things and me saying feeling-based things, and then both of us reaching an impasse.  Not only have I grown to be able to think of data-driven arguments (and Mark understanding feeling-based arguments), but I’ve also been able to communicate better with people in general.  When I was putting together my unconscious bias talk, I recognized that many people have similar thinking patterns to Mark, and that I needed to structure my talk in a way that was understandable and relatable to that way of thinking.

Similarly, I’ve very much appreciated having someone who pushes my boundaries to grow while growing themselves.  I’ve definitely been on one side or the other a lot, so it’s very fulfilling to have a little bit of both.  A friend recently remarked that Mark was one of the most feminist guys that they knew, and that statement made me recognize a lot of the growth that has happened in the past couple of years.  I used to get really frustrated at people for not being on the same level as me — it was easy to fall into that mentality of “you’re either with me or against me.”  It took me a long time to realize that you have to talk to people where they’re at and then appreciate incremental change.  I can’t tell you how proud and happy I am every time that Mark calls someone out on sexism, racism, etc.  (Note: This isn’t to say that Mark was really sexist or racist before; it’s more about gaining awareness and taking an active role in defending and believing me).  Sometimes, I get frustrated when he calls me out because he’s too good at it, but at the end of the day, I’m glad that he holds me accountable to the person I want to be.

I’ve always struggled with being alone; I get bored and frustrated and sad.  I had always seen relationships where people were *always* with each other.  They didn’t go out places unless they went together.  Naturally, I thought that was a characteristic of a healthy relationship for a long time.  We struggled a lot between Mark being too independent and me being too co-dependent, but we reached a happy medium a long time ago.  I’ve learned that I’m much happier being more independent because I don’t feel guilty for not liking the things that he likes and vice versa.  Also, we have a wider friend circle because we both don’t have to absolutely adore a person.  In co-dependent relationships, I always felt like not liking something was akin to an attack on the other person’s personality, so this is a refreshing change from that.

So, after a little over four months of marriage, I can honestly say that married life is treating me well.  It sometimes feels like a competition over who can be nicer than the other person.  I often find myself doing things that I know would make Mark happy that I would normally be too lazy to do for myself.  I literally found myself getting frustrated at Mark when he bought me a purse for my laptop that I’ve been coveting for a while because I couldn’t think of a way to do something as thoughtful.  He had to tell me to slow down and just be thankful and let him win that one.  At the end of the day, I think we’re both winning.

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