Jumping The Broom: Marriage Facts Nobody Told You
(BlackDoctor.org) — The movie Jumping The Broom is currently out in theaters, meaning that, after the ending credits roll by, there will be much conversation about the state of Black marriages today. Are Black marriages stronger or weaker than they used to be? Who are we marrying? Are we still getting married, or are more of us just sitting at home alone? Are we still even capable of happy unions?
But mostly, miles away from all of the Black marriage myths and all of the negative relationship statistics and stereotypes, most people really just want answers to the same question: what does it take to be happily married today?
By the time you decide to get hitched, you may think you know everything there is to know, right? Well, guess what? Married life often turns out to be full of unexpected joys…and disappointments.
“People are surprised that even in this most intimate relationship, there’s a lot that still needs to be discovered,” says Kim Lundholm-Eades, MS, a marriage and family therapist.
Those Little Things DO Matter
“Many couples say that what surprised them most about their marriage is that they really have to address the little things that are irritating them, which is the opposite of what you hear in the media about letting the small stuff go,” says Terri L. Orbuch, PhD, author of 5 Simple Steps to Take Your Marriage from Good to Great and a research professor at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research.
In various long-term studies, couples have reported that small irritations – like never loading the dishwasher or always being late to the movies — became big issues if they didn’t talk about it.
“It’s very important to talk about what’s irritating you in a nonthreatening way and to compromise. Don’t let these things fester.”
Your Families Matter More Than You Think, Too
Once you’ve endured a couple holiday meals with your future in-laws, you may feel that you know how to negotiate your relationship with them. But doing so can still be surprisingly hard. If personalities clash, there’s a forced desire to instantly bond that just doesn’t feel comfortable, one or more parents disapprove of the marriage, or even if the wife decides not to change her name, there can be lasting tensions that take a very long time to ease away – both with the family and within the marriage.
Some people are most surprised by how much their marriage is like their parents’ marriage.
“Couples often underestimate the role that each individual’s family history plays,” says Lundholm-Eades. “They vow that their marriage will be different from their parents’ marriage, and then are surprised and often horrified by the similarities. They may argue about finances, for instance, or make failed assumptions about the division of household chores — just like their parents did,” she says.
Marriage Equals More Work, Not Less
It may seem obvious, but there is twice as much that you go through when you’re married: all the emotional ups and downs, job-related successes and anxieties, medical issues, family commitments and celebrations and conflicts – everything doubles.
This sharing is what makes it a deeper relationship. But it’s surprising how this doubling is both rewarding and more taxing,” David says.
Orbuch says the couples she studied didn’t know, when they were first married, that life would get so busy and stressful that sometimes they’d put their relationship on the back burner. “The more roles and responsibilities you take on, the less you can give to any one of them,” she says.
The couples told her they learned to make an effort to talk about something other than the kids, work, or maintaining the household. They could reconnect, even if they were stressed, by regularly talking about other important things, such as their feelings, goals, and dreams for the future.
Compliments & Celebrations Are Mandatory
Experts say they’ve been surprised to learn how essential it is to long-term happiness to compliment your spouse and to celebrate his or her achievements.
“Look for opportunities to get excited about your partner’s successes,” says Arthur Aron, PhD, professor of social psychology at Stony Brook University. “It really strengthens the relationship. And research shows it’s even more important than supporting your partner when things go badly.”
“We found that it’s so significant if you feel your partner frequently makes you feel special, cared for, and loved,” says Orbuch. “You can do this by complimenting your partner, thanking them for helping around the house, or saying simple things like: “I would still choose you if I had to do it all over again,” she says.
Marriage Isn’t A Magical Potion
Unfortunately, many people get married thinking that it will magically fix all their problems and, in general, make them happier people. But after the excitement of setting up house and getting married, couples are surprised to feel the same old frustrations.
For example, if you don’t like your job, marriage won’t change that. Even if your relationship makes you happy and you’re truly in love, you’ll still need to continue working on the other parts of your life. Being in love and having someone’s love don’t make your problems go away.
Also, Aron notes that people are sometimes dissatisfied with their marriage when the real problem is that they’re depressed or have other problems in their life.
If you’re unhappy in your relationship, he says, it makes sense to look at how the rest of your life is going. “You can always find excuses in what the other person is doing if you’re feeling bad,” Aron says.
The Two Of You Can Survive More Than You Think
Many couples say that the fact that they’ve survived so many challenging situations, and somehow moved on to others, is something that continues to surprise them.
Getting through a particularly tough situation together can put things in perspective, says David Halper, MA, a marriage and family therapist.
“When a big issue like a serious illness arises, couples often realize that their disagreements that seemed so important are really trivial,” Halper says. “And this renewed perspective can be the catalyst for a more positive, intentional relationship focused on what the couple truly values.”