19 June 2012

Becoming a Mrs - Elizabeth from The Buergler E's

A while back Amy asked to guest post about "Becoming a Mrs" and all the hidden secrets of newlywed life.  Having been married for almost three years I had so many great ideas, so I bounced a few off my sister who is newly engaged.  She said she would love to read "something real" about married life...something no one will really tell you...so here it is!  A little about me, Elizabeth, and how I learned how to fight with my husband, Eric.

Eric and I had a fairy tale engagement and wedding. We could see the hand of God in every detail. We met through a mutual friend, dated for about two years and then he proposed during my Holy Hour of Adoration at our church. Those months and years were flirty, romantic, and fun.

Our wedding was extravagant. An evening wedding at Saint Brigid (where Amy is getting married!). Long satin gowns, lush bouquets, and 250 guests. Eric and I exchanged our vows before 3 priests, 2 deacons, and 1 seminarian (sing with me…"and a partridge in a pear tree"). For better, for worse. For rich, for poor. In sickness and in health. Until death do us part.
The late-night reception was simple and elegant. A dinner, dancing and an ice cream sundae bar. Guests partied until wee hours of the morning when Eric and I realized we were getting delirious and much in need of sleep.
A limo driver whisked us away to our secret hotel room…. (I'll stop there). The next morning we enjoyed a hot brunch in the company of our out of town family and friends. It was the perfect way to spend time with them because the wedding day was such a blur, as those things usually are. That afternoon we jetted off to California for a week of honeymooning.

That week was a whirlwind, and even the next month was too. Unwrapping gifts, moving my stuff to his our place, and sharing bottles of wine we brought back from California. We were living the married dream. But once the last of the boxes were unpacked, and the thank you notes mailed off, reality set in. We quickly learned that marriage wasn't just about champagne flutes and china patterns, but dirty dishes and piles of laundry. Marriage requires a LOT of work, and not just the physical housework kind. But the kind where we are always sharing the same small, private space . The kind where we need to consult each other on every purchase to meet our financial goals. The kind that requires phone calls to let the other one know where they are…and when they're coming home. The kind that requires learning how to fight.

I will never forget our first fight. I was home and Eric was meeting a few guys from work for a couple of drinks. No big deal, this happened a lot during our dating and engaged life. But I was waiting for him to get home…maybe a little too eagerly... and he was enjoying his time out with the guys ... maybe a little too much. A long afternoon of unanswered phone calls later, Eric finally arrived home. I laid into him. Screaming and throwing a fit about how and why he didn't answer the phone. Eric threw it right back in my face. And suddenly, every issue we had swept under the rug to keep the peace for the last eight months or so burst to the surface. We had never encountered a fight of this magnitude. I stormed out, slamming the door behind me. I jumped in my car and drove around town trying to cool off for an hour. Since we had never had a fight like this before, this seemed like the reasonable thing to do…just get out of each other's face/space. After I cooled off, I called him to see if I could bring home a peace offering of pizza and ice cream, but Eric did not answer. So, instead, I just drove home. I put my key in the door to unlock it, but Eric had locked the security deadbolt, thus locking me out of OUR apartment. I thought about going to my parents house, but if I did that, would that really solve anything? How would that look to my parents? When would I go home? ... Would I go home? After pounding on the door and yelling back and forth through it, he finally let me in, only to finish the fight, LOUD and PROUD. It was ugly, red faces and tears streaming, but we got through it several hours later. We learned a lot that day. We learned that we needed boundaries with time together and apart, boundaries with cell phones, and better rules for fair fighting.

 During our Engaged Encounter Retreat, one of the 7 sessions was dedicated just to fighting. Which we thought was odd at the time, but after this big blow out fight, we realized just how incredibly valuable this lesson was. We reviewed their ten rules for fair fighting (no name calling, don't bring up old fights, etc), and added an eleventh - no leaving the house. It made Eric feel abandoned, to which I replied that his lack of answering his cell phone made me feel the same way. That fight taught us invaluable lessons we still use today. We discussed how our parents fought with each other, how we fought with each of our parents, and how we wanted to fight with each other going forward. Sure we had fights while we were dating and engaged, but where to go to dinner and which postage stamp we wanted on the invitations were hardly REAL fights. We needed this REAL fight to learn how to fight, to learn what is worth fighting over, and how to communicate along the way so we could prevent future blow up fights! Fighting is inevitable, especially in new and/or stressful situations, but it doesn't need to get ugly. As we near three years of marriage, I am so thankful for that day. It opened up so many doors and windows into each other's heart and soul and has only strengthened our relationship. Sure it sucked at that moment, but in hindsight, it was worth it. Now we know our rules - no name calling, yelling doesn't make you a winner, one person can't leave the house unless you both agree, don't bring up past fights, and take a deep breath and start over. Ever since that first explosion we've been improving and have been able to prevent a lot of fights. I don't mean that now we sweep it under the rug to keep the peace (that is also a rule! None of that!), but rather we sometimes let it slide in the heat of the moment, but talk about it calmly a few hours or few days later. One of us will bring it up gently and lovingly; asking how, as a team, we can prevent the situation/reaction/decision etc from happing again. I try to use this formula that I learned in a communications session of a leadership conference, "I feel _____ when you _____ because _____" It enables me to get my emotions out on the table without harshly criticizing Eric. And when I use this formula, I often realize it's not necessarily what Eric's doing that bothers me as much as my reaction to it is out of perspective. At the end of a fight or discussion, we find it helpful for both of us to have an action item - something we both need to work on to prevent that situation from coming up again. And let's be real, most couples have the same fight over and over again. Having action items, if you actually do them, helps each subsequent fight become less intense and, hopefully, avoid future situations completely. Marriage is a work in progress. Don't give up! Put your pride aside for the greater good! Remember why you fell in love! And kiss and make up :)

3 comments:

  1. Hands down, this is one of the best marriage posts I've ever read. Everything is so true. Michael & I had a rough 2 years where he was unemployed, and all of our interactions were mostly just plain nasty. The fights, everything. It was bad. But next week we are celebrating 7 years together, and I realized the other day just how much we have learned about each other, about how to live together, and about what marriage is really all about. We are in such a better place now.

    It's amazing. So thanks for sharing. Because it totally made my day!

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  2. what a cute guest post!!!! such good advice and insight in there

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  3. Such good advice! Nothing I've never heard, but it's when I hear it applied that things like this tend to sink in for me. Having been married just shy of a year, without any major blowups, this has got me thinking about fair fights. My husband is huge on just laying it all out there right away, rather than stewing, which was hard for me at first (my family tends to bottle everything up), but it really does help to bring everything into the light! Thanks ladies!

    http://www.captivetheheart.blogspot.com

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