January 24, 2010

Nothing’s Perfect

Posted in Relationships tagged , at 7:28 am by Elizabeth Nixon

This is a hard post to write, because it’s so personal, and because when you’re an engaged couple, there’s so much pressure to be perfect. But Professor Paisley and I are the first to admit we’re not perfect.

This is the story of our wedding-that-almost-wasn’t:

We’ve been having communication/compatibility problems. Basically, if you’ve ever heard of the wonderful book Five Love Languages, we score completely opposite on the love language spectrum according to this book, a book that I think has quite a few things goin’ for it. According to these quiz’s, http://www.5lovelanguages.com/assessments/personal-profiles/ and http://www.afo.net/hftw-lovetest.asp, Mr. Paisley is a “Quality Time” and “Acts of Service” person–meaning he feels/shows love through one-on-one time and doing things like cooking/cleaning/taking out the trash, while I’m a “Gifts” and “Touch” person–meaning I feel/show love through little presents, surprises and lots of hugs and kisses. I scored near zero on Acts of Service, and he scored zilch on Gifts. So those are two areas we need to work on for each other, in order for us both to feel better loved, and better appreciated.

And while we acknowledged the things we needed to work on months and months ago, what with both our busy schedules (I earn the dough as a writer/journalist for eight to ten hours per day, plus have an intensive landscape architecture internship, and he is a full-time PhD student AND works the equivalent of a full-time job!) we let a lot of things slip by the wayside. I think BECAUSE we get along so well (we rarely fight, and when we do, we make up easily), and we DO have so much in common (a love of outdoor activities, senses of humor, love of literature and good conversation) we had put our relationship on autopilot, which is never a good thing to do. Relationships take a lot of nurturing, and we just weren’t giving it our all.

So, a month ago, in a heartbreaking discussion, Mr. Paisley told me he didn’t want to marry me in June–IF–we still had these issues. Instead, he wanted to postpone our marriage, and work out our issues. He wanted for me to cook dinner more than once per week, and to be less messy, and for him to remember to bring me flowers or take me on dates on occasion.

I felt my heart drop to my socks and back up to my esophagus when he uttered those words. I told him I would marry him tomorrow, and that I was happy. He said he would not marry me tomorrow if given the chance.

For a good two days straight, I felt like someone had died. I also felt like I was breaking up with my wedding–all the hard work down the tubes. To make a long story shorter, a couple of days later, Mr. Paisley took back what he had said in a heated moment, and we are working on our problems–yes, with the wedding date still set. I couldn’t be happier, although a part of me is very sad we had such a blow up, and that we continue to experience bumps on the road to an improved relationship. However, I am incredibly proud and happy that Mr. Paisley came forward so candidly about how he felt.

I have learned, from our experience, and from many of my married friends, that it’s common for one or both of the couple to have cold feet in the months leading up to a wedding. It’s an incredibly stressful time.

One tidbit of advice for anyone who experiences something similar? Don’t hastily shoot off emails to vendors asking whether it’s possible to get deposit money back (as I did). However, in doing so, I was pleasantly surprised to learn how understanding our vendors could be, and how many of them were willing to give back the deposits. It was with happiness, and exceeding embarrassment, that I emailed them “nevermind, we’re still getting married!” just a short two days after my initial email. The only reason I did it, was because I had JUST mailed in several large deposits–and I wanted to see if they would hold off on cashing the checks until we’d worked things out.

When it comes down to it, the crux of our situation was this difference of opinion: I felt that our problems were fairly common relationship problems, and nothing that couldn’t be worked out. I wanted to try to “schedule” things for each other to ensure they’d happen: i.e. I would cook dinner on a couple of set nights per week, and clean the apartment on a scheduled day each week, and also do an “act of service” for Mr. Paisley once per week–such as making him breakfast in bed or something like that, that would really show him how much I love him. In turn, we would schedule a “date night” once per week when Mr. Paisley would surprise me with flowers, a gift, or a romantic gesture. But, Mr. Paisley, during the early stages of our discussion, was adamant against having to schedule these things. He felt they should come naturally. But after much discussion, we compromised and agreed that to jumpstart our plan, we’d try having a schedule.

Mr. Paisley and Miss Paisley working on improving communication.

So far, I’m happy to report it’s going really well. I’ve been cleaning the apartment every other day, and made him breakfast in bed. Last night he took me on a date to Thai, and then to the dollar theater where we saw Where the Wild Things Are, during which we both fell asleep! What?! It’s pretty exhausting to be a young engaged couple!!!

Today, while he is at work, I’m going to do one of his favorite things (that I used to do only about once every two weeks or so, but am now going to do twice per week): find a yummy-looking recipe in his Spanish cookbook and make it as a surprise for him when he gets home.

As I think of the areas I need to improve upon as a person and a future wife, I sometimes wish I could be more like my Mom, who never failed to make a home-cooked dinner and sit the whole family down for at least an hour each night. Who makes her bed with hospital corners each morning, who cleans the house and creates a warm home environment with so much routine.

As a feminist, I’m not necessarily for being a housewife, but I admire women who do it, especially those who manage to do it WITH their husbands’ help AND have their own meaningful career or passion. Sometimes I wish I could be more domestically talented rather than domestically disabled. In our relationship, Mr. Paisley is the more domestically-inclined, so I’m hoping he can help me along and we can do many of these things together.

Have you ever experienced a bump in the road in the days or months leading up to your marriage? Do you have any tricks to share that helped improve your relationship?

Photos by Ashley Rose Photography.


1 Comment »

  1. Sara Wilson said,

    Admitting troubles in a relationship is difficult. Admitting troubles months before your wedding is even harder. But getting through this first test is the first proof that you can make it work. Marriage takes constant work. It takes constant commitment and effort from both sides. Your ability to communicate and talk through things will be your best tool to building a successful marriage and taking what may look like setbacks and turning them into building blocks. I also wish that I was more domestically talented, I also have the luxury of being with someone who’s domestically-inclined. It’s easy to take that for granted. But it sounds like you’re doing a fantastic job and have taken some giant steps forward. Keep up the good work and may all future conflicts be handled so gracefully!

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