The Minefield - Friendship, Dating, & Marriage - Bong Saquing

The Marriage Minefields

My wife, Karel, and I are going through a phase of life when many of our friends and acquaintances are getting divorced. I love Karel, but I will admit that there have been years where we've nearly fallen off that rocky cliff, times when, if we hadn't kept communicating, remaining patient, and bonding over our deep mutual love forGeneral Hospital, we might not have come through. For most guys, it's not the actual challenges life throws at you--it's learning how to deal with them. We just aren't encouraged to explore issues, like you ladies are, from an early age. For instance, my wrestling coach never suggested that I "cry it out" when things weren't working well with my sparring partner. It's been hugely eye-opening to learn that you can't muscle your way through hurt feelings. Based on my own experience, and that of other guys I know, I've come to the conclusion that there are a few years that are especially hard for men. They are...

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The first year.After the ticklish glow of the honeymoon wears off, realizing that you've just intertwined your whole life with another person's can come as a shock. Serious dating--even with its potential pitfalls, like meeting the parents and agreeing on whose couch to keep--is a magic carpet ride compared to the first year of marriage. Karel and I got hitched in our early 20s, which meant struggling through crappy apartments and even crappier jobs, the kind that came with name tags and pleated polyester pants. Then, amidst all that, you add a binding legal agreement that implies there will be no all-night benders after a bad day at work, because someone at home--someone with a ring on her finger--is worrying about you. There will be no more inappropriate flirting with your "office wife," because now you have a "real wife" who probably wouldn't approve or, worse yet, might start flirting with her "office husband," Steve, the one with the magnificent mustache and the really cool van. The first year teaches you that marriage is all about making sacrifices and considering the needs of someone else, like not blowing your entire paycheck on happy-hour shots for your coworkers, because those precious dollars are supposed to go toward an apartment that doesn't have a toilet in the dining room. (Yes, that was us.)

The year of the newborn.Whoa. Is there anything harder on your relationship than having a kid? For guys, the baby is always perfect--exhausting, but perfect--but the relationship with your wife post-birth is not. I know a lot of new dads who are freaked out by how small and delicate their newborns are, so they initially keep a distance, which creates all kinds of problems with their wives. Luckily that didn't happen with me, because my kids came out of the womb built like cinder blocks with big bowling-ball heads. They seemed pretty indestructible, even to a novice. Nevertheless, it was a brutal adjustment to go from being the focus of Karel's attention to a runner-up behind little baby Cinder Block. And to be painfully honest, for guys--most of whom, you'll be shocked to hear, are fans of sex--the whole no-intercourse during her recovery is frustrating. But here's a little secret: The hardest feeling to contend with is guilt. As a dude, you feel awful that your wife went through the physically traumatic experience of childbirth, that she spent nine months sacrificing her body and comfort for your family--and even though your baby is fat and cooing, you are annoyed that you're not getting any of her attention. Youknowit's selfish and petty, but that doesn't mean you can control it, which kicks off a cycle of being angry at your spouse and angry at yourself. In short, a difficult year, during which the only way to survive is to get comfortable with your feelings, even the rotten ones, and then just wait it out.

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The boring year.If you're lucky enough to make it unscathed through the whirlwind of being a newlywed and having a baby, to some degree things get easier. At least you'd think so, right? But we're guys. We grew up shooting each other with darts and listening to gangster rap, and frankly, settling into a domestic routine can be really dull. You're just sort of chilling in your nest, gaining weight, watching football, occasionally bathing, and forgetting all the lessons you learned about not taking your wife or family for granted. And when guys get lazy, bad things happen. The next thing you know, you're telling your buddy about how the 22-year-old intern at work makes you "feel so alive." I know this guy--he is embarrassing and sad. To quote my favorite VH1Couples Therapycounselor, Jenn Bermann, "A healthy marriage requires constant vigilance!" Wait--maybe I'm getting her mixed up with Professor Moody fromHarry Potter? Either way, it's good advice. Now that Karel and I have gotten past a lot of the early rough stuff, it's about remembering that even when it seems easy and the household is running smoothly, marriage takes effort. I firmly believe that we can always do better, and that's what I keep working for, and what you should too. That's how we've made it to our 11-year anniversary--and trust me,thatmakes me feel so alive.

Video: The Minefield - Friendship, Dating, & Marriage - Paul Tanchi

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