IMHO Things You Should Know Before You Tie The Knot

Things You Should Know Before You Tie The Knot

Why do you “date” someone? Everyone has their reasons. For some, dating is a way of saying “I like you but I’m not ready for marriage yet,” and for others it’s a matter of “I like you but I don’t know if I like you that much.” To me, dating is an excellent way to find out what you’re getting yourself into.

The dating period lasts months for some and years for others, and that’s okay. Circumstances differ, but what I think shouldn’t differ are the things you need to know about someone before you marry them.

Their Political and Religious Leanings
Is your significant other liberal or conservative? How do they feel about abortion? Do they even care about politics at all? Even if you or your significant other isn’t hugely involved in politics, differences in political beliefs can turn into emotional arguments later. It’s okay to disagree with your SO, just make sure that you both are able to accept the differences. If you are fiercely pro-life and your SO leans toward pro-choice, it’s better to know that sooner than later. The same goes for religious beliefs. Some couples are perfectly fine having different religious beliefs, but this is something that needs to be established early on.

What Their Idea of “The Future” Looks Like
I am a two-kids, one-dog, white-picket-fence sort of person. This is my idea of “settling down” someday, but it’s not everyone’s. It’s easy to make the incorrect assumption that your idea of the future is going to perfectly meld with that of your SO, and once you get married everything will fall into place like a Disney movie, minus the singing animals.

This is so incorrect it’s not even funny.

Plans for the future can make or break relationships. If your SO is planning on traveling the world before settling down, and you can’t imagine leaving your hometown, this is something that you should probably discuss. Do you want to go back to school someday? Does your SO? These seem like issues that should be thought about later but they are really important. If your SO isn’t comfortable taking out loans for your Masters’ or you don’t want to travel the world, these things should be out in the open.

To child or not to child?
In the course of a normal dating relationship, you will probably find out at some point how your SO feels about children. If not, this is a must. IMHO, you should not only know about whether or not the other person wants children, but if they do, what kind of parent they will be. How do they feel about things like spanking or sharing their religious views with their children? If you’re actually considering spending your life with this person, they’re going to be your partner in everything, including parenting. Do your homework and find out what kind of parent you’ll be marrying.

“By the time my kid is 2, I’m going to have him on Rosetta Stone. And doing calculus. You can teach him that.” – Brandon on his parenting style. I’m feeling good about it.

How They Fight
When couples tell me they “never fight,” I have to shake my head. Fighting, if done maturely, is an important part of any relationship. Disagreements are bound to happen, especially after marriage when the stakes are high with issues like money, and how you and your SO handle them can be key to whether or not you stay together ’til death do you part. This is something you need to know before you commit.

If your SO fights by lobbing insults, put-downs, or refuses to talk at all when he/she is angry, this is something you should be aware of. Fighting dirty now might not be a concern when it’s over something small like whether or not you were checking out that guy, but it can be damaging later on. Fighting “better” can be learned, but I think it should be done before you’re living together and sharing a bank account.

What They’re Like At Their Worst
When you’re first dating someone, you want to always put your best foot forward. You dress up for dates and use your best manners. Eventually, if you’re together long enough, this completely falls apart, and you end up seeing the other person for who they really are. Sometimes you end up seeing them at their complete worst. I’d highly recommend this.

Though I can’t really say Brandon has a “worst” (his hair always looks good), we’ve been through some high-stress situations together. There was one time where we were stuck in New York and I missed my bus and literally everything that could go wrong, did. We were both mad and tired, and it was interesting to see how we handled things. I was glad to see that when we’re both at our worst, we can still manage to work as a team. I’d rather know that now.

Not only have we seen each other at our angry “worst,” we’ve seen each other at our “appearance” worst, too. He has had the pleasure of hanging out with me in the hospital, when I was all icky and probably smelled like hospital mashed potatoes and had to be hooked up to a giant IV pole. We’ve seen each other when we’ve been camping, where we both haven’t showered for upwards of three days. It’s important to see each other this way because life isn’t always going to give you time to primp before your day, and when you’re married, you’re going to see each other at your worst eventually. It’s nice to have done it up front and know that you’re still okay with your SO at the end of the day and that they will still hang out with you and love you even if you smell weird.

How They Feel About $$$
Money is the root of all evil, right? It’s also the root of many marital disputes. How good is your SO at managing their money? Do you want to share bank accounts? What’s more important: a big house or money to travel? While you don’t have to discuss the specifics, get a general idea of your SO’s thoughts on money before tying the knot and marrying your bank account to theirs.

What Their Quirks Are
This isn’t nearly as important as the other points I’ve mentioned, but I think it’s still important. I know that Brandon takes a half hour after he gets out of bed to actually “wake up,” and that I should save my somewhat over-enthusiastic morning person talk for after this period of time. He knows that I eat potato chips with my pinky up and that I never wear closed-toed shoes unless I absolutely have to.

While these things are not marriage make-or-break issues, I think it’s part of that whole “dating is knowing what you’re getting into” thing. Not only is it good to know what the other person’s quirks are, I think it’s what makes dating someone so special. You get to know the things that not everyone else knows about that person, and you find out that no matter how weird you are (I’m really weird, let’s be honest), someone in the world still thinks you’re awesome.

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I’m certainly not a marriage expert or a dating expert, but I just think there are some things you should know about the other person before you decide they are okay enough to live in a nursing home with someday. For those of you that are married, what are your thoughts? Are there things you wished you’d known beforehand?

Xoxo, Taylor

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No, This Lovesick Twelve-Year-Old and I Do NOT Have Anything in Common

I have a boyfriend.

I really hate telling people that.

It’s not that I’m not completely happy in my relationship. I would yell about my love from rooftops if I were less accident-prone or put “Brandon + Taylor” on a huge blimp if I weren’t a financially-dependent college student on a budget. I’m not one bit shy about talking about my other half, as you’ve probably seen on this blog.

The thing I hate about telling people I have a “boyfriend” is the word “boyfriend.”

I was reminded of how much I dislike that word the other day when I was reading a blog post about “the stages of a relationship.” According to the author, the “boyfriend/girlfriend” stage is a fanciful stage, where you text each other cute things and give each other googly eyes 24/7 and don’t talk about serious things like your future and the fact that he’s Catholic and you’re not and it will never work out.

This is how I feel most people think about the word “boyfriend.” And this is why I don’t like using it.

“Husband” and “wife” are special words reserved only for those who have committed themselves to each other in a very serious and even legally binding way. But “boyfriend” or “girlfriend?” Those words can be used by literally anyone.

I take my relationship seriously. It’s much more serious than overtly mushy Facebook posts and pet names, and it’s a lot deeper than sharing the same favorite Chinese food (sesame chicken, obvi) or liking the same songs. I find it a little upsetting that I have to give my relationship the same title that fifth graders give to that boy they swing on the swings with, or that middle schoolers give to the girl they awkwardly share popcorn with at the movies.

When it comes to our love lives, this random twelve-year-old and his “girlfriend” and my boyfriend and I have nothing in common. Telling people I have a boyfriend feels to me like they’re not getting the whole picture. The word doesn’t really encapsulate commitment or depth or the length of time we’ve spent together.

In having this mental vent sesh the other day about the word, I began pondering what else I’d say. What would I rather call us? How do you describe a relationship that’s really serious but not marriage? Here are some of my ideas. As you can see, my brainstorming session didn’t really yield much.

  • “Serious boy/girlfriend”: This is more accurate, but sounds much too much like you’re trying to prove something. “Hi, this is Amy, my super serious girlfriend. We’ve only been together for two weeks but we are basically inseparable and our love will never die.”
  • “Significant other”: This sounds like you’re filling out a tax form. “This is Brandon, my significant other. I’d like to claim two deductions and my social security number is as follows.”
  • “Soulmate”: This is the perfect way to make that office Christmas party super awkward. “This is my soulmate, David. Our auras have melted together and our favorite activity is talking to each other telepathically.” (I do believe in soul mates, but the word is a little heavy for daily use)
  • “Special friend”: This is usually what older people call their new S.O. when they introduce them to the family. “Grandpa, who’s this lady?” “This is my special friend, Georgette.” No, just no, for so many reasons.

Relationships are hard to define in a word. There are dating relationships that are more full of love and commitment than marriages, and there are probably 12-year-olds somewhere in the world who are just as in love as I am. It’s hard to wrap up your feelings for another person and place them in a title.

For now, I’ll settle for “boyfriend” and “girlfriend.” If people want to assume that our relationship is akin to that of two middle schoolers, so be it, because there’s no way I’m calling Brandon any of the things listed above, even if he is my most specialest friend.

What are your thoughts on relationship titles? Does yours fit?

Xoxo, Taylor

Anxiety and Relating to Others

If you’ve read my post on anxiety, you know that anxiety is something I’ve been managing and working through for a long time. In preparing to blog today, I was surfing the internet, hoping for some inspiration. I went to Cosmopolitan magazine’s website, figuring I’d find something humorous and blog-worthy among their (presumably) terrible Valentine’s Day suggestions, but instead I found this: an article entitled “11 Ways Anxiety Disorders Make Dating Harder.

I decided to click, thinking I’d be entertained, but instead I was offended. Anxiety, in my view, isn’t a joking matter. Interestingly, the article was written by someone with anxiety, and most commenters responded positively. Maybe I just can’t take a joke. But anxiety doesn’t necessarily mean pill-popping, chugging wine, and “overdramatizing” everything.

So I’d like to offer my own commentary (sans GIFs and broad overgeneralizations) about what it is like to be in relationships (platonic and romantic) when dealing with anxiety.

Being in a relationship with anxiety means it’s hard to separate your feelings from anxious thoughts. When something upsets me (a friend won’t return a call, etc), I can’t tell sometimes if it’s an issue a normal person would be upset about. I think I’m upset, but then I wonder if I’m just assuming the role of a mind-reader and guessing that they hate me/don’t care about my feelings (symptom of anxiety), and then I question whether or not I’m upset at all. The logic becomes circular, and after awhile I have no idea which is right, and if I’m thinking clearly or not. Pair this with the fact that I’m not a confrontational person and it becomes hard to approach conflict because I don’t know which of my feelings are even reasonable or actionable.

Having anxiety in a relationship also makes it harder to accept the statements of those around you at face value. I tend to be a self-doubter, and so I often find myself questioning if compliments received are genuine, if those around me mean what they say, if my friends are really my friends or if they’re people who think I’m weird but have taken pity on me anyway. I am so lucky to be surrounded by people who I believe genuinely care about me, but I have to constantly remind myself of this, as anxiety causes me to question everything.

Not only does anxiety make relationships difficult in its manifestations, it makes having relationships with those who don’t have anxiety hard. If you haven’t experienced it, it’s hard to understand what it feels like. Those with anxiety can’t understand how I can say I know my thoughts are irrational, but simultaneously allow them to impact my mood. They can’t fully comprehend why sometimes I feel sick to my stomach and downcast for no tangible reason, why I sometimes have trouble dealing with things that other people would bounce back from quickly. They always try and understand, and I appreciate that more than they know. It still makes things hard.

With awareness comes power, and so these are things the person suffering from anxiety can manage. Anxiety does not mean I’m doomed to have unsatisfying relationships or to be alone forever, it just means that relating to other people can sometimes be a challenge. If you yourself have struggled with anxiety, I’d love to hear your feedback on how this mirrors (or completely doesn’t mirror) your experiences. If you know someone with anxiety, I hope this gave you a greater sense of what it’s like. I’d love to hear your comments too.

Try Pretending Like You Don’t Know Anything

“It’s not enough to be an expert at something. Sometimes you have to have the wisdom and experience to pretend like you don’t know anything.” – Pulitzer Prize finalist and award-winning journalist Binyamin Appelbaum

Mr. Appelbaum gave this word of advice during a speech he made last night at a campus event, and it really stuck out to me. While he was referring more specifically to being an excellent journalist, his words ring true regardless of domain.

The application of this to career seems salient enough. Those who are truly excellent in their fields are good at playing dumb. They’re good at going back to basics, and catching the things everyone else has missed because they’re busy doing something much more complicated. Everyone else is trying to figure out which formula would work better while the true expert has realized there’s a number mistyped.

I found his advice to be logical in the area of career, but I think where it really struck me was in an area perhaps Mr. Appelbaum had not thought of: relationships.

How often do we assume we are “experts” in our relationships with others?

It’s so easy to make snap judgments about those around us and their feelings, especially when they are people that are close to us. We do this almost without thinking about it. “Oh, I said this, my friend said this, I responded like this, and he ended the conversation. He must be upset. Typical reaction.” We assume that we know the thoughts and feelings of those we engage with closely because it only seems logical. “She’s my sister. Of course I know what she thinks of….”

While it seems so comfortable to make these judgments and it sure makes us feel like we’re super-smart, I think there is a lot of value in “pretending like we don’t know anything” about the people around us. Without invoking a strange “shrink-like” feeling (“So, how does that make you feel?”), what would happen if we stopped assuming and started asking?

Friends have told me that I’m a good listener, and I think it’s because when I’m actively listening, I’m asking a borderline obnoxious amount of questions. So, a big life change happened to you. I’m assuming you were super excited, but were you? Were you a little nervous too? How did it make your family feel? etc, etc. These are the kinds of questions we so often forget to ask, and I still don’t ask some people these often enough.

Not only do these questions make the people in our lives feel understood and valued, they serve to help us understand our relationships better and to strengthen them. I send my friend a text that’s a little snarky, and she doesn’t reply for a day. I automatically assume she’s angry and so I get annoyed, because I’m an expert and I always know how my best friend acts when she’s angry. If I were to only ask her about my comment and how she felt about it, I might find that I was completely incorrect in my thinking, avoiding what could be an unpleasant situation entirely.

The example I just mentioned is a little simplified, but the message is clear. We ask people about their lives but rarely ask them about what really makes them unique: how they see the world and perceive and internalize the events that happen around them.

As you go about your day, think about how often you’re asking and how often you’re assuming. Because you know what they say about “assuming….” it keeps us from having meaningful conversations with those around us. Oh, and it makes an ass out of you and me.

**Note, the quote from Mr. Appelbaum was slightly paraphrased from his speech.