Marriage Advice

What Mom Didn’t Tell You About Marriage

If you gave your mom a lot of heartache while you were a teen and the two of you didn’t get along that well, our bet is she would give anything to marry you off and send you packing. She’ll sigh (and maybe even snicker) that finally, your turn’s going to come.

And if you’ve had a smashing relationship with your mom, chances are she’ll also be rejoicing that you’re tying the knot so she wouldn’t have to worry about you as much. She’ll still worry a tad – mothers will always be mothers – but thank goodness you’re someone else’s preoccupation from now on. She does deserve some space. Even if mothers suffer the empty nest syndrome, we think that they’ve paid their dues and need to be given their freedom back.

Raising kids is a heroic task; actually it’s a thankless job that triggers premature aging. At least we’ve got this thing called “Mothers’ Day” which comes around once a year. Oh sure, when kids leave home to start families of their own, the nostalgia will set in – just for awhile though – and some mothers will rightfully say, “ah, she’ll get to know what it’s been like for me all these years.”

As you look back to your childhood and teens, do you remember if your mom ever talked about marriage? We don’t mean things like marriage 101 or suggestions on how to rein in your husband during a party in spite of half-clad seductive women milling about. Now that you have a husband, do you think there were things your mother didn’t tell you about marriage which she should have?

Were there revelations that she was too embarrassed to share with you? The reason we’re curious is we’re convinced that there were certain things that mom decided to keep to herself out of fear that you might make a 360 degree turn and renounce your rights to a marriage absolutely moulded in heaven. And remain at home indefinitely.

What mom didn’t tell you about marriage is perhaps her naughty way of letting you find out on your own what that man you married is really like. Since you’ve always been rebellious about her advice (“mom, please, let me do this on my own, I’m an adult remember?”) and insistent on doing it your way, she has kept a stiff upper lip over those little facts that you now wish she had told you.

No money left for perfume, only… Detergent. Yes, detergent.

You mean, mom didn’t tell you that for the first five years of the marriage and the first ten years of the mortgage, you’d have to stop spending money on Elizabeth Arden because you seem to be needing abundant tidings of Tide to scrape off the muck from junior’s pants? Mind you, Tide does not smell like Arden’s latest scent, but at least it comes in different flavours like breezy mountain and lemony lemon. You’d have to make do with that for the next decade of wedded bliss.

It used to be that your dresser was lined with the most expensive perfumes in the market and buying them one after the other didn’t hurt your pocket. Now your pockets are empty, every cent going into detergent and fabric softener and super stain removers because hubby’s shirts and tops reek of boardroom tobacco and hockey sweat.

Picking their noses in secret…

When you excitedly broke the news to mom that you finally met the man of your dreams, boasting that ideal husbands do exist in spite of her cynicism, did you notice how she tried so hard to suppress a giggle? Did you notice that look of pity on her face when you bragged that your future husband’s manners were impeccable – like he was born and bred in some upper class boarding school in Scotland?

And then a week after you settled in your new house, you walked into his study to ask him to come to bed…and you froze.

There he was hunched over his computer – his right hand on the mouse and the pointer finger of his left hand pushing up his left nostril like a Black & Decker power drill on maximum power. You stare at him in disbelief, and fight to hold back the tears.

“You’re treating this as though I deserve the capital punishment.”

“For crying out loud, Jim, you told me you went to private school.”

“I did, but what has that got to do with picking my nose? Don’t you know that 99.99% of the male population pick their noses, especially when working – makes them think better.”

“That’s disgusting. I’m not buying that. There’s tissue all over this house. Why can’t you use tissue like everyone else”?

“It’s not as effective as a bare finger.”

You walk out of the study and decide there is no way he’s going to run his fingers down your back again. You shudder as you think of your mom. She never complained about your father picking his nose. If 99.99% of males do pick their noses to boost their mental power, why didn’t mom tell you, you wonder.

Husbands too should have been warned!

Turning now to the men, are there things your mother didn’t tell you about marriage – well at least before you rushed out, spent four months’ worth of your salary, and knelt before her proclaiming your love and devotion and then popped the question? Couldn’t she have at least warned you that you were going to marry not only one woman, but also an entire clan of in-laws, great grand-parents, first, second and third cousins, and your father-in-law’s loyal and faithful barber from the Old World who expects to be fed lunch when he comes on Wednesdays?

Your mother was an expert in cross-cultural relations. Why didn’t she tell you that in some countries, you actually marry a truckload of friends and relatives? Your house turns into the town’s meeting hall. At the end of the day, your kitchen pantry is empty and your sink smells of so-called exotic flavours that stay in the air for days.

You come home after a gruelling time in the office, beat and nackered, expecting a delicious meal of steak and potatoes. Instead the missus puts a plate in front of you looking like a mosaic of colors and textures – culinary dishes you can’t even pronounce! You look back to the days when you enjoyed a bowl of mom’s old-fashioned stew. A man needs real, hearty food.

“What’s this, honey? Is the steak buried under this mound of grass?”

‘It’s vegetarian. Took me half a day to cook it. Trust me, this is good for your colon.”

“I love my colon, hon, but I’d rather fill my stomach. I’d like some meat and potatoes for a change.”

“Oh, stop whining. Your mom fed you too much meat. Aren’t you scared of catching mad cow’s disease”?

“Actually, if I don’t get what I want to eat soon, I’d be a raging mad cow myself. I want meat. You and your tribe can eat whatever you want – in my kitchen – but when I come home, I expect nothing short of bacon – the real McCoy, okay? I never liked grass, I told you that before we got married. Never mind the hoy poloy foods okay – just good old fashioned meat and potatoes for me.”

Of course, another thing your mom didn’t tell you about marriage is that the missus is easily offended if you don’t appreciate her culinary talents, hurries to the bedroom and locks herself and gives you the cold shoulder forever. The only way to win back her heart is to open your wallet…and churn out a fortune on a cocktail dress or Jacuzzi or something like that.

Speaking of wallets…

When you were dating your present wife, she used to say how proud she was of her financial planning skills – valuable lessons that her father taught her as a kid. “Dad used to say, if you can’t afford it, you can’t have it. Save your money first and then see if you still need or want it. Don’t go into debt because of instant gratification.”

That alone convinced you that the financial health of your marriage would live up to the approving nod of Barron’s or Fortune. Prudent personal spending means a nation of robust savers.

What your mother didn’t tell you about marriage, however, is that it almost cost your father an arm and a leg to fight bankruptcy proceedings because her credit card spending went beyond the ceiling.

“Your father was so livid with anger that you almost grew up without a father. He said either I give up my credit cards or he’s walking out of the marriage. With no money of my own, you’d think I’d be stupid to make him walk out just like that”?

You’re waking up from a nightmare. The cycle is repeating itself. This time, your wife who claimed to be a smart financial planner is turning out to be an assiduous one. By assiduous we mean that she’s applying her skills to the extent that would make your professors truly proud. Not a day goes by without her planning on spending money – yours, by the way, because hers ran out a few months before the wedding. All the money went to her plastic surgeon.

Why, just yesterday, your wife was talking about a cherry wood glass-stained cabinet. “It would be perfect for our crystal collection”, she said excitedly.

You had to park the car by the curb to tell her calmly that you don’t have a crystal collection, nor does anyone in the family have a crystal collection. Then she gives you this little girl look, puts her hand on your knee and says, “We ARE going to have a crystal collection. A shipment’s arriving from England in a week. That’s why I thought it was smart planning to order the cabinet days ahead.”

Naturally you begin to sweat because if your mother only told you what she DIDN’T tell you about marriage, this wouldn’t be happening.

“You know we have a mortgage payment coming up. Why couldn’t the crystal and cabinet wait until next year?”

“We have the option to skip mortgage payments.”

“We’ve skipped 6 already since the beginning of this year!” You say, glaring at her.

Your thoughts go back to your mother. You realize now why your parents never stopped fighting.

Is this the fate of the male species? They end up marrying women in the likeness of their mothers?

Why didn’t mom give you the essential briefing before marriage? She was good at talking about everything else so why didn’t she tell you things you needed to know about marriage?

Mom didn’t tell you things about marriage because…

The reasons are apparent. As kids, we used to express resentment and anger every time they gave their opinions. We’d complain about their unsolicited advice calling them out-of-date, cynical and interfering. For their part, they didn’t want to appear like they were opposed to the marriage because you would call them judgmental or closed-minded.

Another reason why mom didn’t tell you certain things about marriage was she didn’t want to sound like a dissatisfied, unhappy spouse. She has learned to accept whatever shortcomings your father had and took him in – warts and all – as her eternal partner in life. If you wondered at times why they slept in separate bedrooms, you would have realized later on that it wasn’t because they didn’t love each other anymore. It was more a question of nocturnal habits. He passed gas a few times during the night (imagine a wintry evening when all windows are closed), and she snored non-stop, making your father feel like his sanctuary and refuge turned into a busy bowling alley.

When you’re young, there are things about marriage you wouldn’t understand anyway, no matter how much your mom tried to tell you. You hit your 30s and you think you know enough about marriage so what mom didn’t tell about marriage was irrelevant.

It’s only when you marry and raise an unmanageable brood that you begin to realize that perhaps mom should insisted on telling you things about marriage. Or you should have been more willing to listen.

Besides, society needs more marriages – to outpace the divorce rate. And as one writer said, marriages are a good way to promote civilization: if you marry a good girl, you’ll be happy; if you marry a bad one, you become a philosopher

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