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8 Things No One Tells You About Marriage

7. You'll realize that you can only change yourself. continued...

Whatever our motives, the effort is exhausting. Transforming a full-grown man — stripping him of decades-old habits, beliefs, and idiosyncrasies — is truly an impossible task. And you will come to realize, sooner than later if you're lucky, that it is far easier to change the way you respond to him.

Here's a perfect case in point: "I used to go off on my husband because he didn't empty the sink trap when he cleaned the kitchen," says Kimberly Seals Allers, 36, of Bay Shore, NY. "It got me nowhere; my rants only made him resentful. Now I come home and when the kitchen looks clean, I'm like, 'Cool, now all I have to do is empty the sink trap.'"

8. As you face your fears and insecurities, you will find out what you're really made of.

I've got issues. Trust issues. Control issues. And others, I'm sure, that I've yet to fully discover. I guess I've always known I wasn't perfect. But in more than a decade of marriage, I've been smacked upside the head with the cold, hard evidence.

There were clues when Genoveso and I were dating, especially with the trust thing. Early on, I was supersuspicious of him. He used to say things like, "I'll call you at 8." Then, just to try to trip me up, he'd call at 8. I knew he was up to something, I just couldn't figure out what. The same kinds of experiences followed after the wedding. Except occasionally he would actually mess up. And I had no sense of scale when it came to rating his offenses; everything was a major violation. Whether he teased me about a new haircut or came home late, I seethed for days and even let thoughts of divorce creep into my head. I figured, if he loved me — really and truly — this stuff wouldn't happen.

I'd like to be able to say that this irrational behavior lasted only a few months and I eventually worked it out. Kind of, sort of, is closer to the truth. After years of looking deeply into my soul and talking to good friends and the best sister a girl could ever have, I've come to recognize certain things about myself. Not to get all Dr. Phil about it, but I've had to examine my history with an emotionally distant dad and a strong-willed mom and face up to all the ways, both good and bad, that those relationships have affected how I approach my marriage.

I still struggle as a work in progress. But I am completely clear in the knowledge that many of the deepest frustrations in your relationship are an opportunity for you to confront yourself. That can be difficult to accept — after all, it's so much more comforting to keep a running tab of your hubby's deficits and tell yourself that his failings are the only thing standing between you and a better marriage. But if you let it, this bumpy journey toward self-awareness can be one of the more fulfilling rewards of a committed, long-term relationship — you'll learn to love your quirks and be compassionate toward yourself, just as you're learning to do with him.

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