Marriage: What You Learn Over Time
Today marks 13 years of marriage to the man currently snoozing next to me. Dates on a calendar can provide some great reason for a devoting some time to whimsy and reflection. This year and this anniversary date for us is no exception. Thirteen is the year of good luck, bad luck or anything in between depending on how you look at it. Our life together has been nothing but a lot luck and even more hard work mixed in.
I met Le on a Friday evening, in the middle of an Oklahoma July. It was hot, even after the sun went down and I was sweating like only an arid summer in the south can do. I was standing inside a softball complex only because as a second year law student, my baby sister was beside herself with my level of monotony. She continued to rant that I would die in the law library, only to be discovered at the bottom of a fallen stack of books.
I did not want to meet a boy, as there was no time for it and I had plans. Actually, I had big plans. I wanted to be the first woman governor of the State of Oklahoma, after writing political speeches for a decade (I felt I would need the practice).
He was with mutual friends and I thought all at once he was the most beautiful thing I had ever put eyes on. He also appeared to be the biggest jack ass my side of the Mississippi. It was intrigue and disgust in one swooping instance.
Fast forward a month and we were on our first date. I knew I was done with any other boy the second he began quoting the movie “Dumb & Dumber” to me. Three days later I officially moved in to his place and we announced to everyone we were getting married less than a year later. That was fifteen years ago this past summer.
My fellow writer and friend, Hannah Sheats was married last year and she penned a beautiful recount of her 365 days as a wife. And it got me thinking: what does more time inside of a union teach you about marriage?
The answer is simple: nothing.
There is no more love between Le and I now than there was when we said “let’s do this” all those years ago.
Now time definitely complicates things, it shows itself with more challenges, and then there is the aging of everything including yourselves. But the things that brought us together on our first date continues to bring us back to one another, day after day. I would even argue that love does not grow, wane or die inside of a marriage, no matter the length.
The level of love in the beginning, remains the same throughout. As long as all the other ingredients are present.
My father was fond of saying that if love was something you could buy it would be like eppervescent nose spray. It would come out of the bottle and into the air and dissipate. Instead, he said to focus on respect, kindness, patience and loyalty. These traits, he said, would be priceless if bought with money and when simmered together would create a salve that could bind two hearts on earth forever. The salve is what remains when there seems to be waning love.
Here is what does happen inside of thirteen years:
Jobs are quit or lost or both. Money gets your account flush for five minutes and you feel like kings. Then it gets so tight the only spending decision you can make are whether to have shrimp or ramen noodles for dinner.
People you both love will die. Couples you spend copious amounts of dinners and drinks with will split up and you both are left with “who do we even call to go out with now?” You will learn how to grieve and allow the other to grieve in their own way. You will also learn that eating together is more fun than any other dinner dates.
Both of you get tempted in one way or a thousand that could possibly destroy the “us” in your relationship. Whether its another person, the allure of “so & so has it better”, an addiction to self, your cell phones or putting anyone (especially your kids) ahead of your spouse, there is always more pulls to look away from your spouse.
Continue to look in their eyes first before seeking approval from anyone else.
Respect their opinion, reach for them when you least want to and say “I’m sorry” and mean it.
There are late nights of fighting, making up, making love and fervent worry over a million little nothings. There are early mornings of cars breaking down, emergency room visits and one thousand texts between you saying “I’m going to be late.”
The more time you make for sex, the more sex will happen. Initiate it more than you turn it down. It is not only valuable to a marriage, it is vital. Never use sex as a weapon for withholding your heart and never expect sex will happen because it is “time.” Sex happens best when it is unplanned, but if you move your television out of your room, it will happen ten times as often.
Putting a date on the calendar is not losing, it is saying to yourself “our connection is important to me.”
If you ever said “When I get married, I’ll never…” you will do that thing at least one hundred times before your 10th anniversary. Travel to somewhere other than your bed at least two weekends a year. If you are so broke a hotel is not an option, sleep in your living room for two nights just to change things up.
Nothing kills romance faster than routine.
After 13 years practicing divorce law and being married to the same man, I can testify that some people may have better marriages than I do. Same is probably true for you too. But more often is the case is a lot of people would give anything to have a marriage like yours.
The best marriage is the one you are working towards.
Marriage is the perfect dance between you, your spouse and the space of combining your souls together, but the music is always changing. Some days its a waltz, others a salsa and somedays all you want to do is eat salsa and never leave the couch.
Men-you will buy tampons for your wife and daughter so often you will sashay down the aisle like the sexy, confident boss you are. Ladies, you will pick up so much dirty laundry that you will think your spouse has taken Micheal Keaton’s advice in Multiplicity and cloned himself four times over.
The laughter will become deafening between you and then in social circles you can create your own jokes with nothing more than a glance.
Kids amplify everything by 1000 percent.
You capacity for more joy will increase as will your ability to roll with whatever you are given. They redefine your ability to change your expectations at a moments notice. You may have candles lit and lingerie laid out but when bad dreams or sick kids open the door, you put on a robe and cuddle all together.
While having kids you does not diminish days of champagne and caviar, it usually looks more like drive through burgers and soccer practice. But if you are both committed, put the kids to bed, toss candles in the middle of that drive through hamburger, toast each other with watered down soda and make out in your kitchen. Because it is still your house and there is never a wrong time for kissing.
Kids redefine daily life but they do not consume the whole sum of your lives. Never make your spouse the bad guy or the one from whom you and your kids hide secrets. Your spouse must play on your team, all day every day, no matter what the draft may look like from year to year.
Le & I have grown fond of telling our kids this “we love you & respect your input into our lives. But one day you will pack up and leave here to your own adventures and families. We are a family and that means we play for the same team. But in a batting lineup, mom & I always bat behind one another.”
We kiss more than we fight.
Not for the passion that is always there but because we would still rather kiss one another than anyone else. And more face time you have leads to more soul connection.
My father also said about marriage that the good times always eclipse the bad. Year after year, time will only became sweet because of the bitter. A husband can look at his wife after thirty years and not see her wrinkles, laugh lines or extra pounds. All he can see was the laughter, the tears and the lifetime of joy one person could bring another.
Le is not my soul mate, the chosen one or any other cosmic relationship alignment of a young adult romance novel. He is however where my soul finds rest, where my cold feet find warmth and I would rather be with him than any other spirit walking the earth.
We are best when we are alone.
We do not need confirmation from the world, social media or Dr. Phil that our marriage is strong. Our marriage is what it is, as it has been since the day I knew I was willing to change my last name to his.
You can call it marriage, but if the world abolished the institute or idea tomorrow, we would still find ourselves side by side, ready to take on the world, even thought the biggest daily challenge we face is who is responsible for dinner.
Whether it is one minute or fifty years of marriage, time changes nothing. It is our attitude about life together and the joy we find in one another that brings us back after all this time.