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A little over a week ago Rent-a-Dad and I celebrated our sixteenth wedding anniversary. If asked, we already celebrated sweet sixteen several years back as we had been dating for almost three years before getting married. Either way we still hit a milestone this year with our marriage.
After we had been out all day doing a lot of things we’d planned to do and a lot of others that we hadn’t, I posted this on a whim shortly after she fell asleep and I couldn’t. Looking back on it, I suppose it’s not too different from the way I first said “I love you” when I thought she’d fallen asleep and couldn’t really hear me. Except that this time she couldn’t surprise me by actually being awake.
Sixteen years ago, I was relatively young and arguably had no idea at all what I was doing. I had this idea of what marriage would be like, what our lives together would be, the sort of person that I would grow into.
I was wrong on nearly every count, and every time I’ve been wrong the reality has been worlds better than I’d imagined. That is not by coincidence.
There have been some amazing things and some absolute crap and some quiet comfortable moments that one could miss almost entirely if one weren’t paying attention. I’m really happy that I was able to catch a few of those as they were on their way by. Through all of it there’s been a very short list of exactly one person that I would want to go through all of it with, and I know how lucky I am to have that.
I’m exceptionally pleased that, after doing this thing for as long as we have, she still doesn’t seem to have figured out how much I managed to marry up. Schemes are ongoing to keep her in the dark on that front.
For a number of reasons we managed to get our marriage blessed by my church but not the Catholic Church at first and only got around to checking that box within the last few years, so I can legitimately say that being married to her is so nice that I did it twice.
Happy anniversary, love. Let’s do a bunch more of these things.
There are a couple of pieces of advice that I’ve gotten into the habit of giving to unmarried or recently-married friends when they ask. They always seem to be taken as tongue-in-cheek or sarcastic, but in my mind they’re very much not.
The first one is so common as to be cliché, but that makes it no less important to me: get very used to saying “I’m sorry, honey” whether or not you think you’re right. From one perspective, in my experience the times we’ve argued and I’ve been most certain I’m right have been the ones that I most needed to apologize and realize I was being an idiot. From another that may be even more important, there’s not a lot of room in a marriage to focus on egos and being right. Not in my marriage at least. Our best moments have always been when it’s clear that we don’t care about being correct or “winning” as much as we do about being together and presenting a unified front to whatever issues we’re facing. I can’t remember a time that I haven’t used some version of this thought process as a litmus test for a lot of my relationships, romantic or not. If having a person in my life isn’t infinitely more important to me than my pride, then maybe that isn’t a relationship that’s worth maintaining. That seems especially true when it comes to spending the rest of my life with someone.
My second bit of advice is something I’ve cheerfully stolen from one of Edward Norton’s films. In Keeping the Faith, he plays a Catholic priest who at one point says to his mentor “I keep thinking about what you said in seminary, that the life of a priest is hard and if you can see yourself being happy doing anything else, you should do that”. It comes across as a funny line in the movie and every time I steal it and apply it to marriage people seem to be either amused or horrified. That’s not it at all though.
The elder priest responds with something along the lines of “the truth is you can never tell yourself there is only one thing you could be…You cannot make a real commitment unless you accept that it’s a choice that you keep making again and again and again” and that’s what I’m really driving at. If I thought that I would be happier, that she would be happier, if we weren’t married and that we could feel fulfilled doing absolutely anything else with our lives, I think that would deserve serious thought because it feels important to me to be “all in”.
We haven’t been together for the majority of our adult lives because of inertia or out of habit or because it’s comfortable. Some days it feels really incredibly freaking hard through no fault of mine or hers. Other days it’s insanely difficult and that’s all pretty much my fault. Every day I make the decision that the worst possible day being married to her is better than the best day I can imagine without her in my life. I can’t see myself being happy doing anything else because I know that I’d be missing out on the best thing in my life. So I do this.
Other than a few posts acknowledging our anniversary, Rent-a-Dad and I didn’t make a big deal of our milestone. All I had asked for our anniversary was that Rent-a-Dad take the day off from work to spend with just me. We get so busy that we don’t get to do things as just an “us” and that was all I wanted.
Come the day and I just felt miserable. The day before I had a fever, runny nose, and had been very nauseous. Even though I was sick I still drug myself out of bed to spend the time I asked for with him. We went to a super early movie at the theaters since I figured not many people would be around (last day of school). The movie was one we had been planning to see on our anniversary from the moment we found out its opening date. It was not a romantic movie but rather something that brought back childhood memories for both of us. For us that movie was more important than 100 romantic movies.
Knowledge of that little fact is one of many reasons we made it to sweet sixteen. Marriage is such a messy ordeal and no one ever gets it perfectly right. Knowing that perfection is never quite attainable is another reason we have made it this far.
Over the years both Rent-a-Dad and I have received congratulations from friends as well as sincere remarks on how our relationship/marriage has been an inspiration. While I don’t take those sentiments lightly, most of the time I want to shy away from them. I am human. I am fallible. I am far from perfect. And like me, my relationships are far from perfect.
So when I hear how “great” we are I instantly want to tell people about all of our flaws; the moments we lose our cool; and how there have been times we each have wanted to just to walk away. But that is not the only side to us.
How when shit has really hit the fan that we could think of no one else that we wanted by our sides. Not to mention how when things are rough how we immediately put everything else to the side and are magically on point.
Then there are all the great and perfect moments where at the end of the day we wouldn’t change a thing or how we finish each other’s sentences. Rent-a-Dad is still convinced that I can read his mind. Just like our wedding vows, we do it all from sickness to health and all the messy bits in-between.
On our wedding day we received a LOT of advice on what makes a marriage work. The piece of advice that has always stuck with me was “never go to bed angry”. I always took that literally as the more time someone lets drift by without fixing a problem the more insurmountable the problem feels. As I have gotten older I have learned how that line (used literally) can’t apply to our relationship.
When we have had a major disagreement what works best (for us) is a bit of time and space. Life doesn’t always make room for us to talk right away. For some reason when we make time right that moment (from the wee hours of the morning to the middle of a work day) it tends to complicate matters more. Less sleep does not lend to an educated thought through decision or conflict resolution. So getting things done (work, chores, kids diapers… life) and thinking through our feelings before we sit down to talk helps put life and the problem into perspective. It took years to figure that this is our recipe for fixing our problems.
My take-away here is this: People are messy and complicated. Relationships take work. Not all advice on relationships will apply to yours. You have to figure out what makes your relationship work. (If the relationship is toxic then you may need an exit strategy) If you ever think about walking away… take a moment (take ten) and think it through. Are all the hard and complicated bits insurmountable? What will you miss the most about this relationship? In the past has there ever been anyone you have connected with on this level? What would you do to make the relationship work (i.e. some form of counseling)?
Even when I want to run away from my life (not just one person) I know the answer to those questions. Rent-a-Dad is the person I want with me when life is dragging me down. No relationship is ever perfect. We both have tons of our own baggage that we have to deal with before we can handle problems together but we are still right there when needed. We are wise enough now to understand that we sometimes have to put our personal issues in check before handling issues as a couple. Although Rent-a-Dad and I came from very different backgrounds we overcome that through all of our similarities and things we enjoy about each other.
This is all my long winded way of saying “Yes, seeingRogue One on our anniversary was exactly what I wanted to do! It was perfect for us! You never had to ask. I was right on target the whole time!” It’s simple and easy. We may not get each other all the time but we get each other more than anyone else ever has and may ever will. It’s enough. We are enough. Here is to sixteen more years of getting each other’s back and being enough!