Ten years ago today, we got married. I was twenty-two.
Here’s the thing about being twenty-two: you don’t know anything. For all the pain you may have suffered (real and imagined), life experiences you’ve had, foods you’ve eaten, problems you’ve solved, fundamentally you don’t know anything. You may have theories, but you don’t have knowledge. Because you simply haven’t been here long enough. (And before we gather our pitch forks and start being mean to me, let’s take a step back. I value twenty-two year olds and think they offer a lot of enthusiasm and perspective. After all, I was one once.)
Truth be told, I don’t know what I thought about marriage back then. I know I wasn’t afraid of it. I didn’t feel anxiety about my choice. And that could have been because I was absolutely making the right choice, but it also could have been because I didn’t really understand the choice at all. I thought this guy was great. Sure, the rest of our lives sounded amazing. Kind of the same way eating ice cream for the rest of your life sounds amazing when you’ve had 3-4 bites. You’re completely incapable of really thinking about what it might mean to eat that for the rest of your life. It just sounds like a really great idea at the time.
Fortunately for me, it was the former. But there are many, many times it could have been the latter. Because marriage is the most natural unnatural thing in the world. Marriage is your greatest ally and your most cunning enemy. It lifts you up, carries you forward, but it also challenges you to grow and change and adapt. It challenges you to own up to your choices and your behavior. Marriage is a mirror reflecting back the image of what two people have done to one another, for better or worse.
If and when you become a parent, its so easy to see how your actions shape another. You see how your anger makes a child cower or become angry himself. You see how your joy and lightheartedness opens them up, makes them feel safe and happy. But as grown ups, I think we forget that the same is true of our spouses. Who we are affects them. Our belief in them becomes their belief in themselves. Our words have weight and meaning.
For my part, I know I’m a challenge to be married to. I’m fiercely independent. I struggle with compromise and collaboration. I can be selfish. A lot of my life is in words that live in very public places (welcome). I process quickly and act even quicker. I favor efficiency over thoroughness. I don’t like to be touched. (IT’S SO CONFINING!)
And then there’s the husband. He’s got his own list of weaknesses, but he is also the naturally more pensive of the two of us. He is metered and thoughtful. He takes time to consider options, outcomes, and possibilities. He wants there to be an “us” rather than two “mes” living in our house. He pushes me to slow down, quiet down, sit down, and be present.
And sometimes I want to kill him for it.
In theory, a marriage is a celebration of differences and how they can compliment two people. But differences are often misunderstood, vilified, and blamed for our inabilities to communicate. Ten years ago, I didn’t know what marriage was. I only knew what getting married was. I knew the logistics– one house, one life, do stuff together, maybe have kids, get old, the end. At twenty-two I was incapable of unpacking what that meant. I didn’t understand the responsibility of promising to stay with someone always. I didn’t realize I would change, or he would change, or our relationship would change. We couldn’t see the future. That’s the gamble of marriage. You bet on who you are at that moment with a necessary blindness for who you will become. That’s some risky shit.
Ten years from now I expect to laugh at my naivety today, but for now, there are some things I think I finally know. Maybe.
- You match each other annoying habit for annoying habit. If you want to start throwing stones at that glass house, be prepared the open the 7th seal and have ALL your annoying habits listed for you during a drunk argument. You’re both annoying.
- If you don’t get a cleaning lady, you’ll likely get a divorce. They are exceptions, but not many.
- There are things that you can’t take back. And while they may be forgiven, even forgotten, you will remember you said them. In some ways that’s worse.
- There are days that the logistics of divorce are the only thing keeping you together. And that’s okay. Sometimes we need the reality of real estate prices to buy us the time we need to calm the fuck down.
- People change from the day they are born until the day they die. Everyone. Your choice is to fall in love with the heart, adapt to the mind, and accept the body. Otherwise, your marriage will fail.
- Marriage is hard. So, so hard.
- Never let a week go by without looking your spouse in the eye and asking them honestly how they are doing. Like legitimately. Like, how is your journey on this earth?
- If you stop making out, it will eventually get weird and then when your spouse does eventually stick their tongue in your mouth again you will have a reaction that scars them for life.
- Acknowledge the difficult stuff. Say it out loud. Many marriages end because of the assumption that people can read minds.
- Stop comparing. Everything. Anything. Yes, someone does have a better marriage than you. And your kid is cuter. SO THE FUCK WHAT.
- Try to have sex. More of it than you want to or feel is necessary.
- Find a good babysitter <if applicable>. You stay a parent even if your child hates you for leaving them on a Friday night. You don’t stay a spouse if you lose your connection by remaining consumed by the duties of life.
- Don’t drink too much on weeknights. It starts a chain reaction of tiredness, misery, and agitation that leads to fights where people say things like, “WHY THE FUCK DO WE HAVE THESE GODDAMNED THROW PILLOWS?” and other meaningless, but vaguely hurtful, things.
- Be a good team. At home, in life, and at parties.
- Make sure you’re your spouses biggest fan. Because if you’re not, something has gone wrong. (And that foxy 21-year-old at his/her office is gonna be and then you’re gonna get dumped.)
- Don’t start a blog. Definitely don’t start a blog where you talk about your life.
- Work really fucking hard to stay in love.
- Say I love you, but only if you actually mean it and not because you’re being a dick. Because I’ve done that and it’s received very poorly.
I’m a better person because I’m married. Personal growth is hard. Being reminded (lovingly) about your shortcomings is hard. But better to have it coming from someone you love than some anonymous asshole on the internet.
Corey Beaulieu, I love you. It has been a pleasure to spend these last ten years as your wife. You are half of all the good things about me and I hope you know that without you, I’d be a hot mess in a one bedroom with a lot of cats, eating Prego out of a jar with a spoon. That kid of ours is something else. We did so good. I hardly recognize the faces of those kids ten years ago, but I think I like our old mugs better anyway. You’re my favorite asset.