This month, it is ten years from the day when we committed ourselves to each other for a lifetime.
As a child of divorce, and of a parent who later became a divorce attorney with endless horror stories, I did not make this decision lightly. Neither one of my parents’ remarried, and while I had friends with seemingly happy families, I grew up without such stability and lacking the example of a healthy, loving adult relationship.
So we took our time. Long after first meeting in the computer lab, and several years of dating, we somehow found ourselves ready to take the ultimate leap of faith, together.
A young family quickly followed, with all its attendant chaos, requiring us to figure out how to work together to make sure everyone is fed, allocate sick days, advance at work. Then, once we had our footing, something would inevitably shift, leaving us searching again for solid ground.
Here are some of the lessons I have stumbled across along the way:
Recognize your differences. I did not marry someone exactly like me, thank goodness. So many of our contrasts make this collaboration so rich. However, our differences do not always seamlessly combine. He can be practical; I can be emotional. He needs time to process things; I want instant reassurance. Understanding a bit of where each of us is coming from helps us to manage expectations, at least, most of the time.
Strive for balance. I tend to be up for anything on a moment’s notice and he recognizes our need for down time. As our family’s social director, it is easy for me to want to commit to any experience that sounds fun. Through trial and error, I have learned that all works better when I reach out for input instead of immediately saying yes. We are a team and need to act as one. Fortunately, at least one of us is looking at the bigger picture of how our family functions best and not simply the isolated events.
Find relationship veterans. There truly is wisdom in experience. I am lucky to have a handful of people in my life who together have well over 100 years of marriage among them. From time to time, I find myself struggling with an issue that I cannot resolve. When that happens, I find it invaluable to run it by someone more practiced at this marriage thing. More often than not, the solution I reach involves a shift in my own behavior or expectation. This is done not in acquiescence, but through a grounded understanding that my way is not the only way, reminding me that I have a partnership with a very good man.
Make time together. It is not realistic for us to have weekly date nights. Heck, with our busy schedules, and now those crazy Spring sports, one date night would be a huge win. So, we have learned to sneak time in when we can. This often means a little bit of couch time watching mindless television and, when possible, WWD.* The sense of connection is the important thing, not the activity.
Take nothing for granted. This family only works because of the tremendous energy we each put forth to create a secure and loving home. Recognize and appreciate what each person brings to the relationship. We made a choice to be together, to build this crazy life. Honor that choice. And laugh, a lot.
* Wednesday Wine Day. Big, big fan!