Reading those posts reminds me how incredibly difficult it can be to develop a good marriage. Years ago, my own mother even told me, “Don’t mess it up with Dan.” She went on to joke about how she’d keep Dan instead of me. That cut me to the core, even if there was a small grain of truth to it. I knew I could easily self-destruct and ruin the relationship with this boyfriend. It had happened before, and it was usually my fault. I was too petty or too demanding or too lovey or not enough. Whatever the reason, Mom did have a reason to say what she said. But sometimes you don’t to say everything you think.
I digress. That was all years ago. However, I still have friends – even to this day – who say I’m lucky to have a husband who will go along with anything. There was a time when they’d be right. And, yes, they are still “right.” But the truth is I bristle when I hear something like that. Dan is only half the equation. We have succeeded in our marriage because both of us put a LOT of effort into it.
I don’t allow Dan to treat me disrespectfully. I fight for what I deserve: conversation, passion, pleasure, attention, kindness, and respect. In return, I treat him like the man he wants to be: my hero. Look, he isn’t perfect (neither am I). I first realized this a little ways in to our marriage, but thought there was still hope for improvement. About five years in, it finally hit me that he is his own person and I wasn’t going to change that. I considered splitting up. I blamed so much on him, and then I took a look in the mirror and realized I held as much responsibility for it as he did. I realized that whatever the relationship problems may be, I would still have those problems regardless of who my husband was. The problem wasn’t him, and he wasn’t something I needed to fix. Somewhere between the fifth and seventh year, I looked within and did a lot of work to piece myself into someone who was emotionally healthy. (Well, maybe not fully healthy, but healthiER.) I put a lot of value in the vows we spoke to each other in 1995.
There are so many factors that have gone into our marriage and brought us to where we are today. We have weathered a lot of storms. The death of my brother almost devastated me and, in turn, our marriage. Estrangement from my mom, Dad’s cancer, both of their deaths, the birth of our children, and my own disease have truly changed me and, again, our marriage. Instead of pushing away the imperfect that I saw in my husband, I have learned to embrace it because he has been the one true constant since I turned 19 years old.
Eighteen years with him has changed me, as it would change anyone. It has mellowed me. (I know some of you are snorting out loud to think that I might actually be mellow now. It’s all relative, compared to what I used to be like!) The eighteen years have loosened me up to where I don’t fly off the handle when Dan leaves piles of pennies or empty water bottles around the house for me to clean up. I’ve become more accepting of those things that used to drive me crazy. Man, I feel like an old lady now – saying how I’ve just come to accept the quirkiness of my elderly husband. But, seriously. I have learned to let a lot more roll off my back. I’ve become comfortable with who Dan is instead of trying to make him become someone God never intended. (Doesn’t mean I’m not a control freak – I’m just learning what I can no longer control!)
Dan and I have talked about how the last 7 years of our marriage have been better than the first 8. One main reason for that is because having kids forced me to let go of all the things over which I worked myself into a tizzy. Another reason is that having kids brought me more peace about my body. I respect its ability to take care of itself (and grow life) a lot more now. In being more comfortable with my body, I’m more comfortable with my hubba-hubba husband. I will not go into more detail on that. I’ve also learned that giving him respect and treating him like a hero makes him feel like one, which means he’s more willing to go above and beyond the call of duty in our marriage. It isn’t that I’m stroking his ego to try and manipulate his behavior. Maybe it’s more along the lines of the Golden Rule and treating him the way I’d want to be treated. People have a way of rising to the occasion when you make them feel like they can.
So now I’m rambling. But let me get back to my point: marriage is freaking hard work. I am blessed (NOT lucky, blessed!) to have a partner who understands that and is willing to put in the time and effort to make us work. And here’s what I’d like to say to my mom now, if I could get another chance. I’d agree that, yes, Dan is a wonderful husband. But then I’d tell her that I’m a wonderful wife. And our marriage works because WE work at it. Together. United. Willing to carry each other and forgive and ask for help.
We are each other’s best friends.
Dan: You are the vowel to my consonant. Like a vanity license plate, I can sort of make sense without the vowels. But the consonants add depth and meaning to my life, just like you. I love you! Happy 15th anniversary.