December 5, 2013 by Julia
Our tenth wedding anniversary is tomorrow, and I’ve been wanting to write about what I’ve learned in our ten years of marriage. You know, like a cute list, which should basically write itself because I’m already working with the number ten! “Top Ten Pointers From a Woman Married Ten Years!”
So I made a list of ten things that I know are helpful in cultivating love, intimacy, openness and support within a marriage. Meanwhile, I was quite aware of not actually following most of these rules because that week I was too stressed, too grumpy, etc.
It got me thinking: helpful tips only scratch the surface of what marriage is about. If we only stayed together when we were capable of being a good spouse, I don’t think anyone would stay married for long.
I don’t think of my marriage with Dennis as something I have to be good at, anyway. I think of our relationship as my safety net. He is my witness. He is here, beside me, day in a day out, whether I’m doing well or not. He is a safe place for me to fall apart when necessary. I can be a crying, inarticulate mess and he’ll take care of me. Sometimes he’ll pull me out of my irrationality or insecurity. Sometimes there is nothing he can do help but listen and stay by me. And that is enough.
We marry because we need someone there.
Whether we are good or bad. Whether we have succeeded or failed. We need someone to see the daily stuff, as well as the huge life-changing events. We need someone who we can hug or cry or look ugly with, without worrying that we’ve crossed some boundary.
I trust Dennis to be there for me. Not to always know what to do, or what to say, or how to read my mind. But I do know he will be by my side when I need him most. It is something I often take for granted, because I have been with him since I was eighteen, and I don’t know what it’s like to be with an untrustworthy partner. But when I stop and look at it now, I can see how priceless my trust in him is.
We have a good marriage for other reasons, too. We are thoughtful toward each other, and we have a weekly date night at home, yet still know how to give each other space. And we are similar in a lot of ways; we’re interested in art and storytelling and both have this creative drive that we were born with. Also, he’s really cute.
But even if all of that stuff fell away (and I know there will be times it might, because life is unpredictable and the people you live with will certainly drive you crazy), we stay together because we need each other. Not because we are “so good” at this marriage thing.
So there’s that. The other thing I’ve reflected on, in my musings on marriage these past few weeks, is this: romance is a need too often forgotten.
I’m not talking about cheesy romantic cliches. I don’t want Dennis to serenade me while staring into my eyes or start dancing with me on some cobblestone street even though there’s no music playing. (Maybe he could kiss me in the rain. That would be okay.)
To me, romance is walking around, exploring the world together. It’s unassuming and natural and funny. It’s spontaneous connections rather than perfectly executed performances. And the thing about marriage is, all those performances and games that we may have played while dating are going to fall away like masks, anyway. It’s no use trying to keep that up. So we might as well be our true selves, remembering that our true selves are usually our best selves anyway, and open ourselves up to true romance while we’re at it.
Especially when there are kids involved in a marriage, I think most of us start to view romance as a luxury for infatuated teenagers. Remember that free-falling feeling in the pit of your stomach, the thrill of being in the same room with your crush? Or, as newlyweds, the excitement of starting new lives together, of saying “my husband” aloud?
But now, with jobs and kids and households to maintain, the idea of trying to spark romance often feels like another chore. Like something that’s a lot harder than looking up endless You Tube videos or reading or watching the latest episode of Homeland. We’re already hemmed in by compromises at every turn…most of us are dying for some “me time.” We don’t even want to compromise on the TV show we’re watching, by the time the kids are finally in bed.
I feel that way a lot. But I also know that when romance sneaks up on me in a good moment with Dennis, it’s like opening a forgotten attic door where we keep our souls. Not the beaten down, battered, complaining, mediocre shells of human beings that collapse with defeat on the couch at the end of a unproductive day. But our true selves, brought into the light and made beautiful.
And I feel fulfilled and happy in a way that I’d forgotten I even wanted. Having a romantic partner is one of the wonders of life. Taking the time to notice, to actually feel the wonder of romantic love, is one of the few ways we transcend the mundane.
For moms, the mundane is often our lifeblood. We keep the train going, the household working, the meals coming, the dirt wiped, the holidays festive. But moms, you deserve to transcend that stuff sometimes, and when you come back down, you’ll be better at the mundane. Or at least you’ll be happier while dealing with it.
So instead of a list of ten things about marriage, I’ve got two:
- Marriage is about standing by each other’s side through it all.
- Romance is worth it.
I love you, Dennis. Thank you for staying with me these ten years. You have saved me time and again, and I hope to always do the same for you.