Photo: Ursa Major learned about starfish in class last week. He also learned how to dab. Because, you know, recess. He now insists on doing the ridiculous pose for every photo I take of him. I can just see our Christmas card now…
Nine years ago today, after too much planning and a very close call for getting our license, The Husband and I did the big wedding thing. A little chapel in Raleigh, a big reception at a local hotel, lots of people, some of the best margaritas I’ve ever had and barefoot dancing until late. The older folk had left us younger folk to dance and drink. The hotel manager informed me that the bar “had been open for six hours.” Stories of the after party are still told, with some names redacted to protect the innocent. I look back on the day with a fondness and relief. So many moving pieces, a few mishaps, but it all turned out the way it was supposed to. Let the record show, though: I’ll never, ever do that again. I know women who plan elaborate vow renewals for the fun of it. I think those women are nuts.
Anyway, nine years later, I’m sitting in a house in the suburbs, my mini-van out the window, my two boys in school. I have to email Minor’s teacher about the upcoming Halloween party. There are guitar lessons this afternoon. It’s a good life. We’ve done well for ourselves. There is always more to work toward, things to reflect on, but so much to be grateful for.
Here is what I know after nine years of marriage.
1. A plan is great. A partner is better.
Readers who have been with me for a long time know that The Husband and I had to stumble through some major life moments. Two little boys, thoughtfully made, weren’t planned for. Their existence forced us to make major decisions that ultimately resulted in this house. Frankly, we got extraordinarily lucky. We had two healthy boys in a short period of time. Thanks be to God for health insurance, good jobs and a supportive family. We found a house with good bones that needed a lot of work and love, and we had just enough resources to pull together to make the purchase. Thanks be to God for programs for new home-buyers, good credit and just enough savings to make a miracle happen.
We didn’t have a plan. We got really lucky. But what made the challenging moments tolerable was the partnership that The Husband and I have managed to cultivate. Our skillsets are extremely different, almost opposing in some ways, but that has been to our benefit time and again as we’ve had to face major challenges without the support of family. Because we see the world so differently, but we trust the sincerity and earnestness of those opposing viewpoints, we are able to tackle problems intelligently and diligently, outcomes that are often better than anticipated.
I would not have anything that I have without this. I’m grateful I held on, even in the furious days of young idealism, when it would have been so easy to back away and find someone I could agree with about everything. But there would have been no fun or sport in it. Ultimately, there wouldn’t have been life in it.
2. You can’t change a man.
How many times did Grandy tell me this? It’s really true. Men don’t change. They grow older, for sure, but they don’t change. At some point, habits get locked in and they stay locked forever. Opinions and “facts,” too! No matter how many times you tell ’em and correct ’em and move things around and introduce tools for change. A man doesn’t change. You can’t change a man. You know what happens? You change. You just deal with the thing that the man does or says or believes to be true… and you just stop saying things about it. To him, anyway.
So that being said,
3. He’ll surprise you from time to time.
From time to time, The Husband will say something out of the blue, or do something unprompted, or simply make something happen, and he’ll completely floor me. I’m a woman who watches patterns closely and anticipates actions, so it takes a lot to really surprise me. When it comes to The Husband, especially, I’m usually two steps ahead of him. I think he gets a real thrill out of showing me a new trick or proving he’s been paying attention. These are some of the best moments of marriage, in my point of view, and the best part is that you never know when it’s going to happen.
4. Children really do change everything.
I’m very grateful that our two wonderful surprises didn’t destroy my marriage. We have friends who got married, had a kid and then were divorced before the third birthday. Children change the way your world works, change the way you function on a daily basis, and cause a strain that can feel impossible sometimes. And to be clear, that impossible feeling lasts well beyond the first birthday. So in this, I’m very lucky. We both grew and changed, breathing into the insanity and responsibility, rather than turning against each other.
I choose, in my moments of frustration, to find the little bits of The Husband in my two little boys. I also choose to relish in looking for the boy I met in high school and seeing bits of him while he is with our boys. Again, men don’t change. They just get older. So they still play, and they still daydream, and they still build… When The Husband shares that with the boys, it’s gratifying to watch.
5. There will be regrets.
I see the boys and their father, and I feel a touch of jealousy. I wonder a lot about what would have happened if we’d had a girl. I see photos of my friends in Maryland, watching their babies grow through Facebook photos and I feel the ache of homesickness. Marriage and partnership are about decision-making. As we get older and further rooted in our community, the decisions we make have more meaning and are harder to change. We aren’t going home. The likelihood of trying for one more kid lowers exponentially by the day. We’re moving on from some ambiguities so we can plan for the unknown challenges and the big-huge dreams that await in the future. Therefore, marriage has to come with acceptance: things are as they are and we have to live with the consequences of the decisions we make. Sometimes, that sucks. But that’s life.
6. The future comes with anticipation and uncertainty.
We’re still young and there is so much to do. But if life has taught us anything in these nine years, it’s that challenges come when they come, and they are hard, and you never really quite know where you are going to land. This world is really, really uncertain and sometimes life feels fragile, the comfort of now terribly tenuous. It wouldn’t take much for us to lose everything. If we did, where would we be?
But then again, we’ve been working and building, giving of ourselves and moving forward toward a hopeful vision for ourselves and our boys. There is so much to look forward to and so many possibilities. We don’t seek to be rich or famous, but there is a different sort of life that we could reach if we continue to be lucky.
Practically, I know we will fall somewhere in the middle. There will be things lost and gained. The world is seemingly balanced that way.
I guess what I’m most grateful for on our ninth wedding anniversary is my feeling of safety in the face of disaster. If the sky falls tomorrow and we’re both still able to stand in the rubble, I know we’ll look at the world and do the things that must be done. We won’t fall apart. As long as I know that, solidly, in my heart, I can sleep at night and wake up in the morning in a world that seems to spiral ever downward into madness.
Mid-week already? Mondays off make for magical weeks, no? How are you doing, Dear Reader? Hang in there.
See you Friday for Quiet Thoughts.