My husband and I are celebrating nine years of marriage this year. Those of you with double-digit anniversary numbers are probably rolling your eyes at me, and those of you with one or two years of marriage under your belts may think I might know a little about what I’m talking about.
After nine years we are still figuring it out and still failing and succeeding on a regular basis. However, I have learned a few things over the last nine years:
1. I didn’t marry my best friend.
Ugh, but that’s the standard phrase, right? When someone gets engaged or posts an anniversary pic, it’s usually captioned with “married my best friend” or something along those lines. In my case, it’s not true. I didn’t marry my best friend.
I met my best friend when I was six years old, and she is still my best friend today. She knows every detail of my life, from my first kiss down to my deepest secrets. When we get together, we giggle about that first kiss and talk about past boyfriends, Spring Break road trips, how my feet stink after a few hours of wearing my new Toms, how bad my cramps were with my last period, and how sometimes we feel like punching our kids in the nose (which we don’t, just for the record). We check out each other’s questionable moles, give honest feedback on whether that new dress makes our butts look big, and occasionally talk about how our husbands are driving us nuts but we love them anyway.
She doesn’t want to snuggle with me or kiss just for fun. She wouldn’t rub my feet unless there was a medically necessary reason. She thinks my kids are great but no doubt favors hers over mine.
That’s my best friend.
I married my lover, my partner. We snuggle and talk about how our kids are the best (and best-looking) things in the entire world. He rubs my feet (after a shower), and we work through the details of living a life side by side. We stress over bills together and work out what hurts deep in our hearts.
My husband doesn’t want to hear about my stinking Toms feet. Trust me—he’s well aware of them. He won’t tell me that my butt looks big in the new dress because he loves and fears me at the same time. He won’t investigate my questionable mole but will recommend I see a doctor, and he never, ever talks about my first kiss because, ewww.
I have the best friend a girl could ask for and have no desire to marry her. When I met my husband, she was the first person I wanted to tell that I had found the person I wanted to spend my life with, have children with, and call my husband, because those are the exciting things you share with your BFF.
2. Sometimes marriage just sucks.
Don’t you just love weddings? The gifts, the cake, the candles, the music, and the bride—oh, the beautiful bride! Here’s a secret: that’s just one day—a few hours, actually. A marriage has nothing to do with a wedding. Every marriage will face days when one or both want to throw in the towel and call it quits. Every marriage has days when you want to “accidentally” back over your spouse with your car, but since our cars come equipped with back-up cameras now, we can’t claim it as an accident and refrain. Marriage can be brutal.
3. Marriage totally rocks.
My husband knows me in a way that no one else will ever know. He knows every curve of my body and cherishes each detail that makes me who I am. He reminds me how awesome he thinks my body is for giving us our children and tells his friends what a wonderful mom he thinks I am. He knows by the arc in my eyebrow if I’m sad or mad, and either way he knows the cure. He makes sure there’s always coffee for me when I wake up, either out of fear of the monster I am without coffee or because he enjoys pleasing me. Every night when I go to bed I have the security of his strong hands wrapped around mine and know that through good, awesome, terrible, and downright horrible times, he will always be with me.
Marriage rocks when you know you are loved through all of your flaws and cherished for all of your gifts.
4. You can’t always have it your way.
I like my way. My way is the right way—I promise. I know how to perfectly fold a towel, change a baby’s diaper correctly, and arrange the dishes in the dishwasher—well, until I got married, that is. Compromising is not one of my strong skills. Who in the world taught this man the wrong way to fold a towel? As if it they are going to fit in the cabinet if they’re folded like that! When our triplets were born I almost had to duct tape my mouth shut so I wouldn’t give him step-by-step directions on how to “properly” (read: my way) change their diapers. He changed several of his first daughter’s diapers and she turned out great, so I let it slide with the triplets.
In a good and loving marriage you will need to learn to compromise, give in, let go, and shut up. Plus, a towel works the same way no matter how wrongly it is folded.
5. Marriage takes hard work.
It’s not fun to wash someone else’s dirty underwear, no matter how much you love them. It’s not fun to stay awake while the beast next to you blows down a forest with his growls, or snores, or whatever you want to call them. It’s not fun to have to be the light when someone else is in a dark place. It takes work—hard work. It takes far more work than it did to plan that fancy wedding or fit into that perfect dress. It takes serious, selfless devotion and commitment.
6. It’s a ton of fun.
There’s nothing like belly laughs with your spouse, the kind of laughs that remind you why you are together in the first place. There’s nothing sweeter than having your husband open your car door as if it were your first date. There’s nothing better than bragging on your kids to the one who totally gets how perfect they are. My husband likes to watch me ride my bike around the cul-de-sac, and I like to watch him dance with the kids. We like to tease each other and sneak in butt grabs when the kids aren’t looking. Marriage can be a ton of fun. You know what else is a ton of fun? Calling your best friend and giggling about how silly and awesome your husband is.
7. Sometimes the beauty comes after the storm.
A storm will hit your marriage sooner or later. Some marriages’ storms are worse than others. Some face hurricanes while others face drizzle. Marriages face death of loved ones, infidelity, broken trust, rebellious kids, financial ruin, or complete loss. Some face all of the above. I know for a fact that staying and fixing what broke will make you stronger. We’ve become such an instant gratification society that our quick fix is to walk away, but if you weather the storm, shelter each other from the debris, and pick up the pieces together you will discover that sometimes the beauty comes after the storm. When I repeated my vows to my husband and said, “for better or worse,” I meant it. I did not say, “for better or I’m bailing if things get hard.” Be brave in the storm.
I’m not an expert on marriage, and I probably have no business giving advice, but I do know that marriage can be messy and hard. I know that it can be beautiful and fulfilling. I know for sure that it can be bent and shaken, but it’s a lifelong journey. Appreciate and learn from the broken moments. Celebrate and dance in the good moments. It’s all worth it.