I don't talk much about my marriage. At least not here. The reason being is mostly intentional; I believe that some things in life shouldn't be broadcasted, especially when the other player on your team is much more introverted and private than you've ever been.
The other, maybe not-so-intentional reason I leave such a large part of my life off of these virtual pages is that I have a hard time putting what I have with Joe into so many words. Not because it's this perfect, almighty thing and words could never do it justice; but, because it is profound in its' normalcy and how do I even begin to describe the one thing that finally convinced me that being normal could be so, so good?
It's tricky. I don't want to oversell our relationship because the last ten years have definitely had their fair share of ups and downs, both contributing just as much to our relationship as the other. I also don't want to ignore it because doing so feels like I'm leaving out a main character in my life, one who I spend almost every day, and one with whom I've created a beautiful life (and two tiny humans) that I'm damn proud of.
We leave for Tulum in a couple of days to celebrate experiencing the highs and lows of life beside each other for ten years now. Typically, we're not the kind of couple to publicly butter each others' biscuits but ten years is Ten Years and Ten Years most definitely qualifies a biscuit or two to be buttered. So, in honor of a decade spent loving and loathing this guy (more on the loathing part, in a bit), I'd rather just tell you all that I've learned.
The highlights aren't the only reel worth remembering. The fuck-ups, the outtakes, the bloopers, the behind-the-scenes, all of the work that nobody sees-- they're the moments that make you and your partner you and your partner. Joe and I weathered some real shit storms earlier in our relationship and I'd be lying if I said that I hadn't wished I could forget those periods of time at some point or another. The truth is, of course, that we learned a hell of a lot more about how to be good to the other because of the storms we trekked through, not the perfect runs in our relationship that photograph better for our long term memory box.
Apologies aren't asses. You should never follow-up an apology with a but. You don't necessarily have to apologize for the behavior if you can, in good mind, stand by it. However, I do believe that if you care about your partner in any real capacity, you should always apologize for hurting them without defending or justifying why you did it, even unintentionally. When a person tells you that you hurt them, you don't get to decide that you didn't or that it was somehow excusable. If you defend why you hurt the person you love while apologizing, you're not actually sorry. You're just an asshole with a half-assed apology. So, ere on the side of caution and don't do it.
Agree on life's important matters. At some point during the first night we spent together, when we first began dating, I made a point to ask him if he was a cuddler. To put it nicely, I am not. To put it more accurately, I fucking loathe cuddling. It gives me anxiety and I start to sweat and begin experiencing feelings of claustrophobia. I have always likened a person who actually enjoys cuddling all night to a sociopath, in need of deep, deep emotional evaluation. And even though I wasn't thinking of a future with this guy at that point, I knew that Joe turning out to be a cuddler would be an immediate deal breaker and the relationship would be doomed. (Spoiler: he was not and we have been happily sleeping with three feet between us ever since.)
Pick your battles. I hate sports and find them trivial. And so. very. boring. So, naturally, I married and procreated with a man whose emotional state is so deeply tied to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill basketball program that he can't find the energy to utter a single syllable for hours after they lose while a loss during March Madness has been known to elicit a very quiet day or two. For years, I found this level of devotion to something I couldn't fathom why anyone would be devoted to... how do I say it?... I found it rather pathetic. Meanwhile, he couldn't wrap his brain around why I would rather spend four hours pinching my own eyeballs than sit through and watch an entire football game with a bunch of other maniacal and equally devoted group of Carolina-blue wearing fools. Over the course of years, we've accepted that this difference of opinion will likely always remain and it's something we both just have to get over and hate to love about the other.
Fight clean, play dirty. Don't say anything you can't recover from and once those apologies-without-but's are uttered, take all of that frustration and make up in the most creative way you can imagine. I hope you're catching my drift here.
I'm not always right. Shocking, I know, but it's true. I'm much more willing to tuck my tail between my legs and own my mistakes when I accept that I'm actually capable of making them. The bottom line is that a healthy dose of humility goes a lot further than being a stubborn ass ever could. There's also something to having a partner who shows you more grace than you will ever deserve. (Thanks for that, Joe.)
Have some fucking fun. Or, better yet, have too much fun. For the first few years of our relationship, we each took ourselves way too seriously. Life is the most difficult simple thing ever but it doesn't need to be that serious, you know?! Now that we're a little more seasoned at life and are able to distinguish what actually matters from what we're told should matter, we make an effort to dance in the kitchen, act silly, take weekend vacations without the kids, drink too much wine, etc. It's going to be a very looooong life not having any fun with the person you intend to spend the rest of your life with.
Don't give up at the same time. I'm a realist; I have never lived under the assumption that Joe nor I will never doubt whether or not we can survive whatever storm we find ourselves facing. You are setting yourself and your partner up for failure if you expect the next fifty or so years to consist of nothing but bliss. But, I'm also an optimist in that I wholeheartedly believe that as long as we never give up on each other at the same time, we should, in theory, be able to figure it out.