Today is my 18th wedding anniversary.
23 years together, 4 apartments, 5 houses, foster kids, Johnny, hardships, losses, joys and love.
After all this time together I think I figured out the secret to a lasting marriage… not giving up, at least not at the same time.
Kevin and I have dealt with a lot of issues in our years together, hard issues like alcoholism, medical hardships, taking care of ill family, ill children, financial bankruptcy, and separation and near divorce. We were foster parents for 14years. I am pretty sure the kids are the only reason we stayed together, whether we were happy or not.
Early on expectations of each other is what catapulted us into arguments. Eventually, we never argued. I know now not arguing is a very bad thing for a marriage. It means you may be ignoring the issues that are causing you resentments and anger.
Kevin and I separated for 2 years. 1 of those years we lived in the same house the other year he bought a condo a few blocks away. We raised the kids together better than ever when we were separated. Kevin was always available to help out at the house, more than ever. It gave me some time to myself which I learned scared the shit out of me. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I was always taking care of someone else.
During those two years I learned how to care for me. I was forced into it by the separation. I learned that men are not our knights in shining armor and will not save us from ourselves. I learned how to make friends with woman, all types of woman! I learned how to live sober alone, happy alone. I lived my life constantly challenging myself to try things I never did. I traveled to Ireland solo for the first time to see my dying mother. Normally, I would convince my bother to go with me. However, I did call or text my brother constantly asking for positive affirmations and guidance. I started a Non-profit for my son’s school with other moms and raised over $22K the first year. I started my own business negotiating a “divorce settlement” from Kevin because he refused to get a divorce. I took care of my dying father for 9 months with more grace then I give myself credit for. I let go a little (just a little) of Johnny, my growing boy with the trifecta of disabilities (autism, CDH and Epilepsy). Letting go is the hardest thing I have ever done, and I am still working on that.
With everything I did, I didn’t do it alone! I had a posse of woman or community behind me cheering me on, telling me I am crazy and loads of constructive advice. They empowered me!
At some point, Kevin and I came back together. I attribute that separation to what saved our marriage. It allowed me to grow as a woman, mother and human. It allowed Kevin to watch me grow without him. He had to know I could do this without him. He also needed time to catch up in his growth and spirituality. But, that is his journey to tell.
What I love about marriage in our 18th year seem so silly, but defines who we are and how we love.
We went out to dinner for our anniversary. We talked and laughed a lot while eating with full mouths and sometimes even making a mess. As we sat there we watched a couple across from us. They sat so tall and prim. The woman had a napkin on her lap and wiped her mouth after every bite. The guy chewed with his mouth shut and covered his mouth when he laughed. I asked Kevin, “Do you remember when we were shy eating in front of each other?” He just smiled and said “Not anymore!” Dinner time is so much chiller and laid back. We don’t overdo the manners and we surly don’t wipe after every bite, anymore.
We are raising a family and so damn tired by the end of the night. Just after our afternoon anniversary date at the spa, dinner and a trip to Costco, we were home by 5pm, we crashed at home. At 7pm we both wondered when John will go to bed because we are exhausted. Dating is exhausting at this point. Staying home on the couch and watching a movie isn’t exhausting. My favorite is when Kevin pauses the movie to tell me something about his day. Or when I start talking and he pauses it so he can hear me. That is my kind of date!
Yes, he is my BFF, my partner in life. I tell him when I am constipated or when I have my period. He tells me about the Port-a-potty issues on the job site. It’s what best friends do, talk about the things that we shouldn’t talk about. We laugh a lot!
- Who cares if the dishes get done?
I don’t!! Neither does Kevin but he does them anyway. I used to harp over who does the dishes and how I hated waking up in the morning to a pile. I never even gave anyone a chance to do them. I just complained while I did them. Eventually, when I started stepping away things got done without me. Imagine that? I step away and stop doing it in my fix/manage/control way and people step up and get it done in their own time. Ahhhh…..
- Marriage is NOT 50/50
Sometimes marriage is 80/20. Sometimes it’s 90/10 and sometimes is 100/0. The person who said marriage is 50/50 didn’t have any hardships or loss. When John was born I had to quit my well-paying job to stay home with him. His medical needs were so overwhelming that for me working was not an option. I was his nurse. Kevin was the bread winner now. I took care of 80% of John’s care from advocating, doctors’ appointments, school, nursing care and so on. Kevin took on 100% of the financial burden. We both could have easily been resentful of the other for doing more or less. Resentments just lead to anger and isolation. Today, we work as partners. We have clearer expectations of each other and help more with the household duties. We talk about what we need help with instead of expecting it without asking. Someone told me once, “Don’t let him disappoint you”. Tell him what you want or need instead of waiting for him to fail because he didn’t know or understand.
- I’m not his mama
I don’t need to control him. He is a grown man and the decisions he makes in his personal dealings are his to make. I can only offer my opinion and pray he makes the right choice, most cases he does. Which leads me to the next one…
- Forgiveness is easier
When I am mad at Kevin I can let my thoughts spiral into a sad sad story of our lives. I script future conversations about divorce. Thankfully, I never speak a word of it! I have trained myself to fall into positive impressions of Kevin. By training myself I mean, I call a friend who loves him and tell them why I am mad. They usually side with me but always justify Kevin’s side. It allows me to take a step back from anger and look at him in a positive light. I talk about how great of a father he is, how he is always fixing things around the house, about that time he built a new garage in 2 days and put up a new fence. I talk about the way he holds John when John is sick. How he gives him a bath every night and I get to hear them laughing. He doesn’t resent us, he loves us and loves spending time with us. We know this through his actions. So that one time a month he pisses me off, is so much easier to forgive. I hope Kevin feels the same about me.
- We agree to disagree
I am notorious for stopping in the middle of a conversation we are debating and saying “Ok, you are right.”. And walking away. Kevin usually laughs at me but I feel like it’s a ‘drop the mic’ moment and I have actually won. This is what I tell myself because in reality I would rather be happy then right. This little tactic has saved us from hours of the silent treatment. Best one ever!
- We don’t need gifts
Gifts were great in the beginning. At this stage in the game I just want him to take the lil man to Chuck E Cheese for two hours so I can catch a nap. In reality, it’s the day to day things that get done or how he shows up, that is the real gift. Most Sunday mornings he lets me sleep in but leaves a cup of coffee by my bedside just in case I want to sit up in bed. Sometimes he throws in a bagel or a bowl of fruit. My dear friend Ann always says, “It’s about the season, not the day”. What we do for each other all month long is a sweeter gift then flowers and thigh thickening chocolates on sweetest day! I’ll take the season over the day.
- Our love is unconditional
Before Kevin and I separated I vividly remember telling him on a drunken night that I hate him. I remember saying it and thinking, once I say this I cannot take it back. It is my greatest regret in our marriage. However, it is also one of the things that got us to the place we are now. I remember the hurt on his face when I said it. It was all over money, paying bills and how we parent. Our love was conditional, if you pay the bills and help me parent I will love you. The recession hit us hard, we had a house in foreclosure and we owed my father a lot of money. This sort of thinking takes years to change but if you are invested in spiritual and personal growth, change can happen. After I got sober I began working the steps. This is when I realized how unrealistic my expectations were and how conditional my love was. I pushed people away by hurting them and drank to feel better about it. Today, we are partners. When we can’t pay the mortgage it’s up to both of us to make it work. If I cannot contribute financial I can contribute emotionally. I can tell him I will support him and help look for a solution. I can pray and reassure him that I still love him.
It took me years to remove the labels that we assume when we get married; romantic, knight, lover, money etc… What we thought a husband should be is not the reality. If more people went into marriage with less unrealistic Expectation of each other, the marriage would last.
My favorite words of wisdom when it comes to marriage:
“You can tell a lot about a marriage by the way they treat each other through the bad times.” – I have no idea who said this but someone did and I remembered it.
We have had enough bad times to pull us a part and back together again and again. Somehow, we keep coming back to each other.
I love my life today, I love my marriage, my home and my lil family!
“Expectations are resentments under construction” – Anne Lamott