Marital Bliss - A Wedding Photographer's View on Marriage
I wrote this last year on my 14th anniversary. We are now at 17 and 22 years together. Woop Woop!
This Wednesday my Hubby and I celebrated another wedding anniversary - 19 years together and 14 years married...and yes, still happy. Wanna know the secret? There are dozens of things I could come up with, so here are a bunch. I posted a few on Facebook and people came out of the woodwork "liking" it and commenting on it, so I thought, hmmm, I may be on to something here. A couple months ago, I saw a documentary called "112 Weddings" on HBO. As I watched and listened to everyone's stories, I couldn't help but ask myself, "Why do those people look...joyless?" Because when the director asked the subjects "How's being married now?" I don't recall any of the couples saying "It's still pretty great." Or "It exceeded my expectations". What had happened to these people? Where was the joy, or the humor about how sometimes it's great and sometimes it sucks...just like any relationship? Where did the whole fantasy of Soul Mate and "The One" come from?
I believe that our society really places unrealistic expectations of couples today when it comes to love, romance and relationships. The media is largely to blame for this crap. I always say that there really is no "the one". It's really the one who's shit you are going to be able to put up with until you are cold and covered up with dirt in the ground. Everyone has baggage. Marriage is a package deal. No one is perfect. No relationship is perfect. Everyone has their quirks and when I met my husband many years ago, I had to ask myself, "Are these little things about him that sometimes bother me going to break us? Can I make a choice right now to accept that he doesn't like to make the bed? Or, that he needs to marinate about things that bother him before he talks about it with me." There are other things but they are not that big of a deal. I was willing to take a chance that if I could deal with them when I was 28 (when we met) I would still be able to deal with them when we were 88. And so far, so good.
As a wedding photographer I see love played out in so many different forms. When the ceremony starts, it fills me with hope. There is always a moment during every ceremony where I relive my wedding in my head every time. And maybe that's the key when things get crappy. Thinking about why we chose THIS person in the first place. Reliving those early days when everything was new and fresh. The things you remember that make you smile about your partner. Because believe me when I tell you, the person you marry today is not going to be the same person in 20 years. If you are lucky, that person may be better, but they will be different. I think taking time to really know someone helps. Even when I thought that it was quite possible that I was going to marry my husband back in the day, I tried to not get lost in that and stayed focused not only on our relationship, but on myself as well. Keeping the relationship with myself healthy which in turn can keep my relationship healthy. When we were dating for about two years, I lost sight of that for a minute and started to focus on what the next step for us was. Then I took a step back and asked myself, this. "How well do I really know this guy? It's only been two years. I know as much about this person and a two year old knows about the world". And so I stepped back, focused on me and things progressed in a healthy way. And here I am, 19 years later. Happy.
So...what's the secret? There is none. Everyone's formula is different. No two relationships are the same. Everyone has their own set of rules. Here are some of mine (and a few of his too). Of course some are supposed to be funny, but I married a funny guy. They are in no particular order. Feel free to share this one. Or better yet, add your own to the comment section.
1. No TV in the bedroom (I love Jimmy Fallon as much as the next person, but I'm not screwing to The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. I can DVR it) And please don't tell me you like the ambient lighting the TV provides for you. That is insane. Just light a candle for crying out loud.
2. No arguing about money. This was super tough for me, but I'm much better about it. Money comes and goes and sometimes we don't have control over it.
3. If screaming starts to occur while arguing, walk away. Try again later.
4. If you go shopping as a couple, synchronize your watches, do your own thing and meet up later.
5. Don't ask your husband to "carry your purse..." NOT EVEN FOR A SECOND
6. Never ask your husband to go and get your tampons or Monistat....even if you are on your death bed.
7. Don't let your little quirky shit start fights. For example. I'm a little OCD about stuff. I like the dishwasher loaded a certain way. My husband doesn't do it that way...ever. But instead of being a loon that says "Jesus, you know I like it done this way why can't you just do it my way...blah blah blah" I just fix it so it's the way I like it. I mean, I should be happy that he is doing it regardless. Same thing goes with making the bed. I'm the one who likes it made, he could care less. So I just make it because that's my quirky shit, not his. And BTW, he does make it from time to time and I always let him know I noticed.
8. Never compare your jobs and who's job is the harder one. They probably both suck and are hard. It's not a competition. (this really comes into play when you have kids)
9. Allow one another to complain about the other's in-laws. It's going to happen and you can't be offended by it.
10. It's fine to NOT talk about stuff that's pissing you off right away. (believe me, I used to do that all the time. I wanted to get it out on the table right away). Sometimes it's better to let a little time pass and think about it. Ask yourself after a day or two, "Am I still really pissed off about that thing?" I bet about 80% of the time you have already moved on.
11. Have friends together as well as friends apart
12. Take vacations alone as well as together if you can.
13. Money will come and go, there is no right time to have kids. And when you have kids EVERYTHING about your relationship will change. And I mean everything.
14. Always be on the same page about discipline but let your partner parent they way they want when you aren't around. What I mean by this is, if I'm away on a trip and my husband wants to not bathe the boys for 3 days and let them stay up until 10pm every night, so what. He does it the way it works for him. When we are together, we parent as a team but when we are flying solo, all bets are off and that person is the parent. They don't come with instructions and by letting your spouse do it their way, they learn what works for them.
15. Don't assume your partner knows what you want. Always ask for what you want and need. Your partner isn't a mind reader. This is super true when you have kids. YOU MUST ASK FOR HELP. They want to help. Don't assume they know what to do.
16. Don't tell your partner everything about you all the time. My husband still tells me stories about his past that I had no idea about. I love that. It keeps things interesting and filled with surprises.
17. Therapy is a good thing. And I'm not talking about couples therapy either...figure out your stuff because it follows you everywhere.
18. Take turns being the "The Top". And I don't mean that in a sexual way (well not for this post anyway) Everyone deserves to wear the pants a relationship so to speak, get in touch with your alpha and let it fly...but take turns.
20. Go on dates where you don't have to talk to one another once in a while. For example, a movie or concert. How about a ball game? This way you create an environment where you aren't always talking about your kids. Or about the same old thing over and over. It's more about just hanging out and having quality time and less about forced conversation. Or, instead of getting a table for two when you go out to dinner, sit at the bar instead. It's fun to strike up conversations with others, especially the bartender.
21. (I'm gonna catch shit for one this, but here goes) Don't celebrate Valentines Day. What a lame holiday. Talk about pressure to perform!!! Save me. To be honest, we don't really celebrate our anniversary either. I can't tell you how many times we have forgotten it. Thank God my Dad calls and reminds us every year.
22. When you have resolved an issue, do NOT bring it up again. If you have forgiven your partner, then forgive them and let it go. Don't beat a dead horse, you have to move on and move forward. Holding grudges and using them as weapons is unfair, dirty play and it's exhausting.
23. Porn happens. Your partner is most likely going to look at it and maybe you do too. It doesn't mean you don't love one another or don't want each other, so try to lighten up about this one. (unless it's happening all the time or becoming a substitute for sex...then you need an intervention... fast)
24. Humans fart, crap, puke, pee and do weird things with their bodies. I can't believe there are some people who claim they have NEVER heard their partner fart, or walk in while they are taking a dump. I got news for you, if you have never witnessed any gross bodily functions from your partner, that will change when you decided to have a baby because when you push that kiddo out, you normally crap all over the floor. (There is sometimes puke involved too among other gross things) And if you make the choice that kids aren't in your future, you will still do unattractive things in front of one another as you age. Trust me, this is coming from the woman who puked once after having sex while simultaneously peeing all over the bathroom floor while we both laughed through the entire thing. (Ask me in person about that one please)
25. No one person is "always right". When I am shooting a wedding and it comes time for the toasts, I hold my breath praying I won't hear that dreaded phrase come out of the best man's mouth (or someone else); "Remember to always agree with your wife because she will always be right." Is this a hetero thing? I never hear this at same sex weddings. Who started this crap? This is the most sexist generalization I have ever heard and it's simply not true. There are plenty of times when I am in the wrong about stuff and there are plenty of times when my husband is in the wrong. Why the hell does it matter because when disagreements happen, your views are different and it's your job as a couple to help one another see both sides and either, say you are sorry or agree to disagree.
26. Social media is a lie! Stop comparing your relationship to others who advertise that their lives are perfect, because they probably aren't and neither is yours. Do not think for one second that your "friend's" photos on social media represents what is really going on. My mom always said to me, "You never know what is going on behind closed doors." This is beyond true. I have had conversations with people who were on the verge of a divorce...like those words literally would come out of their mouths and the very next day, they would post photos of themselves on social media with their spouse like nothing was wrong, they were banging five times a day and their kid's farts could kill cancer. So while you are scrolling through Facebook and Instagram creeping your friend's lives, alway keep in mind that most of it is crap.
Oh and remember, you can never change your partner. People don't want to change when forced. If you are your true self with that person, you can always inspire them to see things differently and become a better human.