On September 2 of each year, Logan and I celebrate the day we decided to give "us" a go. It's pretty much a second anniversary for us on the calendar, but to me, it holds more meaning than even our wedding anniversary. It's the date my life changed forever.
After going on our first date, I came home, fired up my old eMac, pulled up LiveJournal, and typed these words: I met the man I'm going to marry today. Five days after that first date, Logan and I had a chat and decided that we wanted to see where "we" were headed. The rest... well, you know.
I've been reflecting on these last eight years. And just how much we've each changed. How much I've learned from simply being married.
There are dozens of cards from me to Logan, in a folder, tucked safely away, with messages I've furiously scribbled, all with the same theme: I REALLY, REALLY, REALLY LOVE YOU!!! But I don't know if Logan knows what an impression he's had on me. What, if we were to walk away from our life together tomorrow, I would take with me (other than a broken heart). The gifts he's given to me. The life lessons he's shown me. And I couldn't have that.
For the last two weeks, I've reflected on what those lessons are. I asked Logan what he thought of the idea, and he shared some incredibly insightful thoughts. So, I edited this from being all about what I've learned, to what we have learned. The eight most important love-nuggets we've acquired from being married to share with you. Writing this has made me laugh, cry, cringe, and scoot up closer to him. Most of all, it's just reaffirmed that my instinct didn't fail me all those years ago.
8 Lessons in 8 Years
1--Have a Slice of Humble Pie (Some of us need to eat the whole thing!)
You've got to get over yourself. Ha! But... really, you do. Shamefully, I admit that when I came into my relationship with Logan, I was under the impression that I should be put on a pedestal. (Totally cringing).
Thankfully, Logan didn't agree with that sentiment. Instead, Logan taught me to consider how we're both equally important to our relationship; how, without each of our strengths, we couldn't be able to be strong together... and isn't that what being in a relationship is all about? Being one-half of a love machine?
I thought maybe it was just me with this sense of entitlement. Maybe it was because I had dated a few guys who totally indulged my 'Princess Complex'. Maybe it was because I was raised by a dad who lavished me with jewelry for every holiday, or a mother who cut my meat for me until I was 17. (Yes, really). But, over the weekend, I found myself reading the September issue of Marie Claire, and came across a column called Single with Siggy, and discovered that there are people out there giving young women relationship advice such as, "That's the only time a relationship works--when a man adores you. A man should always love a woman just a little bit more." Seriously? I couldn't disagree more. Both Logan and I agree that the only time a relationship works is when it's rooted in deep love and mutual respect. Being focused only on yourself is not allowing yourself to focus on what's truly beautiful and, as Ru Paul so beautifully expressed, courageous about sharing a not only a life but your true self with someone else.
2--SHUT UP, ALREADY!
Let's tip the scale for a moment here. Insecurities are the worst. They really are. For someone like me, who has trouble keeping my thoughts to myself, it's even worse because I vocalize these terrible feelings/thoughts. If it isn't bad enough to be married to someone who can't stand themselves and keeps you informed on just how much, imagine being married to someone who can't stand themselves, keeps you informed on just how much, and who whines to you with nasty comments such as "You should've married her." Better yet, don't. I'm guilty of those things, and, shamefully, more like it.
Words of self-empowerment aside, the person you married probably doesn't share those feelings with you. Chances are, your spouse probably hasn't noticed that little zit on the side of your nose that makes you feel like Rudolph, or the extra 5LBS you gained over holiday. What's more likely is that your spouse loves you and sees you through his/her Love Goggles. You're gorgeous. Ravishing. Interesting. At least to him. Why call attention to all of the things you view as subpar about yourself?
The truth is, at least in our case, it's a painful experience for your spouse. Logan has told me in the past that it hurts him to see me hurt, and that it pushes him away emotionally when I say those things. I mean, how could it not? You're basically saying to your spouse: I'm hideous and awful, what's wrong with you for being with me?
So don't do it. I know, I know: easier said than done. Believe me--I get it--because I struggle with this so very much even now. Find a mantra and repeat it every time you want to say something negative about yourself. (Mine is: I'm awesome and I don't give a shit). Sometimes I have to force my eyes closed, take a deep breath, and compulsively repeat that sentence. Sometimes I have to scream it.
Bottom line: do whatever it is it takes to keep yourself from negatively influencing your spouse's thoughts about you. There's enough voices in the world to tell you how you don't measure up, but your own voice shouldn't be one of them.
I came into my relationship with Logan very broken. Fifteen months prior, I had become a single mother at 19. I had been engaged to, and ended a relationship with, the father of my child. I was angry, bitter, and down-trodden. (A real catch!) In other words, I had baggage. Just like everyone else.
I carried that baggage with me for a very long time. I still find pieces of it here and there. However, I quickly realized that I had to drop it and leave it right where it was if I wanted my marriage to reach it's full potential.
It wasn't easy. It probably won't be for you, either, if you decide to go through with the process of it all. And that's the ticket--it's a process. There may be some things you thought hurt you more than they really do, and once you confront them realize it wasn't much of a big deal to begin with. Other things may take a long, long time to reconcile. There may even be issues you never want to tackle head-on, and in my opinion that's okay, as long as you can keep it from seeping into your present.
The point is to free yourself from whatever will keep you from being fully loved/giving your love fully.
4--Accept What You Cannot Change
Guess what? You're not perfect. Don't expect your partner to be, either. If you've got high expectations for your spouse to be everything you imagine them to be, you need to come back down to Earth with the rest of us. They aren't the ones who need to work on themselves. It you.
Confession: I wish so badly that my husband was a romantic! He's not. Like, at all.
I've fought this for so long. I've bitched and whined and nagged about it. I've threatened to leave him over it. None of that has helped. In fact, many times it serves only to create more tension and distance between us.
Cliché though it may be, taking time to remember what made you fall in love with your partner can really help to put things into perspective. I've realized that I didn't fall in love with "Romantic Logan". I fell in love with the guy who keeps me laughing and smiling each and every day, without fail.
It's easy to focus on what your partner isn't. When I feel sad or frustrated by the lack of champagne and roses, I step back and focus on the wonderful ways Logan blesses me daily. When tension is running high, we both try to remember The Big Picture.
When Logan and I were talking about these "lessons", he threw this term at me and I was struck by how it perfect it is! It can be easy to get caught up in the drama of an argument for some. (Guilty).
Logan has the ability to stay incredibly calm during even the toughest of situations. (99% of the time, it's a quality I admire and respect. The other 1% is reserved for my irrational, crazy self that gets really angry when he doesn't react to my provocation). He has the ability to think about the "ultimate goal" so to speak, which, in this situation, would be to stay together, because that's what he's committed to do. I have to admit that if it weren't for his "Panoramic Perseverance" we wouldn't be together today, and it's one of the ways Logan blesses our marriage.
Even outside of an argument, when life is just plain tough, we both keep our Ultimate Goal in mind, and resolve to continually work towards that. We try our best not to allow the world into Our World, which leads to the issue of guarding your heart and your marriage.
6--"Detoxing Your Marriage"
I'm sure you've heard tons of girls say this before: "I don't have girl friends, I only hang out with guys." That was me. And that was a real problem when Logan and I first got married. I just couldn't get what the big deal was. Why only hanging out with guys wasn't healthy for our marriage, and why I had to give that up because it made Logan uncomfortable. I was only thinking about myself and my own feelings. Turns out, Logan knows a thing or two about guys. He was right about the guys I considered my "friends", and what their intentions really were. Logan too had to rethink some of the relationships in his life.
Marriage is vulnerable. A glimpse into our society, and all of the destructive forces inside it can showcase just how easy it is to do what you want, when you want it, without a thought given to others. Sometimes the world seems to scream TAKE WHAT YOU WANT! from every possible angle. There is always someone or something waiting to be center stage in your life, when it shouldn't even be in the back of house.
I mentioned the term 'Our World' in #5 because Logan and I really have built a fortress against the outside. Our marriage has been rocked and tested many times in our few short years together. Sometimes friends need to let go from your life. Sometimes it's certain activities or locations that you just avoid. For example, when Logan and I were dating I used to love dancing at a local Indie night. Every time I went, I would be face to face with exes and, on the one occasion Logan went with me, one of his exes literally threw herself on him. After that night we decided it wasn't worth the trouble of dealing with the drama, and we'd rather do go/do something together where we could focus on us. We began looking into activities we both enjoy, and also made it a point to hang out with other couples.
Logan and I do what we can to ensure our marriage is prosperous, and we find this to be one of the most important lessons we've both learned. We value our marriage more than anything else, and that is what's the driving force behind our decisions, what keeps us healthy and free of "relationship toxins".
7--It's OK to go to bed angry... sometimes.
Blasphemy! Right? I don't think so. Honestly, there's just some times when, at least for me, at the end of the day, I'm tired, grouchy, and downright emotional. This is a prime time for fissures to expand, and, unfortunately, the time I'm most likely spending with Logan. I'm not sure if Logan and I have ever had an argument during the day.
We've had all-nighters. They've been awful. Most of the time, nothing is ever resolved, and Logan admits that staying up all night when he has to work in the morning only makes him angrier. He has said when he realizes how much time is being spent arguing into the wee hours instead of sleeping, he gets more and more unresponsive. I get it.
Almost always, in the morning, we're over whatever it was we were arguing about. We forgive. It's almost certainly forgotten. He and I move on.
My advice? Know when to let go of an argument and get some sleep. Chances are, when you wake up, you'll feel better and life can go on. Why draw it out?
8--Make it Work!
Probably the most important lesson we've learned in our eight years as a couple. No matter what, don't give up! But why? Why does it matter to stay together? For us, it's because we believe we are meant to be together. That we were designed to meet and create a life with one another. That there's no one that could complement each other the way we do.
All of that may seem ridiculous and rather nutty to some. We're okay with that. Logan and I realized a while back that we are different from a lot of people, and that's partially why we get along so well. He and I share the same values, the same goals.
Reflecting on these last eight years Logan and I have spent together has opened my eyes to how much he and I have changed. Starting out so young (I was 22, Logan, 23) we've been able to grow together, and I pray each day that will continue. Marriage is tough. Most days are filled with the mundane bits that threaten to overtake our spirits. It's in between the mundane where I know I can say I've found true happiness. It's where I've become content in quiet. It's home.