When a Marriage Grows Up

Anniversary flowers

Mike and I celebrated 19 years of marriage this week, the same age we were when we first met. It wasn’t love at first sight, and we didn’t marry our best friend, but dammit – we make a good team. If our marriage was a person, it would be an adult now. It could drive a car, vote, and go to war.

As we raise our own teenager, I can’t help but reflect on this second half of marriage. I’m realizing that as our marriage leaves its teen years behind and we begin our third decade together, our marriage has grown up. Just like raising a kid, the changes are subtle. I didn’t wake up and think, “Oh glorious day! We’ve been through so much, and our marriage is perfect now!”

No, the first time I really thought about it was after we’d had an argument. I couldn’t even tell you what it was about – we argue over a lot of stupid stuff, along with a handful of some big stuff. (I’m very suspicious of people who say they never argue with their spouse. These same couples also seem to have sex multiple times a week after years of marriage and have never had a conversation with their spouse while the other one is pooping.)

The argument was resolved without any slamming doors, whatevers, or a prolonged period of existing with each other while doing everything we could to pretend the other person wasn’t actually there. (If that doesn’t describe at least twenty arguments you’ve had with your spouse, you may want to move along. Nothing to see here.) Soon after, Mike commented that he was happy that we were at a place where we could argue and get through it without hating each other for the next three days. Here’s the crazy thing: I was thinking the exact same thing.

Somewhere along the way our marriage had grown up to the point that we were able to fight fair. Lord knows we’ve had lots of practice, but being able to hash out grievances without name-calling or dropping totally unrelated emotional bombshells on your partner is a game-changer. It doesn’t mean we just call each other out willy-nilly. Instead it means that there is room for all kinds of growth and hope for our future – and that’s a beautiful thing when you hope to spend another few decades together.

Part of not calling each other out for every little petty thing has been learning to let go of control. After nearly twenty years of marriage, we have a pretty good idea of what our individual strengths are. Knowing that the other person is better suited to handle certain things didn’t mean the other person didn’t feel compelled to micromanage or share their (unsolicited) opinion. I’ve noticed in the last couple of years, though, that we’re both more comfortable with letting each other be responsible for handling certain things and being okay with keeping our hands off of those things.

At the same time, we’re getting better at not tuning out completely. Yes, Mike pays the bills and reconciles all the expenditures against our checking account. I used to let this be his completely, to the point where I’d let my receipts pile up and hiss at him if he tried to enter them into the budget for me. But once he showed me exactly what he does, and how difficult the job can be if you get too far behind, I understood where he was coming from. It’s still his domain, but I can be as helpful as possible to make the job easier and grateful that he does this task for me. I’m in charge of the kids’ schedules, from dentist appointments to rugby carpool and homework routines. But it’s not cool to have a clueless spouse, and so we worked together to figure out a calendar system that we both use and check routinely. He may not ever need to take a kid to the doctor, and he may not be responsible for getting home in time to get Elena from her choir rehearsal, but he knows when it happens and appreciates the time I spend getting everyone where they need to be any given day.

The other big thing I’ve noticed as our partnership has matured has been the most important thing of all. More often than not, we speak well of each other in front of others. In the infancy of our relationship, this didn’t seem like a big deal. Of course we would gush about each other! We chose each other for all these amazing reasons, and don’t you want to hear about each and every one of them? But then someone won’t un-ball their socks before putting them in the dirty laundry even though you’ve told them it makes you want to stab someone, and the other person keeps trying to sneak weird stuff in your food and changing perfectly good recipes, and GOD, CAN YOU BELIEVE I MARRIED SUCH A HEARTLESS IDIOT?

We struggled with this for so long, often using each other’s “quirks” as fodder for conversation with other couples. It’s passive-aggressively amusing for the one doing the talking, humiliating for the other. And for what purpose? I’ve yet to change any of my annoying ways because Mike told that “hilarious” anecdote over dinner with friends. Once we stopped doing it (mostly), it made me realize how terribly awkward it must’ve been for everyone around us. Once you’ve been the couple on the receiving end of one of these exchanges, where you’re not sure if you’re supposed to laugh or tear the offending a spouse a new one, you think long and hard about calling your partner out.

That doesn’t mean if you invite Mike and I over for drinks that we’re going to fawn all over each other and tell you how wonderful the other person is. Nineteen years is a long time to come up with reasons we’re not so wonderful. And also, we’ve seen each other poop. But we will try our best to follow the sage advice of Thumper, and if we can’t say something nice about each other we’ll change the subject or suggest tequila shots. And because we aren’t each other’s best friend, we each have a small handful of trusted friends with whom we can vent when we absolutely need to.

If that sounds terribly difficult (and believe me, I know in some seasons of marriage it truly is), try to take a step back and see your partner as others see them. Up close we all have faults, and no one knows them better than the person we married. Step away, and suddenly you’re able to see them in a completely different light.

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Happy anniversary, Mike. Thanks for giving me a place to sit and a warm bowl of Kraft Mac and Cheese when I got locked out of my apartment 22 years ago. You’ve been keeping me safe and cozy ever since, and I’m so very glad.

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A Life Reimagined

“Are you interested in life coaching?”

Weathered wood Michigan dunes

It seemed a simple enough question, and the answer was yes. I’ve always been interested in introspection and self-improvement. Life coaching falls cozily beneath both umbrellas. Three obstacles stood in the way between me and a potential life coach, however: the phone, the car, and my wallet.

As I strive to know myself better, I’ve learned that there are a few surefire ways to get me to avoid doing something. If it involves making a phone call, having to leave the house for an appointment, or digging deep into my wallet, I’ll probably put it off or not do it at all. Strangely enough, this applies not only to things I wouldn’t want to do anyways (the DMV, the dentist, the gym), but also to things that I know I’d enjoy, like a massage. I hate making phone calls, filling my calendar makes me anxious, and – as a classic under buyer – I have a hard time spending money.

So, yes. I was interested in life coaching, but not motivated enough to call around, make an appointment, and write a big check. And that’s why I was game for giving Life Reimagined a go when I was approached to try it and participate in a focus group. Life Reimagined would bring the benefits of introspection and life coaching to me. I could fully participate and reap all the benefits without picking up the phone, leaving my house, or spending a hefty sum.

I spent some time navigating the site and answering some questions about myself and what I was looking for in this season of my life. As I reflected on these things using the tools provided, I created a Life Map and a purpose statement that continues to guide my days long after the exercise was complete. I met with a certified Life Coach from the comfort of my home, via video chat on my computer. We chatted for an hour, with my Coach putting me at ease immediately. I had countless a-ha moments in that hour, and furiously scribbled notes that have provided me with tools and inspiration I use daily.

For the first time in a long while, I feel that my days are structured in a way that leaves me feeling complete. I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing, when I should be doing it. I feel balanced, doing things that benefit myself, my family, and my work. And as I contemplate what life looks like for me in the next few years, as my kids grow and I begin exploring what career opportunities are out there for me, I feel like I have a map made just for me.

I’m a fan, and I’m thrilled to share my Life Reimagined testimonial with you:

Yes, I was able to try Life Reimagined at no cost to me. And yes, I did get to spend time in New York City while filming my testimonial. But that was where my obligation to Life Reimagined ended. And yet I feel compelled to share this service with you, not out of any obligation to Life Reimagined, but out of an authentic desire to share something that has really and truly been of great value in my life. For less than a dinner out with friends or a few cups of coffee, you can give yourself something that will quite possibly change your life.

If you have any questions about my experience or want to chat further about details, please reach out to me, either through the comments or at justlikethenumber@gmail.com if you prefer to discuss privately. I’d be more than happy to share more if anyone is interested.

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Leaving the Familiar

I came across this quote while reading Anthony Doerr’s Four Seasons in Rome, and it’s become one of my favorite quotes about travel.

One of my favorite quotes about travel from novelist Anthony Doerr. Inspirational Quotes | Spain | Ronda

Photo taken in Ronda, Spain.

As we leave home and explore the unfamiliar this week, I hope you’ll consider doing the same. It doesn’t have to be a grand, sweeping or expensive adventure. Travel to the next county over, visit that state park you always say you’ll get to, try a restaurant in a new cuisine, explore an unfamiliar part of town. Leave the comfort of your home and become new all over again.

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