I’ve been waiting for it to happen: that time in my marriage when I start to understand what everyone is talking about. The time when I start to nod along in agreement to people saying marriage is “hard work,” that it’s not “easy.” My ten year anniversary has come and gone and despite health problems, cross-country relocations, financial hardships, and family emergencies, the only thing that hasn’t been hard work has been my relationship.
My marriage, however, has been the cause of three break ups… seriously. My brother-in-law’s girlfriend wrote me on Facebook one day saying that watching my husband and I in our daily interactions gave her horrible proof of the way a relationship “could” be, and she couldn’t continue to settle knowing it was a possibility. One of my very good friends said she just assumed all marriages were like hers and seeing mine filled her with so much sadness for herself that she kicked her husband out of the house.
It’s bewildering. It’s not as though my husband and I are Gomez and Morticia, shamelessly making out at funerals, family reunions, and the DMV.
On the weekdays he kisses me goodbye on his way to work, we exchange some loving words mixed with reminders of daily responsibilities. “You are so gorgeous baby, I miss your face. Also, could you pick up some scotch tape if you go out today?”
He comes home, we prepare a meal together while drinking a glass of wine or a Manhattan, eat, watch a little television, go for a walk. Maybe we catch a yoga class, or meet up with some friends. Repeat.
I asked my husband the other day, “So, like… is this supposed to get super hard at some point?” “Eh, I think we’re out of the woods,” he said.
So after 11 years of smooth sailing, this is the best advice I can offer:
Know your values
A year into this blog and I haven’t given relationship advice for a very good reason: 90 percent of the “work” was done in picking the right partner. I don’t feel like some marriage genius that took a hardcore republican pastor with a snake fetish who wanted nine children and molded our separate philosophies and interests together into something wonderful. We had the same values. We had the same idea of what constitutes a “good time.” Prevention is the best medicine so all I am saying is build yourself a time machine and when it turns out that bastard you are with tells you he finds vanilla a superior flavor to chocolate, GET OUTTA THERE!
All relationships are unique and have their own set of challenges, and we find ourselves in them for all sorts of reasons. Factors such as children, finances, religion, mental health, expectations, shared friends, and community can make us grow closer or farther from each other and I don’t judge anyone who feels stuck or unhappy. What constitutes a successful relationship is a subjective idea. All I can offer is my ideas about relationships from a happy wife with an easy partner.
I live by my “to do” list. But the idea of having a “whom to do today” list was a level of monoga-meh I promised myself I would never reach. What an idiot.
My idea of sex scheduling, year one:
- Wake up
- Send out work emails
- Call Linda about the HOA dues
- Have sex, I guess
- Change the cat litter box
Reality of sex scheduling, year 11:
- Wake up
- Send out work emails
- Call Linda about the HOA dues
- Slow down your day
- Take a shower
- Light some candles
- Touch yourself
- Have amazing sex you actually took time to fully enjoy
- I don’t have a cat
You want to know the great thing about sex scheduling? It shows that you are making physical intimacy a fucking priority (see what I did there? Eh? Eh?) Sex scheduling is actually a very sexy gesture and it keeps you in the mood. The raging hormones of year one aren’t going to stick around forever, but your sex life can.
I don’t believe in unconditional love
That seems harsh, but it’s true. I embrace the fact that my love is highly conditional. If you leave the toilet seat up, I DON’T LOVE YOU ANYMORE!
Life is going to throw shit balls our way. Depression, anxiety, and physical and financial hardships and one should work through those. But my love for my partner is based on so many conditions that must especially exist during the hard times. My big three are kindness, consideration, and attentiveness.
I have no desire to make my relationship work. If my husband decided to stop being kind to me, stopped listening to me, stopped considering me, then I would decide to take my newly single ass to have one night stands in Barcelona after salsa dancing and sangria. I love my husband, and maybe my love is unconditional, but my commitment and my time are not.
I believe we are all entitled to our own personal lives
This one gets me in trouble the most. I firmly believe that we are all entitled to our own thoughts, feelings, and relationships. This idea of “If you wouldn’t do or say that in front of your spouse, then don’t do it at all,” is a leash that I find too short for most people.
We talk about different things with different people, we act differently when we are alone or with our families or with our friends. The idea of censoring oneself on behalf of a spouse is… awful. My marriage is not North Korea, I am not Kim Jong Un. The Dear Leader doesn’t have eyes and ears everywhere. You are who you are and you are entitled to your unique experiences and expressions.
So many people complain that their spouse hasn’t grown and has stagnated, that the passion has left not just their marriage, but the person. How could they remain passionate when they don’t allow their spouses the experiences necessary to remain a flourishing and interesting human?
Control is an illusion, mannn
I have no desire to control my spouse. We have a monogamous marriage and that is the agreement we have and are happy with. If that should change, and my husband wants to come out of the closet, join the circus, and change his name to Agamemnon, exactly what the fuck am I supposed to do about it?
I have no desire to keep someone from living the life they want to live. I don’t believe people cheat because they are tempted away. I believe people cheat because they are unhappy. I love my spouse and if he believed he would have a happier life with someone else, I would want him to have the happiest life he could have. Luckily I’m a damn good wife, and I call him Agememonon in bed constantly.
Position yourself to choose
There is no better feeling than knowing your partner actively chooses you. When I am with my husband, it is because there is no one else we would rather be with, and nowhere else we would rather be. He is my favorite person. There is no faking or censorship, no false control. I am who I am, he is who he is, and together we have a happy life. I am a huge advocate for financial independence, and community building outside of your marriage. I believe the more over the moon you are, the less stuck you should be. Do everything in your power to have the option to leave your relationship, and enjoy the peace and security that comes with choosing to stay.
Privilege alert: I have found myself in situations where I have stayed in bad arrangements quite literally for a sandwich. No connections, no money, nowhere to go, and no way to get there. Small steps are still steps. Please reach out to me personally if you need resources on how to leave when you feel truly stuck.
Married? Divorced? In lurrrve? What are your relationship tips? Do I give my spouse too long of a leash? Should I dye my hair black ala Morticia Addams? Let me know in the comments below!