On our wedding day, 9-8-98, we thought we had a pretty good idea of what we were getting into. We knew we were embarking on an exciting adventure. And we knew there would be plenty of hard stuff to deal with. But we really had no idea how exciting or how hard it would be.
There's nothing like marriage to to humble you and stretch you.
I used to dream of a marriage where there would be adoration right and left, deep soul-to-soul conversations pretty much daily, and lots of mind-reading built in. But I've come to have great affection for a marriage involving the synergy that comes from a strong partnership between people who love and respect each other deeply and understand and appreciate the differences that make them need each other.
Maybe there are some people out there (real people, not people in books and movies) who have easy marriages full of non-stop romance and fun. But I don't know any of them. I do know there are some people who feel deeply beautiful soul-mate connections with their spouses - but most people seem to need a LOT of years of ups and downs and learning and trying to develop a marriage both parties feel good about. Some couples seem to be better at friendship, others are better at partnership, some are better at mutual appreciation, others are better at connection. There's no one "right" type of marriage relationship.
Jared and I have had amazing times together this past 14 years - amazingly great and amazingly difficult. We've learned a ton - a lot of it the hard way, some of it the really really hard way. We're still learning new things and re-learning things that we should have learned more thoroughly previously.
Perhaps the most important things I've learned so far (and that I'm still needing to really work on) are these six things:
1. Let go. I've let go of a lot of things that I thought were very important. And I've learned to value new things that I didn't think were important initially. Letting go is hard. And so many things I thought I let go of pop up and demand to be considered when I thought I'd thoroughly let go of them. But letting go is necessary. And offers such freedom when I can truly cast off certain wants and needs and expectations.
2. Be grateful. I can choose whether to find fault or find blessings. When I choose to see all there is to be grateful for, things work out much better. I am amazingly blessed to be married to a man who is smart in ways I am not smart, capable in ways I am not capable, and a perfect complement to me in so many ways. I'm grateful for all the ways marriage has rubbed off my rough edges (even though it was painful). I'm grateful to be married to a truly good person who is everything I never knew I needed.
3. Give 100%. I used to think I should give 50% and Jared should give 50% and that would work out great. I've learned we both have to plan to give 100% and that all I should really be thinking about is whether I'm doing my 100%.
4. If it's important to you, it's important to me. Jared loves watching sports on TV, flying airplanes, and having certain material things that I would never even know existed without him introducing them to me. He's careful not to let his interests take over all our free time or mess with our financial health. But since these things really matter to Jared, they need to matter to me. On the flip side, I care about lots of things Jared doesn't naturally care about (and my list of things I care about is WAY longer than Jared's...). Jared does a great job of making what matters to me matter to him. We don't have to like and need the same things. But we do have to respect and support what really is important to each other without judgement.
5. Don't expect to change anyone besides yourself. Be the change you wish to see - and then be OK if you're being that change and it's not making the overall change you had in mind. Work on yourself first and foremost and learn to accept and work on your own faults.
6. Marriage is work every day. Like all serious and worthwhile work, it can make your tired and frustrated and is sometimes so hard it makes you want to give up. But it also brings the kind of real joy and satisfaction you can only get from serious and worthwhile work. It's the kind of joy and satisfaction that can be hard to see or feel in the everyday without making an effort to feel it, the kind of joy and satisfaction you feel most deeply in looking back and seeing all you've been through together and all you share and all the goodness your union has brought forth. I like this quote by Ursula Le Guin "Love does not sit there, like a stone. It has to be made like bread, remade, made new."
Marriage is a very very good thing.
Here are a couple of my favorite quotes about marriage that I probably would have shunned if I came across them years ago. They're decidedly un-romantic but they've helped me realize some important truths and let go of unrealistic expectations. And I've found that when expectations are in check, romance is much more likely to happen.
"Love does not consist in gazing at each other but in looking together in the same direction."
–Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
"I was never one of those women who tell you that they're always on the same page as their spouse. I feel like you're ahead of the game if you're even in the same book" - Anna QuindlenI'm so grateful that I've now spent 1/3 of my life with an amazing man who supports me and loves me and stands by me in a marriage that has brought me the adventure and stability I dreamed of alongside the learning experiences I needed.
For our anniversary, I met up with Jared after work in SLC and we went to a fabulous restaurant, spent the night downtown, then went to the temple where we were married the next morning. Some friends were kind enough to watch the kids overnight. We haven't been away together for years and while a get-away seems less drastically needed than it did when all the kids were so little and needy, we realized that it's still greatly needed. Having many hours together in a different setting with nothing to think about except each other does wonders for a relationship. We've decided we need to do this at least twice a year.
Here we are at the temple on our wedding day:
Finally, here's a little video I made a couple years for our anniversary that we like watching with the kids each year on our anniversary. Making and watching something like this sure helps me count my blessings. What wonderful adventures we've shared! And we've got plenty more to go...