In Which I Reflect On My Marriage

So, the car problem?  We needed a new distributor.  My husband hates our car. I missed 3 days of work, which used up the last of my vacation time, and we used all of our savings for our anniversary, so I can’t say I’m exactly pleased either.

AKA what Steve stared at all weekendI spent a lot of time this weekend thinking about Steve, and being married.  It’ll be 2 years in about 2 weeks.  I suppose if I was to sum up those thought by say, submitting a wedding graduate post slash a Marriage Demons post it would go something like this:

I have to preface this by saying that I’m happier than I ever thought I’d be on our wedding day, which also sums up my mantra that got me through the wedding bullshit: If the wedding is the happiest day of my life, I don’t want to get married.  Meaning that you should expect there to be wonderful and amazing things in store for you after your wedding.  Beginnings are usually scary, or painful, and the same with endings.  Weddings are both.  Like Churchill said: “This is not the end.  It is not even the beginning of the end.  But it is perhaps, the ending of the beginning.”

So, that was what was in my head going into the planning.  And that helped me keep perspective, and perspective kept the planning from sucking too much. Well, be prepared for people to balk at things you think nothing of: like when my mom called to tell me my dad might not be able to make it because their roof was leaking badly and it was supposed to rain that weekend.  She suggested uncles, etc. to walk me down the aisle, and was horrified when I said I’d probably walk by myself. Um, what?  My parents got married in a courthouse, my mom wore a sun dress and platforms, my dad wore a nice shirt and tie.  I never expected that particular conversation.

Exhibit B: I was upset that Steve, who had been married before, didn’t seem to care too much about the wedding planning.  It made me feel like our wedding, my first, was not a big deal, just a ho-hum, done-this-before thing.  When I mentioned this to my future mother-in-law, who was officiating our ceremony because she was studying to be a pastor, she said “Well, weddings aren’t really a guy thing.”  *record skipping noise* This was scary. My mother-in-law is a wonderful person, but that was a Grand Canyon of difference that made me nervous about what other attitudes I would run into in Steve that I had no idea about. And I felt even more alone because my mother was the same way.  My dad was the only one who didn’t give a crap about tradition: his advice was to make sure that I would never be responsible for his child support, because otherwise we should just be engaged for 13 years, until he didn’t have to pay anymore. In a weird way that was heartwarming, because at least my dad’s hardheaded practicality hadn’t changed.  What I learned: traditional attitudes about weddings are like herpes-you never know who has ’em until there’s an outbreak.

Side note:  I walked down the aisle with Steve, to Tom Petty’s ‘You’re So Bad’, a nod to our first concert together (we went to see Tom Petty the weekend we got engaged) and to my parents (it was their song). Everyone was happy.

Anyway, the planning was not a big deal.  The getting-to-the-wedding-while-still-wanting-to-get-married? Sucked.  A lot. The restaurant we were running closed down to be sold. I switched to a different one owned by the same people in a nearby city, but Steve was jobless.  Also, we lived under our work, so we were also facing having to move, without really any savings due to paying for the wedding, and only one income.  It worked out, Steve got a job in the small town we ended up moving to, I commute about 45 minutes (one way), we were okay, even though moving a month before your wedding is not something I’d recommend.  All of this sucked a lot of the joy out of the months before, however.

I was still not sure about marrying Steve right up until our vows. There had been a thousand little stresses over the months before that led to a fight the night before, because a. We had friends of his staying the night with us despite the fact that I said repeatedly how I wanted to spend the night before together, b. He went with those friends to a bonfire, despite the fact that I said repeatedly how I wanted to spend the night before together

The upshot?  I spent the night before our wedding alone in our halfway unpacked house, eating stuffing, fuming, and playing hearts on our computer because our internet wasn’t up yet.  Needless to say, that’s why the fight that night.  The wedding day, the reason I went through with it is because everyone had already flown in and it was too late to call it off. When I said my vows, which we hadn’t written beforehand (that’s my only other planning tip: you think you’ll be eloquently in love, inspired by the moment, and have no problem coming up with poetic and moving vows that you’ll remember forever.  You won’t.  In my case, you’ll spend an uncomfortable 10 seconds just trying to stop bawling and hoping you don’t have snot running down your face before you even start desperately considering what to say. On the other hand, from what I’ve read, we’re the only dumb asses that didn’t realize this and write our vows beforehand), I looked at Steve, and was overwhelmed by the wave of love that I felt. So, despite the depressing lead-in, I was as deliriously happy as anyone else on their wedding day.

I think it’s that attitude-I love you, but I’m also kind of pissed at you-that led to an unsettled first year.  There are so many people who say ‘nothing changed, we were already married in our hearts’ and things along those lines, but the opposite was true for me.  Everything was magnified:  do I really want to deal with insert random habit of his here for THE REST OF MY LIFE?!! *cue ominous music* It definitely did NOT help that we got a disaster of a dog as a wedding present.  The fights we had over that dog were many and angry.  Steve wanted to get rid of him, because most of the time if  Duke was left alone for longer than 5 minutes, this is what he did:

He was 6 months when we got him. This is a year later. Sigh.

I, however, get more attached to animals than people.  I couldn’t bear to give him up, mostly because at most shelters he would quickly be deemed unadoptable. Saying Duke was a problem puppy is like saying Alabama just had some storms.  He left a swath of devastation as sure as any tornado, just on a smaller scale. I have cats, you guys.  I was completely unprepared for owning a smart, stubborn, high energy dog. Who is better, but not perfect

Taken with a Polaroid 300, a perfect Christmas gift from Steve

Needless to say, it took us a while to settle in and feel normal again.  And it happened because I took a step outside of my own head.

Steve, to his credit, has always loved me unwaveringly, supported me unconditionally, and tried to make me happy in little and big ways.  What changed is that I started trying to make him happy, instead of getting pissed at every little thing, that reminded me of every other little thing, that ended with me stewing for hours on how I wasn’t happy. Which made him feel like he could never make me happy, so why even try?

I’m an only child, with all the good and bad traits that implies, and it somehow didn’t occur to me that perhaps I affected his moods as much as he did mine.  During his vows, he told me that I was also his best friend, and I slowly started realizing that maybe I should be a best friend.  As odd as that sounds, it re-framed something that was huge and complex (marriage means forever!! I was never sure about getting married!! Maybe I made a mistake!!  But I like being a wife!! Should I have changed my last name?! You’re the one that wanted a damn dog in the first place!!) into something simple:  us.  And that we loved each other.

And, most importantly, that being married did not mean that I stopped being responsible for my own happiness.  The number one thing I learned in my twenties is that you can only control your own reactions, that everyone is only in their own head, acting from their particular emotions/prejudices/attitudes.  The number one thing I learned in the first years of my marriage?  Yup,  you guessed it-that the number one thing I learned in my twenties also applies to my husband.  I’m still accountable for my reactions, even to the person I’m closest to in all the universe.

I changed my reactions. I tried to be as supportive and caring as I possibly could. And I talked calmly to him, not about him (listen to those people who tell you not to talk shit on your spouse to your friends! It makes you bitter and doesn’t resolve anything. Plus then your friends think you married a jackass, and the next stop on that train of thought is ‘what’s wrong with her that she married a jackass?’), when I felt neglected. It’s like that quote that I used to think was weird and nonsensical: “Be the change you want to see in the world.”  I used to see it and think wtf does that even mean? In my case, it meant be the partner you want and receive the love and support you give out a thousandfold.

And now, when we go through tough times like this past weekend, with me calling Steve to say I was stranded, waiting for hours with him working on it in the rain until his boss could come pick up the car (Steve’s a mechanic), the uncertainty of not knowing at times if the car would run again or if it was just done for, I’m so happy to be married to him.  I’ve learned that being ridiculously, madly head over heels in love, even when everything else is going wrong, is what makes us a team.  And my heart swells with love and I think how lucky, how crazy lucky I am to have found a man that isn’t perfect, but is perfect for me.

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