As some of you may remember, I had the joy of meeting Cecily, who writes at Uppercase Woman, this September at Mighty Summit. In fact, when I got back, I wrote about a conversation I had with Maggie and Cecily about money, that shook me up and made me take a harder look at myself. Though Cecily and I were hardly the most obvious demographic match at The Summit, she was the person I walked away feeling like I’d known my whole life. So when she asked me if I’d be interested in her writing about marriage from the perspective 14 years in… I jumped on it. Cecily and her husband have been through more than most of us can imagine – addiction, death of twin babies late in pregnancy, and financial unraveling. But when I asked her what she most wanted to talk about, she said, “Just surviving the day to day boredom.” So here is Cecily (who’s blog you should totally be reading), being wise:
I met my husband when I was 18, and he was 25. We met at a bar, chatted each other up, had a couple of phone calls, and finally went on a date.
For the next few years we’d run into each other fairly often (Philadelphia really is a small town, and we went to small bars), but other than saying hello, we weren’t really on each other’s radar much. Until November 15th, 1992 when we ran into each other on the way to breakfast, ended up spending the day together, and fell in love. There were a couple of complications (er, he was married to someone else), but a month later, we began our lives together in earnest.
Yes, you read that right. My husband and I have been together since 1992, when I was a mere 24 years old and he was 30. It’s been 18 years.
We got married on October 19th, 1996. Ironically, we had a total APW wedding; we made the invitations ourselves out of our love poems for each other, we had a potluck reception and our entire wedding cost less than $1,200 including my dress. We were also newly sober, madly in love, and excited to begin this next step in our journey.
In our 18 years together, we’ve faced down some big hurdles. The drinking, then the drugs, then sobriety. Growing apart. Changing tastes. Reading of private journals. Infertility. A late pregnancy loss of twin boys, and my near death. Raising a daughter. Job losses. Financial struggles. Foreclosure. Bankruptcy.
Yet, without a doubt, I know that I am married to the man of my dreams, that he is my soul mate and my one true love. I never, ever, ever forget that, not for a minute, even when he drives me UTTERLY INSANE.
Yes. There have been times when it sucked. When our communication issues were so dense that they seemed irresolvable. When every single breath he took irritated me down to the bone and I didn’t think I could stand one more minute. When he felt like each little thing he did drew nothing from me but sharp criticism to the point that he felt unsafe breathing (see that connection there?). When everything seemed utterly impossible.
But we persevered. And? We’re happy.
I think there is are three critical things you need to have a successful and enduring relationship.
- Time Together
- Time Apart
Communication seems obvious, but dudes, you must keep working at it. It is SO easy in long term relationships to slide into habits that wall off the ability to communicate. Even now, 18 years in, we struggle to remember to talk to each other at the end of the day after our daughter is asleep rather than just open our laptops and disappear into the internet. The way I know we’re not communicating well is when every interaction ends in bickering. Sadly, it’s during times of heavy bickering that you want to communicate the least, but you have to push through the annoyance and TALK.
Time together also seems obvious, but I mean time TOGETHER. I mean sex, intimacy, long walks, sitting across from each other having dinner alone, nights away from everything – TOGETHER. When we haven’t had enough time alone, we find the first hour we DO spend together is usually irritable and edgy until we wear away the rough edges and begin to actually relax into each other. Again, you just have to push through. MAKE IT A PRIORITY. Doing laundry together, grocery shopping – all of this can be great time alone. Hell, Charlie and I have some of the greatest fun together we ever have grocery shopping (uh, when our daughter isn’t with us, I should add).
Time apart. Oh, in those early days, time apart seems so awful, doesn’t it? You miss each other. You call every half hour. Trust me, that does change. I often travel for work and while I miss my husband, I also relish getting to be my own person. Charlie enjoys taking his 72 Ford Maverick downtown and taking photographs or chasing trains. I like going to see crappy movies by myself. I miss my family terribly when I’m away, but I return feeling more like Cecily and less like Wife or Mother, and honestly, that’s GREAT for our relationship.
There’s far more to making a life together work, but I’m only going to say one last thing: in order to be happy in my relationship, I – personally – need to be happy. That means I need to be pursuing my dreams, doing things I love on a regular basis, and taking care of myself. The same is true for Charlie. If we aren’t strong and happy individuals, we have no chance of having a successful partnership. This doesn’t mean that we don’t each have weak times where we prop each other up – we do – but in the long view, we are ourselves first, and partners second. Well, these days, we’re parents first, but that would be a whole other post, wouldn’t it?
Picture: by the lovely Maile Wilson