Oh hello there. It’s been a long time since we’ve last spoken. I’ve been a very busy lady. In the past week and a half I’ve celebrated my parents 40th wedding anniversary, visited Jackson Hole to watch some of my best friends get married, and then celebrated my own first wedding anniversary with my dear husband, Wilson.
It’s been a helluva 10 days, and all of it has been because of two things: love and marriage.
In the South, we love marriage. Once a couple has been dating for more than a year, they will be asked — incessantly — this
annoying question: “Well when y’all gettin’ married?” And then once you’re married, it’s: “Well when y’all havin’ kids?” Marriage is less of a societal institution and more of a rite of passage to adulthood, to wisdom, to acceptance. Once you get married, people have figured you out.
And while it feels good to be in “the marriage club” so-to-speak, I’ve learned a few things about marriage in my first year that are worth sharing because they not only apply to a marriage, they can apply to any relationship in your life — with your parents, your boss, your friends, your dog, anyone. And as a tribute to my marriage of 367 days, I’m going to share some of my favorite photos from our happy day as well.
1. Once someone gives you a genuine apology, it’s then your turn to get un-mad.
Getting into a fight when you are married is normal. When you live with someone and spend a lot of time with that person, you’re bound to get into a disagreement. In my opinion, what differentiates the great relationships between the OK ones are how they move on from a fight. And after 367 days of marriage, I’ve learned it’s extremely important to move on from a disagreement. Once Wilson gives me a genuine apology — he’s learned how to give really great ones — then it’s up to me to build a bridge and get the f*@% over it. It’s human nature to revel in being right and make someone pay for their transgressions — but when the shoe is on the other foot — and it often is — you don’t want someone making you feel like crap for making a mistake. I’ve learned that when Wilson waves his white flag, I have to take it graciously and not make him pay for it. Humbling yourself to your partner will go a long way in making a happy marriage. Because, really, we all behave badly at some point or another. No need to be a jerk about it.
2. Let go of your preconceived expectations of marriage and create your own definition.
Chocolat is one of my favorite movies and one of my favorite lines in the movie is when the grandmother tells her grandson “Don’t worry so much about ‘supposed to.'” Same thing rings true here. If I did everything that I was supposed to as a wife, then I wouldn’t a) swear nearly as much as I do; b) look like complete crap all of the time; and c) cook the same three frozen meals for Wilson and me each week. But because Wilson accepts who I am, he lets go of the antiquated Southern definition of a wife and lets me be me, and loves me for it anyway. And I try to do the same for him. We’ve created our own version of marriage — eating dinner from the coffee table, holding hands in the car, laughing at jokes only the two of us understand. It’s the good stuff.
3. Ask your spouse about their day — every day.
This one is really important for Wilson. He works very hard every day and wants some credit for it. And he deserves to have that credit, so I ask him about his day and then tell him he’s doing a good job. I’m not lying, either, because he really does do a good job, but I’ve realized that this is an important way for me to get involved with his life that I’m not around for — his career — and also make him feel good about himself. Marriage is a support system, a way to provide emotional backing for your partner when they need it, and even when they don’t. Asking Wilson how is day is every day was an easy — and worthwhile — change that makes him feel good and gives him the opportunity to be heard.
4. Don’t compete with your spouse. Instead, uplift.
This is something I’m very guilty of. Wilson is, by nature, a very talented and successful person. He’s also good-looking, extremely likable and genuinely lovely. And sometimes I wish I were more like him. And by sometimes, I mean a lot of the times. He handles even the worst situations with grace and tact while I most often fall apart and end up having an anxiety attack. So naturally, I want to be like him. And then other times, I want to be better than him. But that’s not what marriage is about I’ve learned — competing with your significant other gets you nowhere. Except into a big fight that is your fault and for which you will have to apologize later. I’ve had to learn that he can’t help that he’s so dang wonderful. It’s not his fault, and trying to compete with him is futile. Instead of competing with him, I have to remember to celebrate him. And that he’s mine and no one else can have him!
5. Fight fair.
If you’ve been reading awhile you may know I have a flair for exaggeration and drama. As any person with a penchant for storytelling knows, hyperbole sells. A lesson I’ve learned in the past year — the hard way, unfortunately — is that hyperbole/exaggerating/drama have no place in a marriage, and particularly during a fight. I tend to say things solely for dramatic effect and/or for a reaction — I really love to make people laugh — but doing this during a fight only leads to unnecessary hurt, and I don’t even really mean what I’m saying anyway. I’ve learned to fight fair — to not say things that I really don’t mean just because they sound better and/or corroborate my point of view… It’s definitely difficult for me because I really love telling a good story, but I have to scale it back and *try* — keyword try — to be honest with my feelings and don’t exaggerate just for the sake of winning the fight, because it’s unfair to Wilson. As someone told me before I got married: It’s better to be happy than to be right.
To my dearest Wilson — I adore you. You are a wonderful partner, friend and confidante. Thank you for being so sweet to me, for tucking me in every night when you have to work late, for going to get me water on a hungover Sunday morning, for watching the Real Housewives with me during dinner even though you want to kill those women, for sharing your food with me even though I don’t reciprocate, for not judging me when I deserve to be judged, for listening to me and giving me great advice… for everything. You’re the best and I will always love you.