Our anniversary is coming up and I can't believe how many years it's been! Seventeen!?!? How does that happen? The years that separate today from my blissful wedding day have flown by, like the rice propelled at us as we sped off to our honeymoon. I don't feel that much older, but I do feel wiser.
Michael and I got engaged on my twenty-second birthday, seven very romantic months after we met. We were married before I turned twenty-three. We didn't really know much about being married, none of our close friends had done it yet, so we were the guinea pigs.
We lived in Laguna Beach. He was getting his Masters. We were both working hard and playing hard too. At the same time, we were still getting to know each other. It became clear, very quickly, that I wasn't very good at the domestic arts. As much as I loved playing house as a child, I didn't love the cleaning and the cooking and the laundry, FOR TWO, of married life. It was a hard transition from college-student-who-takes-care-of-herself-on-her-parents'-dime to married-working-person-with-to-do-lists-and-LAUNDRY. I'm better at it now, with lots of practice, but I can't say I always love it. But I'll save that for another day. Carpe Kairos, right Monkees? (Check out Momastery for more on Carpe Kairos.)
Michael learned very quickly that it was hard to share his space with a woman who didn't love cleaning that space, often including a closet crowded with clothes strewn about in an order that he didn't understand. He had to pick up the slack where I left off, like laundry. I sucked at laundry and he happened to be very skilled in that department. But over time, it worked. We worked hard to find a balance that was fair for both of us, taking into consideration our talents, like his mastery of laundry and my mastery of the bills.
The way we interacted and the way we spent our time also went through a transformation during those first few years. I learned very quickly that it was important for Michael to get his play time - surfing, golfing, snowboarding, watching sports - even if those activities didn't include me. Sometimes it was hard for me to understand how a Saturday morning at the beach with his buddies could be more appealing than bagels and a Target run with his lovely wife. (I see the absurdity now, but back then, I was still learning.)
Michael, on the other hand, didn't always appreciate the things I signed us up for, like swing dancing lessons, or that third cat, but he did them for me. We found a way to make most things work. And we worked at it.
Those first few years were filled with weekend trips and big purchases, late nights and weekends sleeping in, movies, dinners, and great newlywed passion. They were also filled with arguments and compromise, ironing out the little kinks, going to therapy to conquer the big ones, and learning how to live with someone who had different ideas and priorities than our own. The greatest lesson we learned was that giving to each other, things like time, respect, a break, patience, a love letter, etc., made the other person happier and, in return, more giving. And we haven't forgotten that.
The years since then have looked similar. We still work at our marriage, when it's hard and even when it's easy. We don't stop learning how to live with each other just because we are practiced in it. With a growing family and shifting needs, we have to focus on adapting. And communicating. And appreciating what we have. We try to be forgiving and giving, even when it doesn't serve our cause, like when he has to navigate my messy closet and doesn't call me a slob, or when I shred the to-do list so he can have a few hours at the beach.
Hopefully, we have twice as many years ahead of us as behind us, to hold tightly to each other and the commitment and interest in working to maintain a strong and fulfilling marriage. A wise man once told us that if we water our own garden instead of wasting time admiring someone else's green grass, we will have a happy life. After seventeen years, I'm blessed to say I agree.
So today, do one small thing to cultivate your garden of love!