Thursday, August 20, 2015

Time Flies When You're Having Fun

Today, August 20, 2015, is a special day in the Frequently Interrupted household. Today is the day that Heather and I celebrate our ten year wedding anniversary. Ten years! There was a time when I wasn’t very good at spending ten weeks in the same place or around the same person. On one level, I’m as surprised as anyone, but then, not really. I have insider information on this one and knew it was going to last.

In some ways, Heather and I couldn’t be more opposite. I’m from a small town no one’s ever heard of in south Texas, and she is from San Diego, California. I grew up surrounded by hordes of cousins (and they were all just “cousins” - we hardly ever used numbers or “once removed” or anything like that), and she is still trying to adjust to the family mob mentality. She likes dance while I trip over my own feet. Don’t even get me started on movies! We have lots of little things that are all kinds of different.

Those differences, though, just add flavor to the mix. In every way that matters, we couldn’t be more alike without being the same person. Values, desires, core beliefs. In areas like this, we line up so well, it’s almost spooky sometimes. If we won the lottery (fairly impossible since neither of us ever plays the lottery, but you get the idea), I don’t think it would take us more than about thirty minutes to come to a complete agreement on how to use the money. Very few ideas that either of us pitched would even be a surprise to the other. Yes, I know perfectly well how fortunate I am, and I try to remember to appreciate it every day.

That may be just about the most hamfisted segue I have ever written, but it does take us directly to what I want to talk about today. As someone who has made more than his fair share of mistakes in relationships before finally getting a clue, I thought that we might take a look at a few of the things I have noticed.

First of all, never lose track of what is important. You are going to disagree occasionally. You may even not like each other very much sometimes. Even during the worst of times, though, you have to remember to keep the big picture in mind. Is that argument over the dishes more important than the time and love you’ve invested? If so, you may be in the wrong place to begin with. If no, maybe it’s time to walk back the outrage to something more appropriate to the issue. Your life, your love, and your time are precious, valuable commodities. Don’t waste them or throw the away.

Communicate often, communicate well, and communicate honestly. You don’t live in a comic book, and no one can read your mind. If something is bothering you, say so. Don’t just assume that the other person knows, and then get angry when that assumption turns out to be wrong. By the same token, listen when your partner is telling you something. The standard options package for your head comes pre-equipped with two ears and only one mouth. Use them accordingly.

The fine art of compromise cannot be overstated, but if you’re making compromises constantly then you may be doing something wrong. You will not get things the way you want them every time, but you should not be not getting the things you want every time either. It’s a balancing act. Hopefully a matched pair will agree on things often, especially things that really matter, but, when disagreements do happen, the results should not look like a scoreboard, and you certainly should not see a clear pattern in which receives what score. If you’re actually thinking of this scoreboard analogy in your relationship, you’re probably already losing. Don’t do that.

Little surprises from time to time can make for big smiles and happy couples. They don’t have to cost a penny either. Small notes left where they will be found, preparing an unexpected but popular meal, or taking the time to learn something that would be appreciated by the other person are all excellent examples of surprises you can do for little to no cost, or just using what you already have to hand. Of course, nothing says you can’t go out and buy a nice gift or schedule an amazing night on the town either. It all depends entirely on what works for the two of you. What matters is that you make it clear that you are thinking of each other, even without having some special reason for doing so.

The single most important element of any relationship is trust. If you don’t trust each other than you are definitely in the wrong place, and there is no probably about that one. No matter what some people might believe, there is nothing 50/50 about a marriage. The only way a marriage is going to be at its best is if both parties are committed 100%, and if both parties no without a doubt that this commitment is embraced by the other person. If you have that then trust is the default. It can’t be any other way. Jealousy is not cute, it’s not endearing, and it’s not helpful. It’s poison, and it signifies that the jealous party has some pressing issues that need to be resolved, beyond anything else that might be involved. Trust your partner or you don’t really have a partner. It’s that simple.

I could easily fill more pages with the things that I have noticed, but you would stop reading long before I ran out of observations. I think that if you have these under control then you probably have a pretty good handle on things anyway. If you don’t have these under control, you already have your work cut out for you. Instead of dwelling on all of that, or going on and on, I’m going to go practice what I preach and enjoy an anniversary with my wife.

She doesn’t know I’m writing this one yet - it wasn’t on the proposed schedule - but she reads all of these before you do, so she’ll know soon. She knows by the time you are reading this. It will be a little early, but you can file this one under that “little surprises” heading I mentioned earlier. I’m not actually very creative, in the usual sense thought of for these kinds of things, and I can certainly be more than a little hidebound, but I do try to break from my own conformity at least occasionally. This is my early anniversary present, my little corner of oddball creativity painting a portrait in my own meager way. It will be a little early because I am, of course, writing and preparing this days ahead of time. On the 20th, I don’t intend to do any more work than just pushing the Publish button. Aside from that, I’ll be spending time with my wife. When it’s your turn, I hope that you’ll do the same. Enjoy your love. That’s the whole point.

Happy Anniversary Heather. Here’s to an amazing ten years! I love you, and am looking forward to the many, many more years ahead of us.

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