Thursday, September 3, 2015

Three Years Later

The other day my husband and I got Trader Joe's sandwiches and ate them on the beach while the sun westered and surfers got in a last hour of waves. It was by far one of the tamest and thus most enjoyable anniversaries we've had, compared to life fiascoes or trying to go on a date when everything is in boxes. (For some reason we're always moving around August/September.)

Sometime this last year, we hit a new stride in being comfortable with ourselves and each other. We've decided this must be the third phase of marriage. The first occurred during that first 6 months when the honeymoon-phase-tinted glasses smoothed over all the voracious fights we had while adjusting.

After that phase we entered a time of deciding how we were going to conduct our joint life now that we'd figured out how to survive living together, moving from experimental trials to application.

At some point between anniversaries 2 and 3, making new habits turned into having those habits become traditions. We built up enough data to make conclusions with 96% accuracy. We now talk about what we usually do for Thanksgiving, activities we know the other person will enjoy, or things we've discovered about each other that weren't there when we got married. For instance, Nic has gotten more into deconstructing book mechanics and themes, thanks to being married to a prolific reader and writer.

The things we learn nowadays are things we learn together.

My husband's ring is cool. Because dragons.

When you're engaged, people tell you marriage is very different from what you think, but they never tell you in what way.

It's hard to quantify a life change like that since by the time you have an answer you don't fully remember what it's like being single anymore. But I think I've started figuring it out. Marriage is being best friends, fuckbuddies, and financial partners all at once.

They don't usually recommend any combination of those relationships, but for marriage we make a special case. It works because there's (a) no backing out and (b) you know you're signing up for this volatile combo and thus you practice extra at things like tolerance, communication, and forgiveness.

Something annoying about your best friend you might ignore, or else avoid altogether; but in a spouse you talk and work out a compromise because/so that you can continue living in the same building. When things with money get tight, you leave the boardroom (aka kitchen) and wander off to the bedroom to resolve the tension.

Of course, we prefer saying things like, "we're in love," and people nod their heads as if any of us know what that means. I'm not a sentimental person and I've become less so as a result of being married to a skeptic, so forgive me I'm oversimplifying. I think marriage was created to meet human needs, and combining all those roles into one was precisely what people needed:

Someone you can talk to about anything without being judged, who you can rely on to be there when it counts, and who you enjoy hanging out with. Someone who shares the household responsibilities like chores and finances, and shares the stress when times are tough so that nobody carries the burden alone. Someone you can have sex with whenever and however you want, who is committed to creating mutually pleasing encounters, and who makes you feel attractive with the body you have.

Having one person fulfill all those roles is pretty incredible.

Of course, it doesn't always happen that way, and people can slip in and out of roles. Someone might be too fatigued or insecure or irritated to fulfill a role. The balance of sub-roles between you--who cooks, who cleans, who is on top, and who balances the checkbook--can change, sometimes for the better and sometimes not. Sometimes we let culture or our past dictate roles for us, keeping us from working the way that's most natural with our partners.

But when we can make it work how it's supposed to, it's pretty awesome.

Word count: 677.