Thursday, January 15, 2015

6 things I've learned in 6 months of marriage

There are loads of articles on wisdom from people who have been married for 20+ years, but what wisdom can we glean as n00bs? Here's my take.

1. Pick your battles (sort of) 

We've all heard this adage. Picking your battles indicates that instead of sharing your feelings on many issues, you pick a select few to run with. Seeing as how marriage lasts a lifetime, personally I don't want to swallow all of my neurotic preferences until one day I just freak out about the cereal bowl having flakes stuck on it againnn because someone didn't rinse it. All of it could be saved by communication.

So instead my approach is, space out your battles. If I just asked Joel not to leave his fingernail clippings in the sink, then I will wait awhile before I ask that flossing teeth doesn't happen outside the bathroom. I then wait the appropriate amount of time before briefing him on “Sweat, the Yoga Mat, and Our Friend Mr. Towel” & if everything's still cool I'll throw in  a quick “Best Practices for Dirty Socks”.

One thing I complain inquire about is going out in these heinous pants, which look as if they were stolen from a pirate's garbage can after he decided it was time to throw them out.
 Making your requests rapid fire style could result in your words being misconstrued as “nagging,” a term I deplore (Joel has never said this to me, but I hear rumor that partners use it), or a remark like one of Joel's favorites, “How about we turn the temperature down on this pressure cooker?"


Like many things in life, selfies say it best.
I am an enthusiastic taker of couplies (did I just invent that?!) and Joel dislikes taking photos. Let this illustrate the principle above.
At first, happy happy.

Second one, kiss pic! We're doing okay!

The third one is pushing it. Good-humored smile is gone. Look at those eyes! They say so much.

Come on, one more Joel, I just got this cool new cat hat! (RIP cat hat, we hardly knew ye.)

I'm still having a good time, but by number 5 (which was actually like number 14 : x) you can see the situation has deteriorated. This brings us to our next point...

2. Cooperation is key (and moderately painful)
One of our engagement photos, obviously, ha!
 Ah, marriage. The magical world where doing what you want all the time is a really bad idea. I'm really good at listening and taking Joel's feelings and opinions into long as it doesn't conflict with what I want. Then it gets tricky. I'm very used to being independent and running
my life the way I want to, so I'm learning to compromise regularly (instead of the one time and then for years being like, Hey, I compromised in 2012! : ))

Fortunately, Joel and I lived together for about two years total before tying the knot, so there aren't many surprises, thank goodness, but marriage is still a game-changer. Pretty much our only challenge has been negotiating about money and lifestyle, which ties into money. Joel's spending habits mirror that of an old man who grew up during the depression. No need for cups, we have jars! This “meat product” is on sale! I, on the other hand, love my creature comforts. Almond milk, organic everything, pillows, candles, earrings, tights...Hey a sista's gotta look good!

We argue over how much money I can give to homeless people (I say it's good for our karmic bank, and Joel says “How about we put it in our actual bank?” Ha ha touché.), then end up laughing about something. I like to keep in mind that challenging each other is critical to our evolution as people, and getting challenged by someone who really really loves and trusts you, and that you really really love and trust, is as good as it gets.
3. It's for-ev-er.
You might be thinking, “Uh yeah duh, that's what marriage is.” But it's amazing how many times we'll be going about our adult life business and one of us will say, “Whoa we're married!" It's as if we've just come out of a 6 month long bender, with vague memories of a wedding and honeymoon, the full effect setting in little by little.

Something I wasn't expecting was random bursts of nostalgia and reflection on past relationships. Joel's had them too. It's kind of like they are finally over in a way they weren't before. Marrying someone else is the last nail in the coffin, even with people I was sure I'd never get back together with anyway. It's strange to have ties to people who were such a big part of my life, and now those eras are irrevocably over, and there's really nothing left to say. 
4. Make time for yourself.
In the great words of my mother, “How can I miss you if you never go away?” It's really easy to spend allll of your free time together, especially as newlyweds. Joel and I moved to France right after our wedding so we've spent a totally insane amount of time together, just the two of us. Obviously we're stoked to spend time together, but I think it's important to feel affirmed as individuals in an independent way. 

If I'm feeling overwhelmed, it usually means I need some time alone, so I'll go for a walk or spend the afternoon wandering through town, doing my thing. Next month I'm going to England solo and am looking forward to it. It's nice to not have to be anything to anyone sometimes, and be completely self-involved for awhile. Make sure to get rejuvenated however you need to, so for-ev-er can be as pleasant as possible.

5. People think you're kinda lame...

Coming into Joel's new grad school program, his unmarried colleagues sort of labeled him as the married dude to his unmarried colleagues. I've had a similar experience when meeting people. There's this sort of disconnect with new single acquaintances, which is only mildly helped by the fact that I have totally been through it and we can exchange stories. But empathizing through past experiences isn't quite the same as treading through nights on the town and awkward dating disasters together today. Still, I want to be like, "I'm still cool!" But...

5 1/2. ..You are kinda lame...and it feels awesome. 
The second we got married, Joel and I got approximately 60% lamer in terms of our social lives. We just don't want to go out. Why go out? We have delicious treats, cuddles, and pajamas right here for free. Plus we gotta go to bed early, got a lot of work to do tomorrow.
Did you just threw up a little in your mouth, or are shaking your head sadly? This will be you sooner than you think!! Don't get me wrong, we are still kickass and in my opinion majorly improved from our former selves, but in terms of party time excellent, we are the nectar of lame, or in lame-man's terms, lamesauce. That was elaborate. 

Once looking for people to hook up with became irrelevant, and I realized life is much easier not trying to be friends with everybody, going out seemed like a waste of time, energy, and money. |This is combined with the fact that I am officially past my party prime, so chugging beer results in bloating, nausea, and acid reflux. It's a far cry from my college days of pitcher offs.

I don't know who any of these ladies are but they look like they're having a great time.
But, it's a good thing. I go running. I stretch. I meditate every day. I know I'm not missing anything, I socialized for like 10 years STRAIGHT. Seriously. I developed few skills that didn't involve eating impressive amounts of hot wings or perfecting my Bloody Mary recipe. I want to make money, be fluent in French, and do a million other things that will make me a total boss.

6. Appreciate the moment

Living in gratitude is the most important lesson I've learned. At the end of the day, petty differences in preferences and everything else are meaningless.

It's easy to get caught up in the details of life, projecting into the future in terms of work, money, moving, etc. And sometimes it's easy to think about the past, and romanticize certain aspects of life before we were inextricably linked to one another. But remembering what a friend told me, "People would literally kill for what you guys have" puts it into perspective and makes me feel incredibly lucky and grateful to have a partner to go through life with. Enjoying the moment, and not letting stress or other distractions infringe on it, is what will create our many cherished memories of this short time on earth together.

Speaking of stealing things from trash cans, we saw this tree on the street and took it home. I've decided it's a gratitude tree. There are a couple of pictures on it, notes of what I'm grateful for, and little gifts we've received. Not everyone will find an abandoned apartment-friendly tree, but I encourage you to make a gratitude jar or something similar. The visual reminder is uplifting.
That's it for now. I would love to hear your thoughts! If you're married, do you agree with some of these? If you're not married, are you afraid of what marriage will bring?