6 Lessons in my 6th year of marriage
Today is the day my wife and I celebrate our 6th year of marriage. Six years of waking up to each others’ farts and smiles. Six years of clothing left in piles near my dresser. Six years of my wife saving the planet one unflushed toilet at a time. Six years of “thank you, hunny” and “do I look good in this?” and “but I don’t believe in homeopathy” and “right there! DON’T STOP!”
In the previous “attaining marital bliss in 5 easy steps” post I gave you 5 lessons in 5 years of marriage. In this post I aim to give you 6 lessons from the past year alone.
1: Your Kid Is Not Your Marriage
In my first post I wrote about how, thanks to our 1 year old son, my wife and I were spending a lot more time together. This is still true – the kid totally forces us to spend more time together, which is great. However, as the great Reverend T. Ackbar said, “It’s a trap!”
The challenge here is you end up forgetting how to be with one another without your kid. You get so used to life with a kid, to your roles as a co-parent, to how you both team up on him – one putting together dinner, the other feverishly tickling the child and screaming “BAD ROBOT!” – you forget how to be when the kid’s not around.
“So, uh… should I tickle you or something?”
This is an understandable predicament – a kid brings so much non-stop, never-off-except-for-those-60-minute-naps, always on, never-not-on, piss and vinegar, chortles, chubbiness and chutzpah to your life it’s no wonder things get to feeling a little lackluster when he’s down for the night.
It’s understandable, but it’s dangerous: when you start forgetting how to be with one another you start forgetting why you’re with one another, you go into autopilot-partnership mode and the crowning achievement of your marriage ends up being a relatively clean kitchen and your kid’s shitty art.
I don’t want my marriage to be like that. I want to know how to be with Mellisa. I want to be surprised by her and curious about her and in tune with her and in love with her.
If I want that to happen – if you want the same thing – we have to work out our “just the spouse and me” muscles. These are the muscles that form the ridges along the back side of the heart, adjacent to the spine, directly connected to the gentleness, naughtiness, annoyance, and golden-longevity regions of the brain.
How do you work these muscles out? The cliché answer is “Date Nights!!” and I think there’s something to that answer. However, going from no dates to a date night can feel like quitting cigarettes cold turkey. Maybe we can ease into it a bit by doing a couple nights out with friends?
Whatever the case, get out of the house, get out of your comfort zone, go fight in public, go get some Italian food since your wife loves carbs so much, go try a new place, go sit a little awkwardly and search for something to talk about, go giggle and have laughs and make fun of that horrible hipster’s mustache and wonder aloud about how horrible his parents must be, go make sex somewhere you don’t make mortgage payments on, go to a library, go try to be into a new hobby you’re totally going to drop in a few weeks, go pray that your kid doesn’t turn out like that shitty hipster, go tell countless stories about what your kid did that day… and also tell stories about what you did and what she wants and wonder about each other, because you’re honest-to-god, complete, autonomous people and if you don’t honor that in each other… well, then you’ll just have a clean kitchen.
2: The Shower Secret
Ready for some mystical pseudo science? For the last 6 months I’ve been finishing off my very hot showers with 1-2 minutes under the coldest water I can get. I do this right before bed. I’ll never not do this from now on. Why? Because those cold 90 seconds have completely revitalized my sex life.
All of a sudden I get into bed, talk with my wife for a while, and, instead of going the “naw, I’m tired, big day tomorrow, love you though, etc.” route, I end up getting frisky. I’m sure your sex life is firing on all cylinders and you’ve got it all figured out. But me, on the other hand? The whole sex before bed thing was always hard – I mean, I’m getting into bed for sleep, right? Not to be kept up, get all hot and sweaty, etc.
Let me clarify here: I love making sex with my wife. It’s wonderful, and we’re very good at it. The problem is I’m tired before bed, I’m looking forward to sleepy times, I’m a prima donna type who needs her beauty rest. During that time of the night my mind is numb, my body is invisible to me and it’s time for snoring. So the “just before night-night” sexo stuff was always a little difficult for me – lead to horrible bedroom arguments that made our nightmares seem like daydreams; I’ll leave it at that.
Enter cold shower stage left… all of a sudden I’m an animal. I’m initiating. I’m happy, my wife’s happy, I can’t find the PJ’s I was wearing. There are two reasons why I think this works.
Reason 1: Being in a body. When I dry off from my cold shower, dawn my PJ’s and jump into bed my body feels all tingly. After being in my head all day long – doing my creative work, my color picking, headline writing, expectation managing – I end up quiet in my bed with my body loudly feeling all sorts of gentle satisfaction. It’s wonderful. It makes me want to touch my wife’s body and have her touch mine. This is also wonderful. These cold showers minimize my head and get my awareness into my body, which leads to boners, messed-up hair and mumbling wives.
Reason 2: Shaping vs. being shaped. The cold part of the shower is usually not my favorite part – it’s cold, very cold. Even though I keep the shower isolated on my upper back/neck, even though that area goes numb pretty quick, it takes serious initiative to turn that knob to cold. Here I am, minutes before bed, my head is heavy and just wants to be left unbothered, yet I’m making this decision, this difficult decision to feel uncomfortable for a short while because it matters to me. I think just the act of following through on a small decision like this removes me from my status quo – shuffling my feet into bed, “don’t touch me; love you.” – and turns me into a creative, alive, interested being. In short, making this decision ends my day with a lean towards shaping my world as opposed to being shaped by my world.
So, finish off your showers with a couple minutes under cold water to be superman. That’s a thing I learned.
3: Do That Thing To Your House/Life You’ve Been Talking About
My wife and I have been talking about things we’re going to do to our house for about 29 years now. I now officially don’t believe any of it is going to happen.
- There’s the closet arrangement we’re going to make in our bedroom
- The kitchen cabinet changes
- The new back deck
- The built-in desk in the kitchen for all the GODDAM SHIT THAT ENDS UP EVERYWHERE!
- The landscaping in the front yard… etc.
I feel like I’m walking around with some magical blueprint of the house/life that’s going to finally make me happy. The only problem, of course, is that there’s been no progress towards that blueprint in forever – it still feels like I live in somebody else’s house dressed in my father’s huge suits and I have no control over the outcome of my life.
It’s not just house stuff, it’s also life stuff. Trips you keep talking about, certifications in crunchy medicine, more lovely, life-sucking kids, fresh starts, new cars, diet changes, new hobbies, kitchen credentials, etc. This stuff builds and builds on us and the net effect is we’re so secretly distraught (sometimes it’s subliminal even to ourselves) we feel powerless, dirty, lazy, and uncool enough to grab a hot pocket and queue up another re-run of 30 Rock, letting our life spin in place another day… until Modern Family starts up again.
The challenge here is not only feeling lazy and worthless ourselves, but feeling like our spouses think we’re lazy and worthless. This blueprint could totally be a part of your marriage – each one of you contributing towards each others’ goals. But if there’s no progress towards the goals, only talk and posturing, it can start eating at you bit by bit.
Does that all seem a bit too heady? I think some of you will understand what I’m talking about. These hopes and little dreams and visions of progress matter more than we know… and if we continue to carry them around and not make efforts towards them the disparity between our real life and our blueprint will swallow us up in a hazy blur of “Oh my god I’m 53 and I haven’t done SHIT!” Actually, that doesn’t sound that bad… what’s really scary is “Oh my god I’m 33 and my marriage is falling apart because we don’t know who we are or what we want!” or “Oh my god I’m 36 and I ruined my amazing marriage chasing after that thing that totally wasn’t what I thought it was!”
Ok, you may be right, this might be a bit too heady, but I’m leaving it in for those people it may resonate with because this is some serious business to me. If we learn to follow through on steps toward that blueprint in our head we’ll begin feeling better about ourselves, more confident, more curious, more engaging, more elastic and interesting and alive. And if we can combine this with #1 above and do it with our spouses we’ll be a long ways towards a relationship where we can both heartily laugh at one another.
4: Prime It
How do I say this? If you’re not an Amazon Prime member you should try believing in yourself for a change. Amazon Prime gets you free 2 day shipping and the best prices on almost everything you want at Amazon.com. It’s amazing and will change your life and you’ll be happier and stronger and smarter.
“What the hell? This is something you’ve learned about marriage this year?”
Yea, Sherlock, it is. The thing Amazon Prime wins so hard at is you start ordering all that household shit you typically run out of. Toothpaste, deodorant, toilet paper, paper towels, bar tools, etc… No more late night trips to the store for baby diapers and inflatable moose heads, just put the order in at Amazon when you notice you’re getting low. Done.
And guess what, no more fights about who’s responsible for what. See something you need, order it. Done.
Here’s a list of things I may or may not have recently purchased at Amazon using my Prime membership:
- Fox Racing Monster Ricky Carmichael Replica Downfall Men’s Beanie Sportswear Hat – Color: Black, Size: One Size
- The Tao of Tea, Sencha Green Tea, Loose Leaf, 3.5-Ounce Tins (Pack of 2)
- Garden of Life Super Seed
- Hurley Young Men’s Staple Short Sleeve Premium Crew Neck Tee
- 50 x AG13/LR44/A76 Alkaline button cell battery
- D’Addario EXL110 Electric Guitar Strings, Regular Light, 10-46
- Genestra – HAD Adrenal Drops 1 oz
- MOOSE HEAD Inflatable Blow Up CABIN Lodge GAG gift NEW
- Blue Diamond Almond Breeze Milk, Unsweetened Vanilla, 32-Ounce Boxes (Pack of 12)
- CAP Barbell 50 -Pounds Kettlebell
So, believe in yourself – Prime it up, shake it off.
5: Start “Sitting”
You may think this is ridiculous, but I’m adamant: no matter what your race, creed, religion or penis size, if you start meditating somewhat regularly you’ll become a better husband/wife.
I’ll keep this one short since nobody but silly people like it when someone spouts off stuff like this, but I mean it. Not only will meditation help you see how messed up your self image is, not only will it help you realize that thing you want is not the thing you want, but it will also give you space to see how much you love the shit out of your spouse and family.
Listen, I don’t meditate everyday, but when I do, once the smoke clears and I get those five minutes of relaxation and clarity, my heart gets softer and my thoughts turn towards my wife, how lucky I am to be with her, how horrible it would be to screw my thing with her up, how “arrived” I already am. Those aren’t thoughts I often have – I’m typically concerned with emails and designs and productivity and projects and cocktails and parties and kids and diapers and the latest episode of Parenthood (SO GOOD)…
Meditating slows me down, centers me over my gut and my own two feet, and brings out the stuff I’m too quick to forget. Invaluable.
To get started with meditating go listen to Gil Fronsdal’s guided meditation. Put it on your ipod, do what he says for 20 min. Maybe do it again another time. It’s almost as easy and enlightening as masturbation – but who has time for that these days?
6: Honesty Saves Us
Mellisa and I went through a severe rough spot earlier this year. There was talk about what Christmas would look like if we separated. It was scary.
We had each gotten to a point where it was difficult to respect the other, where each of us felt slighted by the other, unheard and subsequently uninterested and resentful. It wasn’t pretty.
Yet we survived – our partnership and romance today is much stronger than it was before we hit the turbulence. The secret? Honesty.
We had a handful of brutally honest conversations; raw, no holds barred. I distinctly remember the flush of adrenaline and fear and anger and shame I felt when my wife, staring up at the ceiling late at night, said to me, “I never thought you’d be so selfish, and I never thought I’d be so controlling.” It hurt like a million demon Ewoks, and scared the shit out of me, but it also felt something like a breath of fresh air – she was caring enough about our relationship to be honest. Instead of the back-biting, insulting, subtle expressions of in-confidence and regret – we’re both too good at that stuff – she started coming out with the truth, no matter the consequences… and it saved our marriage.
With each conversation like this I could feel myself re-investing in the relationship – she was worth it again because it wasn’t our routine, it was two adults overcoming their own demons to choose each other.
Marital blowouts happen – I’m glad we didn’t walk out on each other. Honesty saved us.
Ok, that was a little intense there at parts, but I’m glad you stuck with it. I hope your sixth year of marriage is/was as lively and ruddy as ours.
I’m curious to know if you experienced similar things in your marriage, and if you have additional tips to survive and make it all count.