With each day that passes, I learn more about long-term monogamy. These are the types of lessons you can only learn through real-life experiences. Things like knock-down/drag-out fights, nights sleeping on the couch or in an otherwise empty bed, spending some evenings so exhausted you can hardly bare to listen to another story that will inevitably have something to do with Barstool Sports and some evenings so misunderstood you can’t help but doubt your entire lifetime of choices.
Then there are the good experiences and beautiful lessons. Things like watching your all-of-a-sudden three-and-a-half year old interact with a stranger in the middle of the Container Store and getting a real-time glimpse at the fruits of your labor, already in full swing; being caught off guard by your all-of-a-sudden two-year old’s expansive vocabulary and getting smacked by the real-life importance of being present; bickering with your husband in the tight quarters of a galley kitchen only to recognize your feelings and frustrations are the same, because your life – after all – is no longer just yours but ‘ours’ and suddenly you’re overcome with that warm sensation also known as gratitude.
Seth and I have been together for four years and some change, but sometimes it feels like it’s been an eternity. Whereas we used to only argue about ridiculous things stemming from my jealous streak and Seth’s terrible temper, now we argue about things like the shock of a suddenly empty shampoo bottle in the middle of a much-needed shower on borrowed time. We argue about who’s going to swap out car seats and who’s going to put the kids back to bed for the 5th time and who is going to do the dishes. #marriagegoals? We argue about pent up frustrations and hurt feelings and things we can’t remember saying, even if it was supposedly only five minutes ago. We say how we feel and sometimes we say more than we should and then we move on – most of the time – because what other option is there? After all, we’re in it for the long haul.
All we can do is learn our lessons and keep on keeping on, and here are some of the lessons I’ve learned so far:
The grass will be as green as you make it, and so will everyone else’s. Sometimes I think back on my younger years and I contemplate why, in retrospect, it seems like it was so much easier back then. My single, kid-free friends’ lives don’t seem that much easier than mine. I mean, of course they do in the sense that they don’t have small humans depending on their every choice, success and failure. They’re free to take the risks, jump on the planes and work the hours it takes to get to the top. They’re free to imbibe with friends and partners when their boss is particularly terrible on a random Tuesday and sleep 45 minutes past their alarm on Wednesday morning without the world thinking any less of them.
But at the same point, I’ve found a person I love, I’ve had the kids and now I’m just riding the ride, right? I’m not out and about wondering if I’ll ever meet the person that makes my heart sing – because he’s the same man who infuriates me by using the last of the shampoo, leaves the empty bottle in the shower and says nothing about it; I’m not wondering if I’ll ever be able to have kids – if I want them – because I’m done having kids; I’m not all consumed by the things I have yet to see or all the places I have yet to go because the world became a terrifying place the moment Matty left the comfort of my uterus and joined us out here in the real world. Some people’s worlds get bigger when they have kids, mine got a little smaller.
These days, it’s so easy for people to ‘brand’ their worlds and guide others’ perceptions but at the end of the day it doesn’t what other people think of your marriage or your lifestyle or your choices because you’re the one who has to live with it all, regardless of how it looks on the outside. The grass on the other side will always be greener if you don’t tend to the grass growing around you. Relationships are work and the grass will only be as green as you make it, and so will everyone else’s.
Some men just don’t get ‘it’ and by ‘it’ I mean women. As a whole, when compared to women, men lack empathy – but especially when it comes to women. I don’t have any studies to back that up outside of my 34 years as a woman who always had male friends and hardly ever a boyfriend, but I type that pretty confidently. I wish I could tell you how many times I’ve been coined as ‘crazy’ or ‘psychotic’ but it’s far too many to count – in relationships, in friendly debates, in the small spaces where I’d carefully choose my words when asking my male friends for guy advice – men I loved dearly often referred to me as crazy, neurotic and psychotic. I used to laugh it off, because of course that’s not actually the case but back then it was cooler not to care. However, the older I get, the less lightly I take it because I am not in fact crazy, I am a woman. And contrary to popular belief amongst the male population, there is a difference.
Some women’s feelings and emotions often reel at higher speeds and in higher magnitudes than many men have ever personally experienced (Guilty!) but it doesn’t make us psycho or crazy, it makes us emotionally intelligent and, to be frank, human. For real though, for the sake of our kids, we have to stop promoting this idea that people, women specifically, who are open and in touch with their emotions and feelings are crazy. It’s simplistic, dismissive and damaging.
No one was fucking around when they said ‘pick and choose your battles’. For parents, the days are long but the years are short. Our battles of parenthood – things like what activities to spend the big money on, how to discipline our boys, which values are a priority, where and how they receive their education – are way more important than empty shampoo bottles, who’s going to wash the dishes and who’s going to run to the grocery store. I can only imagine how improved our quality of life will be when we finally figure out how to choose only the important battles and let everything else fall by the wayside. Seth and I are stubborn and hard-headed but we’re getting better, good thing we have forever to get it right.
There really is something to be said for working out together. If you saw my husband and I, I’m pretty sure the last descriptor that you would ever use to describe us would be ‘fitness gurus’. (HAHAHA – just the thought is hilar.) For someone who used to run three miles almost every day before I had babies and had no problem working out more than once a day, you’d never be able to tell I was ever a ‘runner’ now. Since having kids, Seth and I have gone through periods of determination and streaks of ‘ain’t nobody got time for that’ but whenever we’ve gone through periods of working out together, it’s done wonders for our relationship and our health. Not only are we making time for ourselves but we’re spending time together, laughing together and seeing each other in a different light than what we’re used to. Not to mention, exercise is a great mood booster.
I used to joke about couples who worked out together and now I’m inserting my younger self’s naïve little foot in my mouth; if you’re looking for a way to connect, what’s better than taking time to make yourself better while connecting with your partner? Plus, who wants to look like a POS in front of their spouse? Not me, so it also helps me push myself harder. He doesn’t feel the same way, I’m sure – but it’s a bonus for me!
Marry your best friend – or don’t. Who really cares? Seth wasn’t my best friend when we got married and even now while he ranks among my best friends, I don’t know if he’s my BEST friend. I have a lot of best friends – they all bring something different and great to the table – and I don’t even know if I could really even pick just one. He’s not my everything, he’s not the only person I go to and while he knows everything about me and my thoughts, he’s not always the first person to know. People love to say “I’m marrying my best friend!” and that’s all good and great but if you aren’t married to your best friend, who honestly cares? It takes more than just best-friend qualities to sustain a marriage and if you’re having kids, it won’t matter anyway because very few people and relationships remain the same after kids. Marry a good person you love but don’t read too much into the ‘marrying my best friend’ storyline – I firmly believe it’s 84% bullshit.