If you haven’t already seen on Facebook, today Denisa and I celebrate 18 years of marriage. I’ve written on this topic before (probably every year since I’ve been blogging, I imagine, but I don’t have time to go looking for the posts), but I had some thoughts on it this year that I thought I’d jot down. They might overlap what I’ve said before, or they might not. (The advantage of not going to look to see what I’ve already said . . . )
To me, a marriage is a living thing. It can grow and flourish, and it can die, and it can do pretty much everything in between. It changes the people who are in it in ways that are unavoidable. I find myself unable to really give any opinion on anyone’s marriage but mine. There’s the front you present to the world, and there’s what happens when you’re at home. Even in a good marriage, those two fronts will be different, I think. Maybe not drastically different, but different nonetheless, in much the same way as any family relationship has multiple layers.
But that’s the thing with a marriage. You take a person who’s not your family at all, and you make that person the closest family member you will ever have, potentially. (It depends on how close you let that person become, I suppose.) In every other family relationship (barring step-families, which are a beast by themselves), you grow into the connections. Families understand the dynamics they operate by, because they’ve all been operating by them for as long as that family existed.
Not with a spouse. The two of you come from entirely different backgrounds, no matter how much you might think you don’t. The unspoken assumptions your family took for granted are completely different from her unspoken assumptions, but there’s no way of really knowing or communicating what those assumptions are, because they’re just a part of what you’ve always assumed is The Way Things Are. It would be like having a conversation about what air tastes like. However, as you live your lives together, those assumptions worm their way to the surface, like hidden boulders in a garden. You have to navigate around their appearance one way or another if you want anything to grow.
Denisa has definitely seen me at my best and my worst over the years, and I can say the same for her. The fact that we’re still close and still together says as much about each other as it does about us individually. When you can look at a person and know their strengths and flaws and love them not in spite of them but because of them, that’s a good sign that things are in a healthy spot.
How are we celebrating 18 years together? I’m taking Tomas and DC to go see Avengers: End Game. How can I get away with doing this? Because Denisa and I understand each other pretty completely, for one thing, so I’m not really worried she’s got this hidden agenda of Things My Husband Must Do to Prove He Still Loves Me, and (probably more importantly) I show her I still love her by doing all the little things that make a marriage work. By managing finances. By picking DC up from school today. By heading home to discuss how we want to landscape the front yard.
Also by going out on a date with her tomorrow, because I’m not a complete imbecile.
As I said before, marriage changes both of you. Life changes both of you. When I look back at who we were 18 years ago, I’m not entirely sure how well we would get along with that couple if we headed out on a double date with them tonight. We were much more conservative then. Much younger and confident we knew what was right and what wasn’t. That’s okay. I didn’t get in this game to never change. I’d like to think we’ve improved each other over the years, not by force or by persuasion (most of the time), but just by constant example. Marriage changes are more like erosion than earthquakes. Earthquake changes break you apart, after all. Erosion molds you over time.
Marriage is one of the scariest jumps into the unknown I can think of, and it only gets more frightening when you realize all the implications that initial jump entailed. Thank goodness I didn’t, since I was already scared enough of marriage as it was. But it’s still hands down the best decision I ever made. I can’t believe it’s been 18 years already.
Happy anniversary, Denisa!
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