Marriage -Crystal Ball Style

I was online recently and noticed a significant lack of posts full of advice on marriage. Seriously, if you are getting married and google, “What can I expect when I get married?” Nothing comes up, not a million pages filled with what to do and what not to do and when to do it and how and stuff. Nothing like that at all!
{insert sarcasm emoticon}

So I thought I’d take one for the team.

On September 4th, 2016, Danny and I will celebrate 12 years of marriage. We are marriage babies, but I also feel like because I’m 12 years into it, I can provide a “crystal ball” for engaged couples.
Not ALL engaged couples. Because all engaged couples are different. But some. Some will read this and it will save their marriage
break up their engagement.

When I was expecting my first baby, I read through, “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” like it was THE BIBLE. Oh wait, actually lemme fix that… I SHOULD read my Bible the way I read that book because I wore that book out. I followed the advice and my belly followed the book and it was all gross and bliss and binkies. I just wish someone had written a “What To Expect When You’re Getting Married” book.
All marriages are different, but there are a few common threads that I wish someone would have revealed to me.
Such as!

1) Your spouse will, in fact, and does, in fact, poop.
Because Danny and I didn’t live together before we were married, this one shook our dynamic up a bit. Getting married to someone is essentially signing up to buy toilet paper with and for ONE person for as long as you both shall stand it (hopefully forever). It goes deeper than just poop, though (and I’m tactfully trying to step around puns, but even in saying “stepping around” I feel like I crossed a line). The bathroom is going to be a much bigger deal than you realize. You’re going to clean up stuff you aren’t considering right now, and you’re going to be totally okay with it. You find that more love is built “in sickness” than it is “in health.” While you’re running to the gas station for Gatorade and Sprite, you’ll feel a scary level of concern and connection that can only mean one thing: you’re really in love. In fact, you will find your love sinking deeper not so much when your spouse is spruced up and smelling amazing, but when they’re at their most vulnerable and smelling um, not-so-amazing. So while you may believe that love is built on date nights and late nights (*ahem*), I’m here to tell you: don’t discount the bathroom. Also, be willing to compromise on toilet paper styles, toothpaste squeezing methods, and soap scents.

2) Compliments change.
When we were dating and first married, Danny showered me with compliments about my hair and clothes and body. He loved the way I smelled. But that was 12 short years ago. Yesterday -and I’m not kidding -Danny came into the kitchen where I was trying to amp myself up to bleach the dishes that had mold growing in them, pulled me close… so close I could smell his sweat from the morning he’d spent chopping down rouge trees in the yard… and said, “Hey, good job on getting the nail polish out of the kids’ tub.”
And you know what? That felt good. Compliments change because we are ever-changing. I hope that in 30 years, he’ll still be lucid enough to compliment me on the way I peddle my stationary bike. Ten years from now, I hope he compliments me on my ability to stay calm amidst kids leaving home… but I don’t think that will be the case.

3) The person you marry will be the person you take supplements with.
There’s something comforting and wholesome about slamming back vitamins with a spouse. It’s a sort of silent pact where I say without saying, “I love me and am taking care of me” and he echoes, silently, the sentiment. Love grows stronger when I put my oxygen mask on first, and all that… but really. I can’t fully love Danny or anyone unless I love myself. A few nights ago, I was up late with Danny and we stood in the kitchen. He threw back something for his body and I mixed up my clay so it could sit overnight (for me to drink in the morning) and it was this incredible vulnerable moment… we were in our pajamas, our hair was wrecked, our skin looks like it’s been married for 12 years and we were both blinking really hard because our contacts had gone dry. I let him see me like that… undone (not in a sexy way, sorry), needing any shred of health-in-a-bottle I can get, and utterly exhausted after a day spent working, washing, cooking, and (honesty please) watching Netflix to regroup between snack times.

4) The kids thing will be difficult.
This means trying for them, not getting them, getting them, losing them (both mortally and temporarily), raising them, not raising them… it is all going to be hard. Comparing your kid stuff to the kid stuff other people deal with makes it A LOT harder.

5) You will argue about money.
Danny knows where every penny is. I trust The Good Lord to provide and sometimes don’t know what I bought for $100 at Wal-Mart because WE STILL DON’T HAVE FOOD BUT SOMEHOW HAVE 6 SKEINS OF YARD AND 3 PACKAGES OF SILLY PUTTY. Danny loves my free spirit, just not when it shops. I have no advice for you, I’m just giving you a fair warning: you’re going to fight about money. Probably a lot.

6) Your spouse has been hurt in life. At some point, it will get taken out on you.
In 11th grade, Suzy ditched your husband for someone named Blitz, and someday -when you forget a lunch date, or something similar -your husband will REACT, man. And as he reacts and you will feel the injustice. The lack of compassion on your spouse’s part will anger you, hurt you and put you immediately on the defensive. His, “HOW COULD YOU?” will become your, “How could YOU?!” and you’ll begin to play catch with this brilliant little ball I call “drama.” In these moments, fight, fight, fight YOURSELF to drop the damn ball and hug your spouse. Because, as much as they are trying to make the situation your fault, it is NOT about you. You can apologize and you can hug them and you can buy them ice cream just as easily as you can throw a ball back. Be advised that most of the time, you’ll probably end up throwing the ball back. But the times you don’t will be incredibly healing and awesome.

7) Sex isn’t as big of a deal as you thought.
If sex is the primary way to express love, things will get really tricky really fast. Sex doesn’t fix anything. It’s a bandage, a pretty strong one, but it isn’t a healer. Your sexuality will become less about the physical act of sex, and you will find a richer, deeper life that will include but not revolve around sex. You might even be surprised to find your marriage leaving what we call “copper sex” behind altogether. Copper sex is the stuff movies are sold on, wild and weird and hide-the-baby’s-eyes. Copper sex is fleeting and honestly? Kinda boring. But when you’re taking supplements and cleaning bathrooms of one other person and you SEE them, really see them -when you pay bills and hold hands through hospital bedding and share milkshakes and swap scriptures, when you walk with them and talk about your hopes and dreams and laugh with them at 4 am because not only do spouses poop BUT SO DO DOGS AND THEY POOP IN HALLWAYS, and you cook with them and feed them and buy thoughtful gifts and pick up socks even though you’d rather burn the socks… and then decide to make love, it is what a marriage counselor I love calls, “Gold sex.” And you know what? If one or the other of us were to be in an accident that would render us incapable of having sex, that would be okay. Because we have access to the kind of intimacy that matters. And it isn’t purely physical. Surprise!

8) Your spouse will stop being the most important thing in the world to you, and that’s okay.

No one, sociopaths excluded, wants to be heralded as anyone’s God. No one wants that burden, that pedestal. In fact, what we really want is ROOM TO MESS UP because WE KNOW WE WILL and we need the space to lose our minds, to get mad, to curse, spend more than we meant to, clean less, take a sabbatical from flossing! Our marriage was never better than when Danny quit being the center of my universe and I quit being the center of his, and we both moved -independently but in a rough, parallel fashion toward putting GOD in the center of our individual lives.

9) Your argument about the right way to fold socks will cause panic, “Will this be the end of our hero?”
This kind of stuff calls for a TRANSLATOR. You can hire one, but in the Yellow Pages they call them, “Marriage Counselors.” They’re helpful because your spouse was raised one way and wounded by Suzy and cares about things you haven’t thought twice about, and in a lot of ways, they speak a dialect you don’t understand. I PROMISE. And guess what? They feel the same way about you. They hear you, but they don’t understand. They want to, and a marriage counselor sits on the other side and says, “Ah!” right before they repeat back to your spouse what you ACTUALLY said. It’s like there’s this invisible, annoying wall between you and your spouse. It pops up when you fight. And as you talk, your words go through that wall and come out the other side 100% garbled. A counselor will un-garble. Just be sure you find one that specializes in what you’re dealing with, “Laundry & Marriage Counselor!”

10) Your spouse will hurt you.
For the first few years after we were married, I would go to weddings and feel sad that our newlywed stage was over. I’d see the way the groom would beam at the bride and I wondered where Danny’s beaming eyes had gone? Was it my fault? Was it because I’d aged a little, had a couple kids? I would cry about that a lot. I wanted to not go to weddings at all. Now I go to weddings and give as much money as I’m capable of giving because I know -I KNOW -they are going to cross rough waters together and money -like sex and ice cream -doesn’t fix anything but can provide a bandage or cushion. Marriage is really a cool and amazing thing, but like most cool and amazing things, it requires work and sacrifice, honesty and compromise. Things are going to come up that you won’t expect AT ALL. You’ll be blind-sided by loss, health issues, financial travesty, addictions, mental health concerns -the list is endless! And it is all not just okay but incredibly good. You will make it through each day, and you’re lucky enough to have someone who is willing to sign up for the same thing you are! My advice here is short: Just clean your side of the street. Only yours. When you feel angry at them, hurt by them, turn around and find one of your own windows to clean. This is a hard way to live, but it is a better way to live. As you clean your own side of the street, you’ll have clarity and peace of mind to move forward. And guess what? There’s no Drama Ball Courts on clean streets.

That’s my TOP TEN IN TWELVE YEARS, and in 12 years I’m open to the possibility of it looking drastically different… and if I could add just one ironic little afterthought:

Marital advice is most often total bunk and ought to be taken carefully and very prayerfully. And the best news is that you will figure it all out -mostly likely the hard way.
“That’s the most effective way anyway!” she said, from experience.


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