(On our wedding day)
(Speed boating through the mangroves of Mexico)
Mr. RFA and I made it to 1 year of marriage earlier this month (August 4th). Our big anniversary trip didn't happen because of my new job and its demanding responsibilities around this time of the year.
It hasn't stopped me, however, from thinking about that first year. Overall, it was marriage. Not perfect, not terrible, not mediocore...but most of what I expected from marriage. We tried purposefully to keep spice and spontanaety in the mix; we tried purposefully to communicate well and respectfully, and we tried purposefully to make the other person happy and put them FIRST.
We were successful most days and failed miserably on others. Like I said, it was marriage. The beautiful ebbs and flows of a lifetime partnership. As I reflected back on that first year, here are some of my take-aways:
1. "They" are right; Marriage is hard work. Hard because it is a continuing effort. The moment you stop putting forth the effort, it's clear as day because something will rear its ugly head and try to throw things off course. The biggest shock of this for me came when I realized that I'm still supposed to put in the work even when I'm mad. I remember before the wedding one of my girlfriends wanted to share some of her marriage advice to me. She told me that even when all I want to do is kill him, I still have to have the heart and wisdom to clean his laundry and fix his food. She told me that in those moments, that's some hard marriage work, but it's what I must do. At the time, I thought surely I will always want to do those things...no matter what; he is still my husband, right? LOL...that's funny now. I remember the first time that scenario happened. Her words came rushing to my mind. But, instead of wisdom, all I could think about was what I "wasn't" going to do. Without her advice I probably would have gone out and got me and Alyssa some food and left him on his own, but instead I took my nasty attitude in that kitchen and I made dinner, fixed his plate, and we prayed and ate together as a family. I know my act, even with attitude, helped fix whatever we were mad about.
2. Our Commitment is stronger than any argument or disagreement. Notice I said Commitment and not love. I love my husband - more than anything. I am in love with him, too. He brings out good in me that I couldn't tap on my own. But, it's our commitment to each other that drives everything. I've heard that the love in a marriage wavers. Thankfully ours has not. If it does one day, I hope we can continue to hold on to our Commitment - the one we made to ourselves and to God. Knowing that we both believe in that commitment gives me security and makes me feel safe. I feel safe to express myself and I feel safe that I'm not going to fly off the handle with him. Our commitment is stronger than our petty arguments. Those arguments are growing and learning moments, not end of the road moments. When we had our first big argument, I was initally scared that our marriage was in trouble. I went to my husband a day later crying like I had been beaten, telling him that our marriage was in trouble and we needed to go see the pastor, a counselor, and the entire village leadership, lol. He almost lauged, but he saw how afraid I was for our marriage. I thought one argument meant we were on the verge of divorce. He helped me put things in perspective, calmed my unwarranted fears, and in that moment I knew...this commitment was made by both of us, and the both of us will honor it forever...even when we argue.
3. It's okay to go to bed mad. Almost every married couple gave us the advice of never going to bed mad. It sounds sweet and reasonable before the wedding, but afterwards, when real life starts happening, I thought they were all crazy with that advice. I still think that. Here's the thing...We never go to bed without professing our love for each other. Even when I want to kill him and he wants to strangle me, we tell each other we love the other. And, we both know that we mean it. That doesn't mean we have to get to the bottom of things that night, and it certainly doesn't mean I or he stops being mad before our heads hit the pillow. In fact, we tried to take that advice once...and once was enough. The late night hours and circular agruments made maters worse. The next time we were upset and the night fell upon us, we took our mad butts to bed. Waking up beside him the next morning made the night before seem silly and a good night's rest gave clarity and forgiveness.
4. We are one. This is something I went into the marriage believing would be true and I feel even more strongly about it each day. My husband and I are one in the same. Yes, we have different personalities, likes, dislikes, and some philosophical beliefs, but we are one. Just like an individual we have different parts of ourselves. If someone has a problem with my husband, they have a problem with me and vice versa. I protect my honey like I protect myself. People in my life know that there is no room for discussion where my husband is involved. Only my mother has tried. She didn't like something he said about not wanting his sons to dance ballet if they one day chose to. She tried to talk to me about how she didn't agree with that...I shut her down before she got out the gate with her statement good. Though, I disagree, that's my husband and I'll protect him, his words, beliefs, and stance in public...period, point blank, the end. He is the same way. His best friend's wife had the nerve to call me bougie (in a derogatory way) in a private conversation with him. I so happened to be sitting there while he was on the phone and he let her know immediately that her critiques of me are not welcomed.
5. Marriage Rocks. Despite the strain that the first year of merging lives can bring, it is absolutely amazing. I've learned so much about myself in this year...some faults, some strengths, and some valuable humbling lessons. More than anything, I've experienced fun like I never have. It's not the kind of skydiving from 12,000 feet type fun. It's more of the I get to live with, make love to, talk to, and make life decisions with a man who is my absolute best friend...everyday! There is someone who allows me to be a woman, because he fills the role of man. I don't have to try and be all things like I once did. I can play my part and have full faith that my husband will play his. I freely stand back and allow him to be our leader, and he stands up while pulling me up beside him to be his partner in all things. Marriage also allows me to be more selfless. While putting my child first was a natural thing, putting another grown person first was not. Everyday I get better at it and it is enjoyable. To know that my husband knows I think of him before I think of me, makes me feel like a fantastic wife. And, to know that he thinks of me before he thinks of himself, gives me a high I've never experienced before.
I look forward to many more years with my Mr. Right For Aretha! When I think about the different chapters of life that we'll get to experience together (God willing), I get so excited. My life partner Rocks!! I'm thankful God put us both at that Uno table on August 13, 2011. When I sat down, I never expected to meet my husband while slapping down a draw4. God's plans are perfect. Here's to many more August Fourths!!!