I never planned on getting married.
I always wanted to have kids, and I always wanted to have a committed and involved dad for those kids. But I didn’t know how to get from A-Z. I didn’t know that a committed and involved dad was a lot easier (not necessary, but a hell of a lot easier) to get when you were married to him. I didn’t know that a happy marriage was actually attainable, not really. I had seen a lot of horrible marriages, and a lot of … not good marriages. I didn’t want that.
When I got pregnant, it was a shock. Literally. I’ve never, in my entire life, before or since, been that straight up floored as I was when I took the test. Marc wanted to get married immediately. I said no. I wasn’t ready – I couldn’t conceive of making that kind of commitment to a man at that point in my life. The pregnancy was more than I could handle. Marriage wasn’t even on the table for me.
When I lost my twins, I lost myself. It was like I was completely broken, and had to rebuild from the ground up. Everything I believed, everything I had known my whole life to be true had failed me. My faith in God, my faith in myself, my faith in the world as a good and safe place. All of that was gone. What was real, what was true… was Marc. He had lost the babies too. He was the only other person who had lost what I had.
Out of that came us. We conceived Jessica, and built a life together. We got married, had Sam and Julie and twelve years later, he’s still my best friend, my strength, my support and my other half. He’s what makes it possible for me to be who I am. I’m what makes it possible for him to be who he is. We make each other better.
There are two things that make us work – one is absolute commitment and the other is really, really high standards. But there are a couple of other things that make our marriage what it is. I’m not saying that these will work for all marriages, but this is what makes our work.
1 – Always be honest. This is the one person that you have to be honest with, you have to tell the truth. Because if you aren’t going to be real here, when it’s just you and him, then why are you bothering?
2 – Understand that he’s telling the truth too. Even when it’s ugly and not helpful and really would have been best not said – you take the good with the bad.
3 – It’s not just about fighting fair – it’s about recognizing your strengths and weaknesses and vice versa. In our marriage – I’m the communicator and Marc is not. Words come easily to me, I’m fluent in emotional conversation, and while I’d be clearly, dramatically overmatched in a physical fight with my husband, the same is true in an emotional fight. He can’t play on the same field that I can. What comes easily and naturally to me is for as difficult for him as it would be for me to wander onto a playing field and do something with a ball. When we disagree, I have to be careful because I can clobber him without realizing what I’m doing. He has to be careful because I’m going to be a lot more impacted by the words he chooses.
4 – Always give the benefit of the doubt. At the end of the day, what Marc wants most is for me to be happy, and what I want most is for him to be the same. We want what’s best for the other. Even when it doesn’t seem that way – reminding myself that he truly does want me to be happy, he doesn’t want to hurt me or fight with me. He might not be able to communicate that in a way that I can understand, but reminding myself of that has made a huge difference.
5 – Take time out for yourself. This is one that I forget a lot. He’s not a mind reader, and it’s easy for me to forget that. To assume that he should KNOW that I need to take the afternoon and disappear with a good book and so should offer to take the kids and encourage me to go. But he doesn’t. He’s happy to take the kids solo and handle all the stuff without me there, I just need to speak up to make it happen. My happiness is my responsibility, not his.
6 – Say I love you. A lot. Kind of all the time. Take every opportunity to sit next to him or snuggle up next to him. It’s SO easy to lose that connection when there are three (or five or a thousand) kids running around and the dishes need to be done and you haven’t seen your dining room table in a week because it’s so cluttered. But remembering to stop and look him in the eye and acknowledge out loud that there’s nobody you’d rather do this with… that’s what it’s all about.