Thursday, 29 October 2015

15 things I have learned in 15 years of marriage

Fifteen years ago this month, I got married.

He wasn’t my first love and he wasn’t the first man I ever fantasised about marrying. Because I’m the girl that fantasised about being a Mrs Somebody ever since I knew that was a thing. And I still have random pages, from decades ago, of doodles with Tania ‘surname’ signed in curly, girly writing with the ‘I’s dotted with love hearts.

But as it turned out, and luckily for me, he was the only man who ever actually asked ME to marry to him. And, obviously, I accepted. And we lived happily ever after.

Except not really.

Because over fifteen years ‘happy’ comes in waves and marriage looks a lot less like a fairytale romance and a lot more like real life and real life looks a lot like hard work.

But then nothing good comes easy… or for free.

I was raised by a single mum so I had no real life experience in marriage. The closest married role models I had were my grandparents, the one uncle that stayed married and my friend’s parents… and not all of their unions were what you would call ‘wedded bliss’.

So I’m sure you’ll understand that my pre-married life was not awash with any useful advice. Other than to find a ‘good man’ and marry him. Of course, a ‘good man’ is hard to define and so for years I didn’t understand that I had, in fact, found one. Years and years.

My husband is a good man. He’s a good husband and he’s a great father. He is more than I could have ever hoped for in a life partner and our marriage, surprisingly, is one of the good ones. 

But everything I know about marriage, I learnt on the job… and the hard way.

1. Wedded Bliss is not real
Even on the actual wedding night, we were too tired to bliss out and our definition of bliss changes as we grow. Sometimes it looks like time all by yourself because you feel so secure in your relationship. Other times it looks like a Sunday afternoon laying by the pool together while the boys jump in repeatedly trying to one-up each other. During ratings season it looks like sitting on the couch together drinking wine and watching zombie heads explode or gratuitous scenes of sex and violence in Westeros.

2. Growing old together is a blessing
I watch my husband’s health like a hawk. I need him around and healthy for at least another decade. Parenting is a tough gig and though I’m confident that I could, I have no interest or desire to do it on my own. I’m also too lazy to have to find another man. All that having to look your best and shaving is just so exhausting.

3. Passion is neither everything nor everlasting.

4. Your marriage must have room for your friends.
Always. There has to be another port in the storm for each of you. Someone who knows you, loves you and understands what’s important – but doesn’t want to root you.

5. You can go to bed angry
And still be ok the next morning. Sometimes all you both actually needed was some sleep. Being tired makes everything a million times worse and sometimes grown-ups are just like toddlers and really just need a nap. Adulting is so tiring!

6. A man is not an island
Unless they are an orphan or a migrant or in the witness protection program. But in my case, my man came with a family. Which is good for babysitting but not so good when shit goes down. Especially if it goes down in both extended families at the same time. That's when having a wine business comes in handy. Faaaaaark.

7. You can’t ever change your partner but you can teach them
All it takes are three words 1. Actions 2. Consequences 3. Consistency. Remember, grown-ups can be just like toddlers!

8. Play to each other’s strengths – not their weaknesses

9. Learn the art of compromise
This one was a tough one for me but it became much easier once I jumped in the deep end of compromise and became a mum. Now I’m compromising all over the place. Bastards. What about me?

10. Use Portfolios
Share the load without resentment.

In our house we have what look like figurative portfolios which makes our expectations of each other very clear.

Me – school, clothes, inside, social, shopping, cooking
Him – kids sport, cars, outside, bills, rubbish, maintenance
Shared – parenting
Outsourced – nowhere near enough…

11. Two toilets
The key to a happy marriage is not having to book in toilet time. Especially when your partner takes so fucking looooooong.

12. Don’t sweat the small stuff… most of the time
So he never puts the shopping away. Or makes the bed. He also never mistreats me. Or gives me reason to feel unloved. The small things he doesn't do will never outweigh the enormous things he doesn't do.

13. Babies will not fix a marriage in trouble
But they can make you love your partner more. So much more.

14. Familiarity does not always breed contempt
Listen up. This is a big one. I am a different woman today than I was fifteen years ago. My priorities are totally different. As are my opinions, intolerances, acceptances and boobs. Growing alongside someone in a safe and secure environment helps all the good emotions develop and as you grow, so does your love. It may look different - 'cause it's all wrapped up in someone else's 'stuff' - but that's the magic of togetherness. My love for him has changed. It's deepened and grown and the more familiar he is to me, the more I love him. 

15. We're all in the same boat
It may look like your friends are doing the whole 'life' thing better than you are. Maybe they are but they're probably not. Everyone has their challenges and every relationship has their ups. And downs. Some stuff I know we don't do anywhere near as well as our friends do. Some stuff I know we do far better. Sometimes I feel like we're happier than anyone we know and sometimes I feel like everyone else is living a fairytale and we're in a nightmare. 

That's the thing about these long-term relationships. You get to experience ALL the emotions in them. Love, jealousy, boredom, temptation, commitment, fear, grief, joy, exhaustion, elation, confusion and adoration. 

And my most favourite - gratefulness

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