Monday, December 30, 2013

Happy Couples.

The hilarious Mr. MandyFish.
Yesterday was our 4th wedding anniversary. My husband and I had agreed not to buy each other gifts, but then he decided he wanted to take me shopping anyway. "Gifts" is one of my love languages. He asked me if I needed anything and I didn't since he'd already bought me presents for Buddhakamas.

"I could use a winter purse," I finally said, after he questioned me further.

So we went to the purse store. I tried on various purses and carried them around for him and posed in front of the mirror.

"Do you like this one? Or this one?" I asked, switching the purses back and forth in front of me.

"I like them both," he said.

"Or how about this one?"

"I like that one too."

"Do you like the black one better or the white one better?" I asked, quickly flipping the purses back and forth so he could compare them.

"I like them both."

"I can't decide."

"I think you should get the one you love."

"I love them both. Maybe I love this one more?"

"I knew you wanted that one."

It was an innocuous conversation. Occasionally the saleslady would chime in, but other than that, it lasted about 15 or 20 minutes, I would guess, until we picked out the purse that I loved best. I hugged him and kissed him on the cheek at the register.

"Thank you so much! This is so nice of you! Don't I have a nice husband?" I asked the saleslady.

"You do have a nice husband! But you must be an awfully nice wife who deserves it."

"She definitely deserves it," my husband said.

"It's our anniversary," I added, as if to explain.

"Well you both give me hope for relationships. You seem like such a happy couple."

I was taken aback when she said that. I felt so pleased to hear her say it. It's not often that you consider how you appear to others. I know I genuinely like my husband. I enjoy spending time with him above all others. He's my best friend. He's also the most hilarious person I know and the smartest person I know too. That's an amazing combination. We crack each other up on a regular basis and we learn from each other too. I think we make each other better people. But man, do we both hate conflict.

In fact, we hired a new marriage counselor to help us deal with conflict. In our first session, I told the marriage counselor that I felt like we had a good marriage. Enviable, in fact. But what I wanted, was a great marriage. I wanted one of those marriages that lasts the test of time. I want to grow old with this man. I want us to continue to treat each other kindly, I want to adore one another when we're both old and gray, and I want us both to deal with conflict in a calm and measured way.

But neither one of us is calm and measured when it comes to conflict. Aw hell no.

Personally, I just check out. If I see conflict, I head for the hills.

See ya!

Buh bye.

And that's no damn good for a relationship. I can't spend the rest of my life avoiding conflict. Not if I want to experience intimacy. And so, since things are good between the two of us, we felt like it was time to rock the boat.

Contrary to popular opinion, the best time to seek marriage counseling is not when you're in crisis. If you want to effect change and push yourself to be even closer than you already are, get your ass in therapy when things are good. That way the relationship is strong enough to handle the challenges that therapy can bring.

I suppose it seems like all the cosmic forces in the universe are conspiring to bring my husband and me  closer together. I never imagined I could be this close to anyone. I never thought anyone would know me this well and still love me this much. I mean that. It's sort of mind boggling and it should be scary but instead I am incredibly grateful. I've got an able partner. A partner who is equally ready, willing and open to this process. I think it's beautiful. He blows me away on a daily basis. I've got myself a thoughtful thinker and I can't quite believe he hasn't figured out that he could do better.

He'd probably say the same thing about me, of course. Which makes me think we're a pretty good match.

Anyway, it felt pretty great to hear a complete stranger say that seeing us together made her have hope in relationships again. I'd like to think that we're putting out some good vibes into the atmosphere. I'd like to think that we'll become one of those great relationship success stories.

Our new marriage counselor, after hearing each of our backgrounds, said it was incredible that we'd even found each other at all. She said it was like The Glass Castle met Angela's Ashes and The Liars Club all mixed together in two people. There's a lot of dysfunction and damage in both our of childhoods and yet we found each other somehow. Each of us an empathetic soul who knows what it is to come through hell and back just to survive. I think it's that fighting spirit that will keep us together. I don't see either one of us ever giving up on the other. I may be a fool to put that in print. Part of me is afraid of jinxing it. *Throws salt over shoulder.* But I think something special happened when we met. Kismet. Birds of a feather. Or perhaps we met in a previous life. That sort of thing. We really get each other. It'd be a shame to see such a special pairing go to waste if we didn't take the time and care to nurture it.

And so we do.

I can say that this 4th year of marriage has been the best year yet. And we've had some pretty great years, don't get me wrong. I've known him for 8 years. Almost a decade. Strange to have accumulated this much time already — it's gone by like a heartbeat.

But it's been a lot of work. Don't let anyone tell you different. Relationships aren't easy. I don't like promoting that kind of bullshit ideal. I don't think it helps anyone. We should all be honest about our relationships and admit that they are a shit ton of work. They devastate us. Castrate us. Prostrate us. And then they lift us back up. But if you find someone worth all of that effort, damn, work your ass off on that one. They don't come along quite as easily as you think. I know from this from experience. My husband and I broke up once for 10 months when we were dating. We almost lost each other and that would have been a shame.

I had a rule once upon a time that you should never get back together with an ex. My theory was that you broke up with the ex for a reason, and if you got back together, you would eventually break up again over that same issue. I've only made one exception to that rule and that was my husband.

Thank god I gave in a little that one time. I tend to be a tad stubborn.

I can't quite express in words how lucky I feel to have him in my life. I never thought I would meet anyone like him. He's special. He's the smartest man I ever met. He's hilarious. I mean, side-splitting, inappropriately hilarious. We spend much of our time trying to shock the other with our over-the-top, inappropriate humor. I can tell you, there is no greater joy for me than making that man laugh his ass off.  I feel like the wittiest, smartest, most hilarious person ever when I make him laugh so hard he closes his eyes.

I live for that.

And he repays me with kindness, thoughtfulness and generosity. It's pretty ridiculous how attentive he is. Sometimes I think his only aim in life is to make me happy. In fact, he often says, "Happy wife, happy life." He's that dedicated. (And that wise.) And I dedicate myself to him in the same way. Fortunately we both like the same things. Good food. Nice restaurants. Going to the movies. Spending time with our 5 kids, whenever the older ones are around. Watching HBO and Showtime. Reading articles to each other. Talking way past our bedtimes about life and love and what does it all mean. And making each other laugh, of course.

I suppose it's a simple life, but I never thought I'd have it so good.

So thank you to my husband. You're the best time I've ever had, baby. And that's no lie. I can't wait to see what the next 4 years (or 40) might bring.

Let's grow young together.