Twenty years together is no small event. I am proud and happy to celebrate with my husband and family.
It gave me an occasion to reflect on the past 20 years, how far we have come, and the moments we shared. It also made me think about how naive, foolish, and clueless I was 20 years ago. Ahh, what joy!
If I can turn around and talk to myself, knowing what I know now, I would give myself some words of advice.
First, I would quit thinking there is a formula, a straight path, or a set of rules you need to follow. I learned what works for us now, didn’t before, and may not work in the future.
Our approach to each other and life’s joys and stresses have changed and molded into what works for the moment. Sometimes it’s shouting, sometimes sheer frustration, and sometimes it is quiet reflection. Mostly, it is giving each other space without feeling threatened to process. Yes, it means we can go to bed angry, big deal, tomorrow is another day, and cooler heads prevail (you like that?…he taught me that one!).
I also would tell myself to quit stressing over the small stuff because so much of it is just that, small.
Unless it is life or death or the difference between health and sickness, it doesn’t matter. None of it. It doesn’t matter one bit how anything is folded, put away, or whether it is done how you’d like it done. It is done, be grateful for each other, and move on. Don’t bother with corrective comments. You aren’t there to parent each other. Accept that everyone has their way of doing things. The moment you take a ‘could you next time do it like…,’ or buy this not that, it becomes an issue of undermining each other and not meeting expectations. Who cares. In the long run (in 20 years), no one remembers.
On the flip side, remember each other’s favorite things and dislikes.
I hate red roses, that one took a while, but we got there – they are pink now! He hates empty bottles of water and wrappers left in the car. Well, what can I say? No one is perfect; we’ll (read I’ll) continue to work on that one. But on the upside, there are no comments; everything is gathered and thrown out, no war, no discussion. Yes, sometimes knowing when to close your eyes and mouth may be the secret to lifelong happiness.
I’d tell my twenty-year younger self, communication is key. Make your opinion known and heard where it matters.
Pick your battles and choose wisely. Not everything needs to be dissected and chewed up again and again. Let it go, both of you. No one is keeping score of who is right and wrong. Be respectful of each other’s wishes and have only good intentions at heart. If you are coming from a place where the intentions are pure, everything else is minutia.
You can check your ego at the door on your wedding day. No one is saying to let your partner walk all over you. Precisely the opposite, respect goes both ways. Have enough clarity to see if they have the right intention and if that is the case, bingo! Even if the result isn’t always right.
Finally, I’d say that it won’t always be smooth sailing and not to expect what you’ve conjured in your head as the perfect smiley social media post to be a reality.
Life is messy. Marriage is work. Love changes into much more than you ever realize if you let it. Be gentle with each other’s hearts. In the end, when the kids move out and on to their own lives, it is just the two of you. Treasure your marriage.