In my last post, I realized that I do have some amount of expertise on marriage. Obviously, I don't have expertise in the grand sense - Clare and I have been married for just over four years - so I don't have the wisdom that your grandparents, married for fifty years have. But, we have been married four years longer than most of our peers. So, in that sense, I'm a mother-fucking expert (no, not in the literal sense, no kids yet).
So here is a quick list of stuff that I think makes our marriage great.
1. Love is work.
Marriage isn't the finish line and maintaining a healthy relationship takes consistent effort. Clare and I work on our marriage every day. Most of the time, working on our marriage means little things. We compliment each other. We each thank the other for doing day-to-day tasks like dishes and laundry. And we talk a lot about our lives.
Other times, it means long conversations that involve temperature checks on how our relationship is working. Sometimes these conversations are difficult. One of us will feel that we aren't getting everything we need from the other and we talk through those feelings. This point brings me to number two.
2. Over communicate.
We talk about everything. We discuss every up, every down, and every feeling openly and honestly. We do our best to acknowledge our humanity. Being human means that our feelings and emotions aren't under our control - only the way that we react to them. For example, getting married didn't magically make us impervious to the opposite sex, so we have to have conversations about attraction and jealousy. But, we feel that discussing those emotions keeps us grounded in our marriage.
3. Prioritize our marriage.
Clare and I are both ambitious people. We both know we are prone to be wholly absorbed in achieving our goals. If we took our marriage for granted, I think this would play out with both of us being career-obsessed to the detriment of our marriage. However, we both make the conscious effort to channel that ambition into our marriage. I'm not saying that we aren't concerned about our careers - we have made two cross-country moves in pursuit of Clare's career - just that when career and marriage conflict, the marriage always comes first.
Prioritizing our marriage is a more radical idea than it sounds. I think our culture took a lot of the gender roles in marriage for granted before the 1960s. The woman would be the home-maker, divorce wasn't an option. The world changed. Most families are now two-earner households and women grow up with career ambitions beyond homemaker. But the implicit assumptions of gender roles in relationships remain alive and well in our culture, and those assumptions often go unsaid.These assumptions lead to conflict in relationships. Women still do the majority of the housework and child-rearing but now also have a career. Men assume that their partner will make sacrifices for their career success. Clare and I try to address this head-on.
We don't pretend that both of our careers can have the primary focus. I can't pursue a perfect job while Clare is trying to go to medical school, for example. I need something remote, or I need to accept that I may not be able to stay in the job for very long. Clare can’t do all of the housework while she is in school - so I have learned to keep a clean home.
Even when we do this, we come to difficult decisions. The biggest one we face now is where to go for medical school. As a couple we consider more than “is this the best program.” Clare has to think about my life for the next four years, and our life together. We put every decision through the filter of "how will this affect our marriage." If the answer is in anyway harmful, we will try to see if we can mitigate the effects, and if we can't, we decide against whatever it is.
4. Keep the romance alive.
We got married because we are intensely in love with each other. I think many people assume that type of love fades once you get married.
I say, Fuck that.
Being in love is great. We don't want it to stop, so we don't let it stop. Keeping that level of romance going is a choice both people make together. So, we do the things that we know will maintain that level of affection. Yes, that means a lot of sex. But, it doesn't ONLY mean that. It also means reading on the couch together every night, getting into intense debates about Harry Potter characters, going on dates, and texting each other silly Gifs during the day.
Does love change after being together for more than eight years? Sure. But it transforms from infatuation to a deep respect for each other.
In conclusion, marriage is awesome. When we got married, we got a lot of side-eyes about how young we were. Lots of people talked to us about how hard it is. Society and pop-culture makes marriage seem like a drag.
No one mentioned how much fun marriage is.
Clare and I have a blast. Every day we get to come home and hang out with our best friend. We tell each other everything - so we can be our weird selves without fear of judgment. I love being married to Clare and I look forward to as many years as I can have married to her.