Today, KJ and I are celebrating our 8th anniversary. (Yay us! We made it through the reputed “itchy” year!) It feels like we should be getting credit for more than eight, because we actually met 17½ years ago when his brother married my childhood friend. Our history is long and complicated and full of drunk dialing and tearful diary entries. (I won’t tell you whom is responsible for which… )
Suffice it to say that he has been very important to me for a very long time.
I don’t write about KJ or marriage very often on this blog, mostly because he is an adult and his life stories are his to share. Or not share, as the case may be. (But he does have some doozies, so next time you see him, ask him to tell you a few of them. Buy him a few beers first and the stories get even funnier.)
But today I’m going to make an exception. I’m going to share a few of my thoughts about marriage, and similar to my thoughts on parenting, it’s not all sparkly and pretty and happy unicorn glitter because, well, marriage can be hard. (Don’t worry KJ… I come around to complimenting you, I promise.)
We’ve all heard the expression that “marriage is work,” and while that’s definitely true, I’ve discovered that marriage also includes waiting. Because like so many other things in life – parenting, productivity, creativity – marriage has its “up-cycles” and “down-cycles.”
The up-cycles are magic. You and your spouse are connecting. You’re laughing and enjoying each other’s company. You’re communicating. You’re getting stuff done. You’re bringing out the best in each other and you’re making each other happy. It’s all just working. You’re connected.
That’s the easy part.
But inevitably, the up-cycle ends and you hit a down-cycle, and things are just a little bit off. Maybe there’s work stress or family drama or uncooperative hormones… whatever the cause, the down-cycles are… yuck. Both of you are a little bit more annoyed… and a little bit more annoying. You’re not communicating well and there may be just a tiny bit of bickering.
Down-cycles are about disconnect.
A down-cycle can last for weeks or it can last a day. (And I remember seeing an old couple on Oprah once who said they hated each other for a year. That’s a helluva long down-cycle but they were celebrating their 75th anniversary, so they must have done something right.) Sometimes you can talk your way through it, but sometimes, you just have to wait it out.
It has taken me eight 17½ years to learn that the up-cycles and the down-cycles are inevitable. Not every up-cycle means you’ve “figured it all out” and now have the perfect marriage. And more importantly, not every down-cycle means you have a shitty relationship that is destined to fail. There are highs and there are lows. And as the years go by, the goal is to make the up-cycles last longer and longer.
(I promise KJ, the nice part is coming.)
What I’m trying to say is that when you choose to spend the rest of your life with a person, he or she should be someone that’s fun and funny and makes you laugh and loves you and respects you and all of that. Because when you’re in the HIGHs, nothing is better than having that partner by your side.
But you should also choose someone who is knows there will be lows and is worth the lows, because there will be times when things feel annoying and disjointed and crappy. You have to want to get out of it. You need someone that’s in for the long haul – a safety net. You have to choose a person who will be waiting on the other side of the down-cycle with a Margarita, saying, “Well, THAT sucked, but we’re back!”
I picked a guy who is fantastic in the up-cycles. He is funny and kind and interesting and supportive and a great father (although I’m not sure the smack talk during the Trouble games is setting a very good example) and we laugh. A lot.
But he’s also patient during the down-cycles. He’s not critical. He’s not angry. He just waits. We both wait. And then they come to an end.
Then things get great again. And we laugh. Again.
One of our favorite family quotes is when my very wise brother-in-law said, “Women are ALL crazy… it’s just a matter of finding the crazy you can live with.”
KJ, I’m so glad you decided that I’m the crazy you can live with.
Happy Anniversary… and cheers to many more years and many more up-cycles. 🙂
Please note: For those of you wondering, KJ did get “previewing rights” for this post and has approved all points for public consumption – i.e. for the 18 of you.)