Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Love Stuff

My parents' wedding anniversary was this week--41 years, and they are one of the cutest couples I know.  It's because of them that I have the foundation I have in my marriage--because I fully believe that when you commit to someone, you don't give up even when times are less-than-wonderful.  Truthfully, I've never seen my parents have a less-than-wonderful time in their marriage, and I feel extremely lucky that I can say that--although I know that they've had their issues (or at least I'm assuming they have, because nobody is perfect!).  They were just really good about keeping their issues between them, and not involving my siblings and me, and I really appreciate that about my childhood.  Their anniversary got me thinking about my relationship with Dan, and my thoughts were all over the place.

I thought about how Dan and I love each other, and are really committed to making our marriage work--we can't conceive of a time when we wouldn't want to spend our days together.  I'm not a naive person, though, and whenever I have those thoughts of forever, my mind immediately retorts that everyone who gets married envisions forever with their spouse--and clearly, not everyone gets that happy ending.  Sometimes I feel extremely idealistic when I make bold pronouncements about our staying power--because I know that life doesn't always work out the way you hope and want it to.  Then I always wonder how long you have to be with someone before you can stop feeling idealistic, and start settling into the forever reality--is it 20 years?  Is it 40 years?  How about 9 years?  Dan and I will have been married for 9 years this summer.  I already feel the forever reality with him, and sometimes I fear that that kind of security makes us both somewhat complacent.

the program from our wedding  :)

I try to think of being married as a skill that I continually need to hone to prevent myself from getting rusty.  I catch myself squeaking and creaking under the grind of our days sometimes, and it's hard to get the machine running smoothly again once that rust builds up.  Right now, I'm totally caught up in my Challenge, and trying to get healthier--a goal that is a lot for myself, but if I'm being completely honest, it's also for Dan (or at least for me because of Dan...if that makes sense).  Dan met me when we were 15 years old, and I was an athletic, perky, happy cheerleader.  That's the girl with whom he fell in love, and I have a hard time not feeling guilty that I'm not that girl anymore--and really haven't been for the last 14 years (that point was, in fact, the impetus behind our big break up our first year of college--because I felt like he loved a girl who didn't exist anymore, and he needed to look around to figure out if who I was becoming was really who he wanted to be with).  It's difficult to stay carefree, flirty, fit, and fun as you get older, and my current personality (i.e., the person I was still growing into at 15) is a reflection of the maturity that comes with age and increased responsibility.  I feel badly that I can't be that awesome girl he fell in love with back then--I'm a different kind of awesome now (ha ha).  Then I had three of our babies, and while that grows a relationship and a marriage in a lot of ways, it also made me sort of unrecognizable physically--at least when compared to that girl I always think Dan pictures in his mind when he thinks of me.  I'm on this Challenge to get back my health, and also to regain a little bit of what attracted Dan to me in the first place--after my incredible wit, of course.  Plus, Dan has always been really healthy--maybe not the best eating habits in the world, but he loves exercising, and constantly begged me to work out as well when I was more than content sitting on the couch eating ice cream.

A skinny or pretty appearance isn't all there is to life--I know that, and it annoys me to be striving for something close to what's considered conventionally skinny or pretty.  That being said, it's been a really long time since my husband has told me that he thinks I'm beautiful--not because he doesn't believe it, because I think he does.  And boy, does that sound vain of me--I don't mean that I want to be told that I'm beautiful by any standard definition (because I definitely know that I won't ever be a model--unless I fail at this Challenge and become a plus-size model!), but just that Dan finds me beautiful to him...that's all that really matters to me.  I want to be able to look in a mirror and be happy with what I see (inside and out), and have my husband feel lucky that I'm his wife (again, intellect, I feel like I'm setting a bad example for Abby with all this emphasis on appearance!).  What married woman doesn't want that?  I certainly don't want to embarrass him, and I have felt on the verge of embarrassing a lot over the last 5 years.  For the record, Dan does tell me that I'm smart fairly frequently (usually when I'm beating him mercilessly in Boggle), and I'll take that over beautiful any day...but it feels good to feel beautiful to your spouse once in a while, too.

if only it were as easy as flipping a switch

Dan and I are both guilty of not enough "yucky love stuff" (to borrow a quote from Julia Roberts' character in "My Best Friend's Wedding")--I think we both feel vulnerable with each other, and I haven't quite figured out the reason, since we know each other inside and out, and our relationship is where we should feel the most secure in our lives.  I'm constantly self-conscious, so I know that's one of my problems--but that doesn't mean that I can't or shouldn't put myself out there more to my own husband.  It's hard for me to open up and let him see me at my weakest--but I've really been trying to express more what I need and how I feel in our relationship.  Maybe that needs to be my next Challenge--a week with no walls and no filter for my feelings.  Sometimes I catch myself wanting to tell Dan something sappy, but hold back because that's not really who we are with each other.  I hate that I stop myself--I want to feel comfortable enough with myself to say those emotional things without worrying about sounding stupid or getting looked at like I'm crazy!  Dan keeps his emotions pretty well to himself (unless he's upset--then it's hard to miss!), so I have adapted and learned to keep mine to myself...which is so weird to me, because I'm a very emotional girl.  I think we have a competition quality to our relationship that doesn't help the emotional side, either--neither one of us shares too much for fear that it will give the other the upper hand (whatever that means?).  I don't want to look like a weak, simpering wife--I'm a feminist, for heaven's sake!  I just need to remind myself that I can still be me and tell my husband how handsome he is and that I'm crazy about him.  Obviously I feel those things because we wouldn't be married if I didn't, but I know that it really helps to say that mushy stuff out loud instead of falling back on the "you look nice" pseudo-compliment that we use all the time.

Our relationship didn't start out this way--I used to be obnoxious in my overt adoration, and Dan used to write me poems and long, detailed love letters with his heart on display.  The years of friendship and marriage have buried those aspects of our personalities--and quite possibly, a war or two may have affected our abilities to communicate the deeper emotions.  When you know you're facing deployments, you tend to pull away a little bit so that the separation doesn't hurt as much...but then it's harder to reopen those doors when the deployment is over.  I was in such a terrible emotional place trying to navigate Dan's last deployment and our last pregnancy (at the same time!) that I know I backed off a lot--I almost wanted to be angry about everything while also being totally self-sufficient before Dan left, so that I wouldn't hurt as much in his absence.  It's hard to go from self-sufficient to vulnerable, and hard to admit that I really do need my husband (because I really do!)...but I'm working on it.

So yeah, all those thoughts stemmed from my parents' anniversary!  My parents met in high school, lived the military life, and had three kids--their marriage survived and has thrived through many of the same challenges that Dan and I face together.  I have such respect for them, and hope to continue to follow in their footsteps!

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