And then he laughed, and laughed, and said "If this is you on brain damage it's been a lot of fun."
|Together at the top of a Vermont mountain|
And the key? Though we've smoothed out some of the sharp edges of where the person he is and the person I am jostle against each other, it's largely been the Serenity Prayer:
But without the change :)
And good thing, because even though we weren't fully-formed when we met and started dating as teenagers, we haven't changed much. If we had spent a lot of our time trying to change the other to make them better spouses, we would not have had much energy for the other challenges in our lives.
For us, it's almost exclusively "accept," at least for the last twenty years or so, once we grew all the way up and understood the world, and how you can barely manage changes within yourself. Trying to pull them off in someone else, even one you love and have a lot of influence over, is not only difficult, painful and frustrating, but rarely worth the effort. It's like changing rock to pebbles, or sand. You can use the sledgehammer of your position to do it, but something is lost.
Because whatever success you feel you earned from the change, and the pleasure you reap from of that different behavior, the loading of the dishes this way or that, the eating healthier or going out more, is outweighed almost immediately by resentment by the other person who didn't like being coerced. Didn't want to be changed. Would have done it themselves if they did. Doesn't like you quite as much. Doesn't think you as nice a person as you think you are.
If you were that nice, and loved them, you would have accepted them as they were.
I don't think this means you should pick someone who has no unbearable flaws. Any such search would be futile, because we all have them. Nor should you pick someone so much like yourself that you think there will be little conflict, few things you'd need to change. Because not only would that be boring, but also narcissistic. Who's to say you're so great you need a near-duplicate? And, on top of it all, conflict can occur between two very similar people as intensely as it does between opposites. Have you ever seen twins go at it? Not pretty. They know every vulnerability the other possesses and go after them with ruthless intent.
No, the point is really to enjoy all the things that are different between the two of you, and enjoy them, possibly even more, than the things that are united. This is the final stage of love I wrote about in October. Though our marriage doesn't live there, it does occasionally visit, when we not only accept our differences, but celebrate them.
So, here, for my anniversary, are some of the ways Mark and I are different. And, for the record, nearly always have been.
- One of us wakes up early
- One of us stays up late
- One of us eats meat
- One of us watches television
- One of us has written poetry
- One of us is lazy
- One of us is a good cook
- One of us is good at cleaning
- One of us has a sense of humor
- One of us finds kid chaos fun
- One of us makes the other coffee in the morning
- One of us can fix things around the house
- One of us likes to stay in touch with teachers
- One of us is good with money
- One of us likes to go out
- One of us is social and friendly
- One of us has a strong sex drive
- One of us is a flirt
- One of us is prone to depression and anxiety
- One of us is a good planner
- One of us pays the bills
- One of us has more influence with our girls
- One of us has more influence with our boys
- One of us is usually content with their body
- One of us has chronic pain
- One of us has common sense
- One of us got a doctorate in their twenties
- One of us got a bachelor's in their forties
- One of us has hiked the Appalachian trail
- One of us can swim a mile
- One of us can run five miles
- One of us can talk for an hour straight
- One of us is extremely hard-working
- One of us loves baseball
- One of us is romantic
- One of us is stubborn
- One of us has a lot of self-doubt
- One of us is overconfident
- One of us adjusts their work schedule for our kids' sporting events
- One of us can quell our kids' complaints with one look
- One of us is a lot of fun to be around
- One of us is intellectual
- One of us is emotional
- One of us has chronic insomnia
- One of us is chronically tired
- One of us writes for hours a day
- One of us likes to shop
- One of us remembers birthdays
- One of us makes lists...
Like this one :)
There, I gave that one away but which of us is matched to some of the others would surprise you, and that's the way it will stay. Only two people are in this marriage, and we keep each other's secrets well. This list doesn't cover the half of what's between us, just some of the surface stuff, but it's enough that we could have spent a good, long time trying to get more in sync.
Glad we didn't. It's made our lives more pleasant, and fascinating.
But not easier. Did I say any of this was easy? We've been in counseling. We've been ready to kill each other. We've been hurt, and angry, and gone the occasional day or two without talking. But we've never sworn at each other. I think that helps. And we've always loved each other. Obviously crucial. And we've never expected anything in life to be easy.
Because it's the hardships, sometimes, that make life worthwhile.
Have you seen the full Serenity Prayer lately? It makes all this clear:
Happy anniversary, love.
You make me supremely happy.