Twenty years ago on a blistering hot day I was waiting in the lobby of Kirkwood Road Christian Church getting ready to walk down the aisle to marry Jeff and I was a wreck. The truth is, if you had taken bets from friends, family and the general public I’m guessing many folks would have bet that this week we wouldn’t be celebrating our 20th anniversary. It’s not that those folks would be so negative or hateful that they would have bet against us. Heck..I think if it had been my money, I would have bet against us. We just had lots of odds stacked against us: both of us with parents divorced, both of us very opposite and both of us opinionated, stubborn, control freaks. I would like to say we were madly, passionately in love with each other and knew our love could beat those odds so we chose to marry. The real story is that we were just at that age where our friends were getting married, we thought we loved each other and it just sort of felt like the time to do it. I know, romantic, isn’t it?
And let me tell you, those first few years? They were not romantic at all. In fact, they were hell. No money, pregnant three months after our wedding day and I had moved to St. Louis where I had few friends and no family. Jeff was working a job that he hated and we both wanted to kill each other a lot of the time. We both blamed each other for our unhappiness. We both had this idea of what the other person needed to do—for my part, I would push Jeff so hard to want to go to church more—in fact I wanted him to be more “churchy.” This, of course, made Jeff just resent church people in general and especially me. I pushed. Jeff pushed back. Things got worse. By the time Maddie was two we were walking through a parking lot at a store each holding one of Maddie’s hand when Jeff looked down and said, “she doesn’t really know what she is holding together here, does she?”
If you are following me so far you know that the rest of this story (so far) is long and certainly another blog (or two or three) but that would be so much writing that I’m going to shoot to the today part of the story. 20 years of marriage have gone by and I love my husband so much more today than I could ever have imagined. I adore him. He still drives me insane. We still fight all the time but we fight differently. We are still stubborn, selfish control freaks. We have made countless mistakes. But we have worked so hard at having a good marriage and being good parents. God changed us. And by changing us, he changed our marriage. I just sort of think that we might be that couple that others can look at us and say, “well, shoot, if they can make it there’s hope for us all.”
So, in honor of all that and of 20 years of marriage (and the longest blog ever) I decided that I would come up with 20 things I have learned from 20 years of marriage. Some the easy way. Some the hard way. Here goes.
20 things learned from 20 years of marriage:
1. Sometimes you are not really mad. You are hungry. Or tired. Or both. Take a nap, eat a sandwich and then decide if you are mad.
2. Cheap dates are some of the best kinds of dates. I love a nice dinner out and a show but I also love a bike ride and ice cream.
3. For the love of your marriage and all things that equal peace do not decide to clean out your spouse’s high school
4. People often pray for the their child’s spouse that God will give them a great spouse. They should also pray for the in-laws their child will have one day, that God will give them great in-laws. I won the in-law lottery. Seriously, I have the best in-laws (two sets!) I could have ever dreamed and prayed for. Additionally, I got these amazing grandparents in my life that I had always longed to have.
5. No matter how great it sounds, Cheez-Its do not make good meat loaf. Thankful for a husband and kids who have traveled through lots of culinary journeys with me.
6. The grass is never as green as you think it is in someone else’s yard. Love your own grass. As soon as I start comparing my marriage I inevitably find that I need to do something, buy something, change something and most of the time these things all leave me really crabby at Jeff. What a waste of precious time. Guess there’s a reason that commandment says not to covet.
7. There are few things better for your marriage than having game/card-playing friends. Being able to call folks over for a cheap night of cards and laughs is the best thing ever. Invest time, energy, and prayer in finding other friends that you both like. That is a big reason why our marriage struggled so much early on—it took us so long to find “our” friends. (I still sort of think there should be some online site, similar to online dating sites, for people to go find friends. Is that weird?)
8. Okay, so this next tip we did not figure out until a year ago. But oh.my.goodness. This is huge. As soon as you have enough money (perhaps why this didn’t happen for years in our marriage) invest in a really good king sized mattress. If you are particularly mean, like Jeff and me, give your old mattress to one of your kids and remind them they were made on it. Teenagers love hearing that kind of thing.
9. Keeping score means someone is always losing. The whole game of “I did the laundry and the dishes and you just played with Max and ran to the bank so I am the best person and you should be so grateful that I am in your life” never gets us anywhere but in a big fight. We have learned this but we still play this script out pretty frequently.
10. Toilet paper goes over the roll or under the roll? Doesn’t matter. Just be grateful there is toilet paper. Toothpaste squeezed from the bottom up? Buy two tubes of toothpaste.
11. There is nothing as sexy as watching my husband doing dishes or playing with our kids.
12. Unless it is him with tears in his eyes watching the kids in a school play, a lacrosse game or a church worship service. The man is proud of his kids.
13. Likewise, there is nothing more beautiful than the sound of him praying for me and the kids. Gets me every time.
14. Never throw the checkbook. That argument couples get in where you say “if you think you can manage the checkbook better have at it” and then you throw it at the other person? Maybe you have never had that argument. But couples that have know that it really is a crappy set up. Because secretly, if you throw the checkbook at the other person and tell them to do it you are rooting for them to fail. And guess what happens if they fail? Yep, you have a screwed up checkbook and you are still mad.
15. If you tell your wife you have a really special Christmas present for her that you are super excited to give to her it should not be a bowl.
16. Doing marriage is hard. Doing marriage in front of teenagers is super hard. I think right now the hardest part of marriage is having my kids watch every stupid mistake we make, every dumb fight we have and every bit of our selfishness. I pray they also see grace, forgiveness and a sense of humor.
17. Speaking of doing marriage in front of kids: When you get mad and you have a temper and slam the door and it bangs on the wall and leaves a denty-hole thing in the wall your child will show the denty hole thing to people when they come over and tell them how it got there. Just sayin.
18. And speaking of getting good and mad: When you do get really mad, do not go running home to your parents or to your best friend and trash your spouse. As good as that feels at the time, you will make up with your spouse and long after the make up sex is over your parents and best friend may still think your spouse is a jerk. If you need to vent (and I am a venter so I need to vent) find a friend who will remind you of why you love your spouse and send you back to them.
19. Go to at least one ballroom dance lesson together. Run at least one race together. Play in a golf league together even though one of you sucks. Camp in a tent to remind yourself to buy a camper. Have a song that makes you both laugh at the memory of that song (devil went down to Georgia). Skinny dip. Skip the flowers and the chocolates unless you just love flowers and chocolate. Do your own kind of romance.
20. Last tip. Most important one: Don’t miss it. So many days I waste so much time planning and busying myself through the next thing that I forget to breathe it all in. Is our marriage perfect? Nope. The stuff that dreams are made of? Depends on the dreams. Even when things are so stressful and crappy and crazy is it blessed? Yep. Absolutely.
Happy Anniversary Jeff Mucci. I just cannot imagine (and would never want to) the last 20 plus years without you in my life. Here’s to the next 20 (and the 20 after that and after that…)