Today Alex and I enter our thirteenth year of marriage. Wow!
We’ve been through a lot over the years. We lived in three cities and owned four homes. We traveled around the world. We weathered a miscarriage and the difficulties and rewards of parenting. We renovated two kitchens, practiced all manner of charcuterie, and grew everything from radishes to squashes. We love our life together.
Along the way we learned a few things. As we are undoubtedly in the ranks of an old married couple, it seems our privilege to share a few pieces of advice on weddings and marriage:
The Big Day
Skip the Cake – if the bride wants to, that is. No one in my family really likes cake so I considered cinnamon rolls as a substitute for our late morning wedding. I gave in to the tradition and paid $3/person for cake that was fine but in no way something I wanted to eat. We could have been ahead of the curve, as many weddings now feature non-traditional desserts like pie, cookies, and cupcakes.
Ditch the Last Name – My biggest regret of our marriage is that I added Alex’s surname to mine. It created a mouthful no one can pronounce, no one knows where to file, and never fits in a ‘last name’ field. To one up that mistake, we gave Lil our names combined with a hyphen. We’re a family of three with three different confusing last names. I think often of going back to my maiden name but to reverse a name change requires a lot of effort. The lesson here is to carefully consider a name change and once again eschew tradition if it doesn’t make sense for you.
Mind the Registry – Making a wedding registry is fun. They hand you a scanner (or they did back in the good old days when Alex and I made one) and you run around the store scanning things you think you want. Champagne glasses? Sounds awesome. Fancy serving dishes? Yea, we could use those. In my survey of married friends, the generous gifts of expensive crystal are left in the cupboard or moved in boxes from house to house. I wish we had been wise enough to register for a set of All-Clad cookware or great knives or Le Creuset instead of the six crystal ice water glasses that mock me during dinners we host which always have more than six people!
It’s Only One Day – A big fancy wedding does not make a lasting marriage. If wedding planning or the day itself is stressful, chill out and do something differently. Resist giving in to traditions or relatives that don’t jive with you – your wedding should reflect you and your unique marriage. Always remember that the real work is ahead of you.
Share – This sounds simple but I am always shocked at how many couples don’t share. Alex and I share all assets and responsibilities from home ownership to bank accounts to child-rearing, chicken-raising and unschooling. This all-sharing all-the-time requires a level of intimacy that strengthens our marriage. It’s not to say that there aren’t good reasons couples might separate chores and assets but I think doing so contributes to a ‘yours’ and ‘mine’ attitude that can be destructive.
Do Things Together – For some couples, a weekly date without children is critical. Others say you must make time for sex or exercise or whathaveyou. I’m going to simplify this and say that couples must find what they enjoy and do that together regularly. We enjoy spending time outside – whether in the garden, hiking, or birdwatching – and genuinely miss that connection if it doesn’t happen. It doesn’t matter to us that Lil is usually with us – she allows us to be kid-like in our nature play.
Support Each Other – Alex often says “Don’t forget, I’m on your side” when I am lashing out at him instead of what is truly frustrating me. He’s a smart and calm man who grounds me with that thought. We joke but never insult each others hobbies and interests. We extend ourselves to help each other; Alex hangs out at educational events with me, I help him homebrew, and we stay home managing the household while the other is away on business. In words and actions, first and foremost, support each other.
Define Your Marriage For Yourself – Look critically at the marriages you respect and the ones that dissolved away. Try what seems successful for others and try something new if that doesn’t fit your relationship. Traditions are meaningless if they don’t support your growth together.
And with that, we’re off to slaughter a pig. Note that I wrote nothing about romance – we’re clearly inept in that area!