I never thought that I’d get married so young.
Twenty-four is young, right? I never thought I’d have kids before the rest of my friends, or live in Montana, married to a man who hunts our meat. In high school, if someone had described my life to me, I’d probably tell them to fuck off.
How the hell does a youth-group-leading, uniform-wearing private school chick who spends her days riding around in a friend’s neon yellow Nissan Xterra bumping R. Kelly’s “Ignition” and drinking mocha frappucinos end up with a bearded Army veteran with an Insane Clown Posse tattoo who wakes up with the sun and watches documentaries?
Who on earth wants to watch TV to learn shit?!
We truly couldn’t be more different. And honestly, I’m so glad I didn’t know my husband growing up. I’m so glad he never saw me swinging from a giant rope, dressed as a spritely schoolboy, singing about the joys of never growing up during my third grade summer camp’s rendition of “Peter Pan.”
I’m so glad he never saw sixth grade me rocking my sparkly rainbow platform sandals, denim track pants (denim!), Limited Too tank top, orange box-dyed hair, oversized hoop earrings, and blue eye shadow. Or green, on the days I felt really adventurous.
I’m so glad we were in different time zones, entirely unaware of each other’s existence, when I asked for braces my freshman year of high school; when I chose a horrendously ill-advised pixie cut for my hair, complete (somehow) with fluffy bubble bangs. Yeah. I’m so happy Nick wasn’t around for that…
My husband grew up with an insatiable desire to join the military and contribute to his country. I grew up with an unshakeable determination to spend money and buy things. We should have repulsed each other. I was the sort of gal who took road trips with my mom, stopping over in Vegas to experience the “culture,” and unwittingly booking a hotel that was hosting a porn convention. Nick was the sort of guy who would be at the same hotel with his buddies specifically for the porn convention. (This actually happened).
I don’t know why we hit it off so smoothly three years later.
When we met as coworkers at a posh hotel, I was sort of a huge control freak, and he was a little bit of a prick. My husband likes to tell people that he thought he was landing a well-mannered millionaires’ daughter. I suppose I thought I was landing a spirited California gentleman, a man of the arts. Sounds like we both got hoodwinked.
I wasn’t in a rush to get married. At least, I don’t remember feeling that way. Nick likes to tell a story about me giving him some ultimatum about getting married or calling it quits before I left California for Oregon, but I think he’s full of it. I think somehow, both of us just knew that joining forces was a good idea.
It wasn’t a lot of fireworks and sizzle and pizzazz.
And thank goodness for that, because we’d have spent the rest of our lives trying to figure out how to get it back after setbacks, joblessness, and kids dulled the sizz. No, we started as nothing more than friends. I don’t recall sizzle as much as warm, steady, comforting heat, like coming home after a long trip, or feeling the sunlight after a long Montana winter. Neither of us felt particularly dazzled, per se… we just couldn’t walk away, we’d been in enough relationships to know what didn’t work, and that ours had enough of That Special Something to inspire curiosity about where all of it was heading.
On Monday, we (nearly forgot that we) had our seven-year anniversary. Well, okay, I nearly forgot, if Facebook hadn’t reminded me. Apparently, Nick had a whole thing planned that fell through (I’m usually the asshole when it comes to important occasions), so there wasn’t a lot of fanfare. It was a day like any other – we parented our kids, crock potted some dinner, watched a little Hulu.
I always worried about the “Seven Year Itch.”
I’d had friends and family members who ended relationships around the seven-year mark, so that had to mean there was something to the myth. Right? So, imagine my surprise when this milestone anniversary didn’t feel like it was supposed to, like we didn’t need to watch our backs anymore because the weight of that ominous seventh year was gone. Instead, I mulled over the pieces that made this puzzle fit, the millions of tiny choices that had to be made juuuust right in order for our life together to exist.
It’s mind blowing, and breathtaking, and a bit sad to think about my life if we’d made different choices. What if I never got the opportunity to sit here watching my son spoon Cheerios out of the pool with a fly swatter – the same plastic pool we used to drain deer blood this past winter? What if I never got to hear the terrified shrieks of my daughter screaming “A WIM! A WIM!” anytime a flying insect that remotely looks like a WORM approaches her personal space?
I think marriage – well, partnership in any capacity – is hard because you’re both changing constantly over time, growing in such miniscule ways you might hardly even notice. Kids accelerate that process, which is partly why they make marriage so difficult… the other part is just the whining, noise, and general neediness. Oh, and the financial strain, the stress and worry, the constant threat of judgment that you’re doing everything wrong…
Where was I? Oh, yeah: constant change. When Nick and I got married, I wasn’t sure why. Wait, that sounds bad – I knew why I was getting married: because I wanted to, and it felt right. I just didn’t fully understand why it felt right. I mean, on paper, we were not a good match-up. I don’t think even Match.com would pair the two of us.
I used to say Nick and I were lucky.
We bet on the right horse. Because really, marriage is a 50/50 gamble; while I can control my 50 percent – I can decide to be in this, give it my all, and bend when the wind blows – I can’t control Nick’s 50 percent. On any given day, he could decide to throw in the towel. Either of us could, and that’s pretty scary.
So, we’re lucky, sure. But we also worked really hard to get here. Our life today results from a combination of relying on our intuition, making tough choices, and maintaining a belief in this partnership, that we both want the best for each other.
For me, marriage has been a journey toward my best self.
Initially, I believed that I couldn’t live without this person, that our union wouldn’t survive without a co-dependent reliance solely on each other. I fought hard to regain a sense of independence when the reigns of motherhood and marriage started to choke my spirit. Now, I understand that our union works because we are our own people – it’s based on mutual understanding that we can live without each other, but prefer not to. After all, I can’t be up at 6:30am to get my own coffee brewing. Preposterous!
I still wonder, at times, what life would be without these kids, or this husband. Where and who would I be? Whom would I be with? I can tell you I probably would not be anywhere near Montana. Although, I like to think that, even if Nick and I hadn’t connected when we did, it would have happened some other way. Maybe I’d be living in Oregon just after grad school, and Nick would come to visit his cousin for their annual elk hunt. We’d bump into each other in a gas station, in the candy aisle, both trying to grab the last Snickers bar.
“You’re a real control-freak,” he’d say. I’d respond: “And you’re a total prick.” And we’d live happily ever after.