I am thrilled to have joined my dear friend Aidan in her year-long exploration of presence. We are pursuing our Here Year side by side, with lots of conversations both macro and micro happening and hopefully another Twitter chat soon. Each month has a specific focus. April was home, and May was parenthood. June, I’m happy to announce, we will train our lenses particularly on marriage.
If you read this blog you know this is a topic I don’t address very often. I am very comfortable being vulnerable about many things and sharing a lot of my personal experience. I have, however, drawn boundaries around certain areas of my life that I won’t discuss. One of those is my marriage. I talk about Matt twice a year, on his birthday and on our anniversary. Other than that, I don’t talk much about him or our relationship.
Well, for this month, for today, that changes. We were married almost 14 years ago, on a day that held full sunshine, startling blue sky, torrential rain, and thunder so loud we had to pause in our vows. In short, September 9 2000 was a preview of what lay ahead. Our life together since that day when we stood surrounded by those we love most, blue hydrangeas and yellow roses, and words from Cavafy and The Book of Qualities has contained plenty of sunshine as well as rain.
During our engagement, I admit I was mystified by the incredible focus on The Wedding. I was far more interested in The Marriage. And I still am. I almost didn’t put the picture from our wedding on this post, actually, for that reason. Weddings have very little to do with Marriages, after all. Though I’ve noted before that certain things that marked that day – the weather, for one, as well as the songs we danced to and our readings – seem to have been almost eerie harbingers of what was to come.
But that’s not my focus today, nor this month, nor really ever. When it comes to marriage, at almost 14 years in, what strikes me the most is how it’s both exactly what I expected and not at all what I imagined. Last year, I wrote this, and several people told me I wasn’t romantic.
Thirty eight is thirteen years of marriage. It is knowing all the ways that marriage is both less and more than I thought it was, when I walked into a church wearing white and hearing thunder. Less score-keeping, less candlelight, less drama. More small acts of kindness, more forgiveness, more abiding. Fewer flowers, but more cups of coffee made exactly how I like them, without being asked, brought to me in bed in the morning.
The thing is, I feel like what I described is enormously romantic. I think marriage is about abiding. It is about remaining near. It is about listening and paying attention and biting my tongue when I need to (not easy for me) and celebrating achievements big and small. It is about focusing outside of myself, and recognizing the richness that surrounds me every day.
All of these things are improved for me when I am here. How can I be more here, in my marriage in particular?
I can be guilty of not particularly wanting to listen, at the end of a long day, when I’m spent from work and the children, and I know that’s something specific I have to work on. I’m ambivalent about the whole “date night” concept and frankly dislike that term, but I do know that engaging in adult conversation and being together in a non-passive way is important for a marriage. I can work on not providing “feedback” when it is not productive. These are just a few of the many things I need to do more of.
So, here we go … I will be experimenting with these specifics and with others throughout this month.
What are your thoughts on marriage, presence, and how they interact? Are there things you know you need to do better?
21 thoughts on “The Here Year, June: Marriage”
The weather on your wedding day sounds exactly like it was on mine, right down to having to pause our vows for thunder. I love that you and Aidan have chosen marriage as this month’s theme. I have to admit, when I think of focusing on presence, marriage usually isn’t the first element to come to mind. Perhaps I’m not as willing to open up to the areas that need improving in this facet of my life, but certainly it deserves the same respect and focus. Excited to see how this theme progresses this month!
I love this post, Lindsey, and I cannot wait to see what lessons you and I – and all of us – learn this month. And I love Lara’s comment too because I think so many of us focus our attention on other areas of our lives – the careers, the kids, the practical shuffle – at the expense of our marriages/partnerships… Personally I think marriage deserves as much of our focus as anything else in our lives.
YOU? Not romantic? I think you are one of the most romantic writers I “know!” Ahhh, marriage. Yes I have many thoughts, too many for this comment section. I can say that I find marriage to be either brutally hard or mind-blowingly amazing. My commitment to my kids is automatic, a no-brainer. But to stay in a place of presence with my husband, to not react but respond, to think “what does HE need right now” vs. “what do I WANT right now….” is an on-going challenge. Looking forward to this month of your thoughtful words on the topic;)
I’m just going to call out the elephant in the room on being present in marriage and, for a lot of us, it’s sex. It is the last topic that isn’t written about in the blogosphere and I think it’s a huge part of any marriage, mostly for the man because it is just a huge part of life for him. For us as women, at least for the many, many women I speak with, it’s just not at the forefront of our minds. Also, WE ARE TIRED. All of this is to say that when I am being present, when my partner is being present, when both of our needs are being met outside and inside the home, a lot more sex happens and everyone is happier (yes, even tired old me). But I have to be present to get there. And so does he.
I wrote a poem about Foreplay, After Having Kids. I honestly think men don’t realize the level of presence we need from them in order to give back to them. For what it’s worth: http://www.annieflavin.com/newwork/2014/5/9/foreplay-after-having-kids
Great discussion point!
Funny, it rained on my wedding day as well. Fortunately, it was a light sprinkle, and took place during the (indoor) ceremony. By the time we went to Boston Common to take photos, things were dry.
The more I learn about parenting and marriage, the more I’m convinced that the most important thing is simply putting in the time (and being mentally present during that time). Togetherness requires togetherness.
Am so enjoying these posts Lindsey. Approaching 27 years married, I still have to work at holding my tongue and being present, and I still remind myself not to sweat the small stuff and to continually express my gratitude, in words and gestures, for the big stuff. It’s worth it!
Wonderful post Lindsey ~ I’ve been married 43 years (I ran down the aisle 20 days after I graduated and never looked back!). After three children and now nine grandchildren, I can tell you that, while it doesn’t necessarily get any easier, it does get more desired.
What a great post. And I found your ‘non-romantic’ description of marriage so romantic that I teared up! I am glad that you are writing about marriage this month. I have been so busy and tied to my computer lately that I find myself telling Rob to be quiet when he gets home and tries to talk to me about his day. I know this wrong and I will be glad to have the reminders here…
This blog post and monthly theme couldn’t be more timely! Just last night my husband and I had a long talk about meeting each others needs. I am a language person – needing my husband to affirm me through kind words of love and confirmation. He is a tactile person – needing me to stop what I am doing when he returns home from work to make eye contact and give him a full-focused hug and kiss hello. We haven’t been doing either of those things enough recent;y. I must admit the hardest part of this process is deciding who will make the first move towards meeting the other persons needs. It’s almost like we need to say “1, 2, 3 go!” and both attempt to really make the other feel loved and heard at the same time. Marriage like all other things takes hard work and determination. Thanks Lindsey for helping me verbalize this…
Thank you Lindsey for this wonderful post.
I have been married for 10 years and most of the time I still feel that I am new to this institution.
I am a person who needs/expects the encouragement of kind words and gestures. My other half DOES NOT need that. He is the person who is happy with his tech games when he is at home. I see him laugh when he watches comedy videos and at work place. Over the years, I ask him to talk to me more and he tries and definitely he is better than he was but not there. Recently, I happened to attend and Female Leadership workshop and I had an AHA moment that people who are introvert, who put so much energy outside and then crashes down when it ran out. I was so able to related that and it made me to be more kinder. At the same time, I also understand and wanted to improve myself on the front of listening to him more when he talks about his work. Only think he talks at home is about his work and I get irritated why he can’t ask more about me or discuss other things. But I came to realise that I should be more open and kind when he at least speaks.
Having said all of these, he is the man of my life and I do not want any different. I am so grateful from the core for the boys we have created and our family of four.
I will make this as a start to improve myself and try not to complain too much. Thanks Lindsey
I didn’t have a wedding. We didn’t see the need, and I actually cringed at the whole idea. Instead, we signed our marriage certificate and exchanged rings, in front of 3 people (his mom and 2 brothers), snapped a few pictures, then went for a fish+chip lunch. I was more interested in The Marriage, as you are.
I look forward to reading more about your thoughts on marriage this month!
I cannot wait to read more this month. Marriage is HARD! We’ve had a rough time of it lately because life is just so busy. We need to remember to slow down just for each other once in awhile.
Something I talk to my friends about — especially my non-married friends — is how I asked all of the married folks I knew prior to my wedding if they had advice. Their advice was usually something like, “Marriage is work.”
Which, of course, means nothing to the soon-to-be-newlywed. “Marriage is work,” I thought, meant something like, “He might throw his socks on the ground all the time, and you will be frustrated.” There’s so much that C and I have gone through and are going through — caregiving for a spouse with chronic illnesses for him, and being the spouse with chronic illnesses for me. And that’s just one facet of it. I look forward to what you have to say — and I think Amanda M has been doing some great writing about this, too. x
Yes! I totally agree … we have asked Amanda if she might share something this month. I think of her as one of the poets of marriage!oxox
For the record, I think the coffee-in-bed routine is just about the most romantic thing I’ve ever heard. Because you know there are days that he doesn’t want to. Days when it feels like a hassle. Days when he’s running late. And the fact that he still does it speaks volumes about how much he loves you. But I think you have to be married a long time to understand how the repeated, mundane, everyday things that we do for our spouses – to make something easier or to make them smile – are the things that keep our marriages going. Matt gets an A+ in my book.
I think you are TOTALLY right about how the repeated mundane things mean the most. To be clear, the coffee in bed is an occasional, not everyday thing, though! 🙂
Also married on 9/9/2000 !
The paragraph on marriage was my favorite – and the one I think of most- in your wonderful This is 38 piece.
I also love that marriage is about abiding. What a perfect word! Personally, I hated planning the wedding (i did it in 6 weeks) and wasn’t even super comfortable at my wedding because I hate being the center of attention. But I did want to get onto the marriage part. Which is as you describe – exactly and so different than you imagined.
My anniversary was on Monday and I was trying to capture exactly what you wrote about above. About the romance and the deep love that comes from what you described: the well-worn grooves of a life together. I find is so incredibly beautiful and so much more than I could have imagined- but it’s so hard to write about.
I ended up using this poem by Mary Oliver- she always gets it right.
When we are driving in the dark,
on the long road to Provincetown,
when we are weary,
when the buildings and the scrub pines lose their familiar look,
I imagine us rising from the speeding car.
I imagine us seeing everything from another place–
the top of one of the pale dunes, or the deep and nameless
fields of the sea.
And what we see is a world that cannot cherish us,
but which we cherish.
And what we see is our life moving like that
along the dark edges of everything,
headlights sweeping the blackness,
believing in a thousand fragile and unprovable things.
Looking out for sorrow,
slowing down for happiness,
making all the right turns
right down to the thumping barriers to the sea,
the swirling waves,
the narrow streets, the houses,
the past, the future,
the doorway that belongs
to you and me.
Oh me again! I read a quote recently that reminded me of this post and just found it:
“Marriage is not a ritual or an end. It is a long, intricate, intimate dance together and nothing matters more than your own sense of balance and your choice of partner.”
― Amy Bloom
Marriage requires such a different type of presence and I have yet to figure it out. Even though “date night” sounds odd to me as well, I do agree that we should as couples continue to date. I think the little things we do for each other are the most significant, don’t you? I don’t want bouquets of flowers or mushy cards. It’s the deeper gestures that truly communicate our adoration and love for one another and require us to be present. Things like holding hands, bringing up a cup of tea/coffee while in the shower, or inquiring about each other’s work require presence and I know I’m not doing anywhere near enough.
I look forward to reading all about how you and Aiden tackle this one. 🙂
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