I have a thing for numbers. I remember birthdays and anniversaries and I tend to plan things around the numbers I like the best. Out of the numbers that I prefer, the number eighteen is my favorite. My next favorites are two and eight. Two because it can make all other numbers even and eight because it becomes infinity when turned on its side (and it’s fun to write).
I try to find ways to add up dates to make them divisible by two, eight, or eighteen. Don’t ask me why. It’s just the way I function. And yes. I know that this admission totally validates my neurosis.
My husband originally asked me to marry him in 1989. We were seventeen. Five years, a few break-ups, good and bad relationships with other people, and several proposals later, I agreed to actually set a date to marry him. I told him that we should do it quickly before I changed my mind. My grandparents were married on February 18th, 1945 and they were my favorite example of how marriage should be done. The day I agreed to set a date just happened to be six weeks before their 49th wedding anniversary. A calendar and a phone call were all it took to discover that 2-18-1994 was on a Friday and the chapel where I wanted to get married just happened to have an opening that night. So, on a date that included my favorite numbers and that symbolized my favorite marriage, we tied the knot.
After eighteen years of looking forward to our eighteenth wedding anniversary, the plague decided to visit our house at the least opportune time. My plans for the numerically perfect anniversary had not included coughing, fever, body aches or the inability to breathe through my nose. But I went with it. We made reservations at a dinner theater and I planned to take large doses of cold medicine. By the time we arrived at the theater my cold medicine was doing little to help me breathe through my nose and it had evidently taken all the moisture from the rest of my body and deposited it in my ears. I could not smell. I could not hear. And I needed water. Lots of water.
The hostess greeted us with, “We have several rather large guests this evening which means that the paths to your table are quite narrow…” Seriously. All I’m going to say about that part of the evening is that the combination of “rather large guests” and the winter-weight dear hubby and I are carrying, made for an interesting walk to our seats. When I made the reservations I was told that we would be sharing a table with other guests. As soon as we sat down I drained my glass of water and picked up the drink menu. I couldn’t read it. I moved it away from my face and then pulled it closer. No luck. The love of my life (along with our table-mates) sat there staring at me. DH ~ “Are you okay?” Me ~ “I think I put my contacts in the wrong eyes. Again.” DH ~ laughter.
Great. Just great. Can’t smell. Can’t hear. Can’t see. I put my hand on dear hubby’s thigh just to make sure my sense of touch was still intact.
I continued to drink glass after glass of water while we ate. Hubby said it tasted good. I couldn’t really tell you. My sense of taste had apparently disappeared with my sense of smell. Adding insult to injury, when it was time for the show to start I turned towards the center of the theater (they perform in the round). This was my view.
SERIOUSLY! The theater was exceptionally warm. Since she clearly didn’t need the fur hat for warmth, I started guessing why she was wearing it. Bald? To lazy to do her hair? Narcissist who wanted her head to take up more space than any other head in the building? Whatever her reason, she kept the dang hat on for the entire evening. Dear hubby and I moved our chairs and enjoyed the fuzzy performance.
During intermission (which our table-mate kept referring to as “half-time”) I squeezed my winter-weight and my very-full bladder past the “rather large guests” and made my way to the lobby. My very-full bladder immediately panicked. There were at least a hundred women in line to use what appeared to be a very small bathroom. A little word of wisdom to all the ladies. You don’t need to make small talk while standing in line to use the bathroom. I’ve pushed out three children. Two of them weighing in at nearly ten pounds. It is not physically possible for me to concentrate on holding my bladder AND give an intelligent answer to your questions about ‘the show’s musical composition”. I have zero musical ability anyway. You asked the wrong stranger.
By the time I actually got inside the door of the ladies’ room, my vision was not only blurry, I could not see straight. The strange ladies had stopped speaking to me when I started praying out loud for God to “Please help me hold my bladder until I’m on a toilet!” When it was my turn, I ran to the open stall, quickly spread out a seat cover and sat to…. Wait! “Oh. My. Word. I think I may vomit. What did that old lady who ran out of this stall do in here?” My limited sense of smell did not filter the odor she left behind. As I attempted to filter it by breathing the top of my dress, the woman in the stall next to me let out an explosion. I’m fairly certain that an emphatic, “REALLY??” slipped through my lips. Another word of wisdom, ladies. When you make a trip to the restroom during half-time of any event. The hundred or so ladies in line behind you will greatly appreciate it if you just relieve your bladder and save the rest for when you get home.
After the second half of the show, I
forced begged my dear hubby to take a picture with me. The man absolutely hates to have his picture taken. With the hope that I will someday just stop asking him to take pictures, he starts making goofy faces the minute a camera is mentioned. Honey, give up. I will continue to take pictures of your goofy faces for as long as I have the privilege of living life with you. If you always want people to look at our pictures and then tell you that you married up. So be it.
On the drive home we laughed hysterically about the evening. After thanking each other for such a fun night and then for an eventful eighteen years, our conversation turned a little serious. We started discussing what we’ve learned in the time that we’ve been married. We came up with the following eighteen items. Some are bits of wisdom passed on to us from those who’ve run the race a little longer and some are hard-learned lessons. Our hope is that somebody will read this list and receive a bit or two of wisdom from our hard-learned lessons.
18 things we’ve learned about marriage
1. Treat your spouse better than anyone else treats them. We all want to be around people who build us up. If the person who does that for your spouse is someone other than you, guess who your spouse is going to want to spend time with.
2. When you fight, don’t vent to your friends and family. They’re not in love with your spouse and long after you’ve kissed and made up they are going to remember the dirt you’ve shared with them.
3. Have friends who love their spouse. Nothing good will come from keeping company with a person who constantly complains about the person they chose to marry.
4. Trade the worst for the best (Dear hubby shared this one last night for the very first time. He’s a keeper. :)). When your spouse shows you the worst of their character, think about all of their best qualities. When you remember the things you like about a person it’s easy to forget the things you don’t.
5. Be the first to apologize.
6. Don’t go to bed angry. It is easier said than done, but it is a very worthy goal.
7. Spend time with couples who will speak truth. It may hurt your pride to be on a double-date and have someone ask you, “Are you treating him the way you want to be treated?”, but it will never hurt your marriage.
8. Avoid alone-time and personal conversations with anyone of the opposite sex (or the same sex if you find yourself craving more time and/or sharing more with that person than with your spouse).
9. Keep a common interest (other than your kids). There was something that the two of you couldn’t stop talking about when you first met. Keep talking about it and when you lose interest in it, find something new to talk about.
10. Pay attention. I try to make mental notes of everything my husband says he is interested in. “I love this band.” (Get concert tickets) “I’d like to eat there some day.” (Make reservations for date night) “I’d trade a kid for one of those guns.” (Buy him a weapon for father’s day.) When you pay attention to what your spouse talks about, you will never run out of ways to show them you love them.
11. Have sex. Lots of sex. In premarital counseling, I had a little old lady look at me and say, “Kaci, sex is as necessary to a man as food. Just always think of it as a meal. Sometimes he’ll give you several courses of fine dining and sometimes it’ll be like going through the drive-thru at McDonald’s.” She was a very wise woman.
12. Give grace. The Bible tells us repeatedly to forgive others so that God can forgive us. We’ve learned that giving the same kind of grace that we hope to receive is our only hope for a peaceful home.
13. Confess. Confess. Confess. When you hide things it’s an absolute certainty that the enemy will start asking you, “What is she/he hiding from you?” Secrets and half-truths lead to guilt, distrust, accusations, and insecurity. If you feel the need to keep something from your spouse, share it with your spouse immediately. Wine and cheese get better with age. Not sin.
14. Don’t let the kids come between you. Believe me. They will try. And try. And try. When your kids can turn you against each other it makes them insecure and it damages your marriage. Remind yourself often that when two people have a child, they have a common enemy.
15. Remember that your spouse IS NOT your enemy. It is very easy to assume that every pain they cause you is intentional. It usually is not. Go back to number 12.
16. JDate. We just started dating regularly about six months ago. We don’t know what took us so long, but date-night is now our favorite night of the week.
17. Study your spouse. I sometimes ask my hubby, “Tell me something I don’t know about you.” Even if it’s a small detail about his workday that I would likewise have never known, I feel closer to him because he’s shared something new with me. This one is actually a pretty big deal. It is easy to get bored and to watch years slip away filled with the mundane. Married life and a faith life are exactly the same. When I study and seek the heart of God, I fall in love with Him over and over and I get a glimpse of just how much He loves me. When I study and seek the heart of my husband, I fall in love with him over and over and I get reminded that the love he has for me is the closest I have ever come to the love God has for me.
18. Pray for each other. Out loud. We went on a marriage retreat in the summer of 2003 where we were told to find a spot in a room full of people where we could pray for each other. We were both scared. Quite certain that we were the only couple in the room who had never prayed together, we held hands, closed our eyes, pressed our heads together and listened for a few minutes to the people around us to see if they knew how this was supposed to work. Realizing that nobody around us sounded any more comfortable than we felt, we started praying. In that half an hour we took turns thanking God for all the things we love about each other and claiming His blessings over each other. When we were done we looked at each other and discussed the fact that neither of us had ever felt so loved or so secure in our relationship.
So there you have it. Eighteen things we’ve learned in eighteen years of marriage. Hoping that in the next eighteen we learn to fight a little fairer, love a little bigger, forgive a little faster, and actually live out all the things we’ve learned thus far.