The First Year of the Rest of Our Lives

My husband and I have been celebrating our marriage in small ways pretty much daily since we tied the knot at the Jefferson County Courthouse on a cold, rainy October day last year. I’d only been living in our shared Denver apartment full time for a few days at that point, having severed my employment in Trinidad just a few days earlier. It was a tremendous relief for me to finally arrive home for good when I left my office after my last day at work and drove three hours north to Denver.

We didn’t plan to get married the following week, but it worked out that way because the county clerk’s office was empty when we arrived. No lines. No waiting. We were in and out in less than thirty minutes. We arrived as two single people looking forward to getting married within the next thirty days. We left as husband and wife, a little stunned by how quickly and easily we’d tied the knot, but thrilled nonetheless.

I hear all the time that marriage is difficult. That it’s the hardest thing you’ll ever do, next to parenting; and I wonder sometimes if there’s something wrong with me or my husband or our marriage because our union has been easy from the start. I think we’d both fully committed to spending the rest of our lives together before we ever talked about marriage. When we did have that conversation, the issue was settled in a matter of minutes.

Neither of us is particularly romantic. We’re both more practical, yet there’s something sort of romantic and magical about a union, such as ours, that works so smoothly and effortlessly. That’s not to say that we don’t put any effort into our marriage because we do. I’m prone to some pretty strong mood swings, and with our daughter now living with us full time, there are three of us crammed into a tiny 2-bedroom apartment. I occasionally feel fenced in, and when I need to withdraw and recharge (introvert that I am) there’s simply nowhere to go. Those days are pretty challenging, but my husband and I are unshakably united, so we know we’ll get through them.

All my life I’ve been accused of not being a team player, but what this past year has taught me is that I am absolutely a team player when I’m on the right team. This lesson is huge for me because I believed, like most people, that life would always be a struggle. That wherever I go, there would be strife and conflict, so I’d just have to learn to deal with it. We’re told from an early age that we need to grow a thick skin and learn to tolerate being treated poorly by others, and we’re supposed to silently endure the incompetence, ignorance, or inappropriate behavior of those closest to us for the sake of “getting along”.

All of that is nonsense, of course. Those are the lies people tell themselves in order to justify staying in bad marriages, toxic friendships, and unrewarding jobs. There’s a better way. It’s entirely possible to have relationships that are based on mutual respect and appreciation. It’s equally possible to find highly evolved, competent, and intelligent people with whom we’ll resonate. We can either find or build high-functioning teams where we’ll achieve more working together than we could possibly achieve alone. The key is that we have to learn to be a lot more discerning about the people we’re willing to allow into our lives. And we need to learn to say no to those who are unwilling or unable to rise to higher standards of conduct.

I’m not sure I can convince anyone that there really is a better way to live, but I’d like to. Had anyone told me I’d eventually find a man who is a perfect match for me, I probably wouldn’t have believed it. Yet I intuitively understood that the combative and dysfunctional relationships I’ve had with certain relatives, friends, and coworkers through the years may have been completely “normal” according to current social standards, but they certainly weren’t healthy. I secretly hoped to find better ways to relate with people, and I found glimpses of those better ways through a few rare individuals—an old boss, a handful of friends and even a couple of old boyfriends. It wasn’t until my husband and I started dating, though, that I fully understood that virtually all of the obstacles to lasting, happy, and healthy relationships would be obliterated if people would only choose their mates, friends, and business associates more carefully.

My husband and I are similar in many ways, but we’re also quite different in other ways. His strengths balance my weaknesses, yet we share the same core values. As a result, it is remarkably easy for us to map a course for our future and work together to achieve our long-term goals. While dividing the work of running our household, we take into consideration our individual preferences and strengths so neither of us gets stuck doing the things that we dislike most.

We argue infrequently, we rarely bicker, and the closest thing to nagging that happens in our household is that we occasionally have to remind our daughter to do her chores. The result is an overwhelmingly happy and almost effortless marriage and home life. My wish is that you, too, will find the sort of well-balanced relationship that my husband and I enjoy. Can you imagine what we could achieve as a society if we all held ourselves and those closest to us to higher standards of conduct, and if we were far more discerning when choosing those we allow into our inner circles?

Life is too short for all the drama and nonsense that most of us resignedly tolerate daily in our personal relationships and in the workplace. Choose your mate, friends, and coworkers more carefully so you can look forward, as I do, to a bright future beside someone you trust absolutely to have your back.

Thank you, Matt, for a wonderful first year of what I’m certain will be a very long and happy marriage. I love you.

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