About a week or so ago, my wife approached me and asked me to be a guest writer on her blog for Valentine’s Day. No problem. Writing isn’t that hard. I’ve finished countless college papers in the past few years, so I have this in the bag.
Then I sat down in my office, cracked my knuckles, and began to write.
I started writing about how misguided the notion of a “happy” marriage was, but it got very preachy very quickly. So I threw the proverbial paper in the proverbial trash and started over. The next post had BIG words and stupid jokes in every other sentence as it detailed the history of our relationship. I got about three sentences in when I realized how obnoxious it was.
This sucks, and if I keep this up my proverbial trash can will be overflowing with scrapped ideas and that’s just not a very environmentally-friendly thing to do.
I just needed to think about this a little harder is all. I shelved it just for the time being until I had a killer idea that was equal parts awesome and amazing.
Then yesterday while I was washing dishes, my wife told me about a blog post she read. It’s called “My Marriage Makes Me Feel Ugly” and it struck a chord with her. It detailed a woman’s experience in marriage as she comes to see the ugly side of herself in her words and actions toward her spouse.
“And that’s exactly what marriage does. It lets you get so close and so intimate with another person, that you begin to truly see yourself. Even the ugly parts. You realize just how many pet peeves you have or how much of a control freak you are. You see yourself reacting to things, immediately regretting the words coming out of your mouth.”
As much as it struck a chord with my wife, who found the post entirely too relatable, it did so also with me, for the exact opposite reason.
You see, before I was married or even dating my wife, I was hyper aware of things that sucked about me. Tiffany, the author of the aforementioned blogpost in reference, described this as your “ugly in the mirror.” Unlike Tiffany, my ugly-in-the-mirror was there long before I was married.
I saw myself as an ugly, unworthy, angry, and just an all-around bad person.
Suffice it to say, I wasn’t the biggest fan of myself.
But then I fell in love with a girl who didn’t see the bad things in me that I saw in myself. She only saw the good things I had to offer. She saw me as a charming, funny, and friendly person; someone worth hanging around with. I began to stand a little taller and hold myself with pride more often. I no longer lingered in self-loathing wishing I were someone else.
After we were married, the feelings of confidence only became more potent. She became my full-time partner. She became my open arms after bad days and my cheerleader after good ones. I was no longer alone to dwell on my deficiencies, which began to seem more irrational the more time I spent with her.
My marriage made me feel handsome.
Of course, it’s not always sunshine and rainbows. My wife and I do argue from time to time, whether it be about small things (should we get our sons circumcised?) or earth-shatteringly huge things (YOU are telling ME I can’t watch Game of Thrones?).
But no matter how severe we become with each other, she still sees me as the man she married. The man she CHOSE.
Being with my wife has grown me into a person I never could have predicted I would be. I lived a life of uncertainty and distrust for most of my formative years, but I now finally (for the past almost a decade) have a constantly good thing in my life.
But the goal of this post isn’t just to gloat. I want to tell you the habits that I’ve developed and the things my wife has done to make our marriage work this way.
Nothing’s scarier* than exposing your most vulnerable parts.
For me, my most vulnerable part was
my jugular exposing my depression. I saw it as a weakness that I didn’t want my wife to know about. I didn’t want her to think of me as a weak pansy-man. But there’s nothing weak about identifying your need for help and pursuing a solution. It doesn’t speak any more about your failures as a person than realizing a car needs a tune-up speaks about the failures of a mechanic.
- Learn what does it for your partner
I’m going to tell you about an episode my wife and I had about a year and a half ago. We had just moved into our new house and the place was a mess. One Saturday we decided to get into deep-clean mode. I tackled the downstairs while she took care of the upstairs. After a couple hours of hard work, I came upstairs to see that basically nothing had been done.
Except she had made me something. It was a mason jar filled with reasons she loves me.
It was a valuable lesson in misunderstanding each other’s desires. You see, if I had done the same thing, we’d be staying up that night a little later than usual, ifyaknowwhatimsayin.
She values words as expressions of love way more than I do. I value acts of service way more than she does. She would prefer a thoughtful text over a box of chocolates. I would prefer a new video game over a lengthy love note. We’re just different like that. The 5 Love Languages is a good tool to help you feel each other out.
- Encourage your partner’s individuality
You’re not going to like all the same things. Sometimes we have this idea that we need to get our partner intimately involved in our interests and any indication of disinterest is a sign of irreconcilable difference.
But there’s just some stuff they’re not going to care about.
My wife does not care about the consumer-edition of the new Oculus rift that will be released later this year. I do not care as much about something something something blogs that apparently is very important to her. But I at least know enough to encourage her in her pursuits and celebrate any and every milestone with her.
Doesn’t mean I’m going to write a blog for her any time soon or anything.
The point is, yeah, a marriage is a union of two people becoming one or whatever, but you are still two different human beings with different opinions and visions of the world. Celebrate that!
- Don’t take yourself too seriously
I mean, nobody else does.
But seriously, the more seriously you take yourself, the less others will. And nobody is going to get the brunt of that like your partner will. Learn to laugh at your dumb behavior and learn to apologize quickly and often.
I sometimes get in bad moods where I just roam the house getting upset at stupid things. I recently started apologizing for being moody, but letting my wife know that I’m not done yet either. I’m not a robot. I can’t just turn angry off.
I learned to laugh about it later and accept being teased for it. In my opinion, if you can’t laugh at yourself, you have no business laughing at anyone else either.
Please forgive this epic segue to the conclusion.
I’ve never thought of myself as a particularly handsome person. I don’t get hit on a lot and women have never clamored over each other to deliver their phone numbers to me.
But I’ve realized a lot of what makes a person feel handsome isn’t having to fight off troves of women (or men, whatever), it’s feeling beyond accepted; it’s feeling celebrated and worthy.
It’s a feeling I’ve rarely had before my wife, but now one I enjoy permanently.
This made my heart smile so much. And you’ll never be able to convince me that my husband isn’t among the most handsome men alive. While the idea of marriage being a mirror resonated with me in the way that it has revealed my flaws, it may be because I, like the author of the post he mentions here, considered myself so highly before marriage. It’s all just a matter of perspective.
Gray is a husband, father, musician, gamer, and the strongest man alive.
You can contact him online at firstname.lastname@example.org
Or offline over beers sometime but not on Thursdays, he has a thing on Thursdays.