…Or my tips for success.
Aren’t we adorable?
This week Van and I celebrated ten years of marriage, the accomplishment being even more sweet because the week was an absolutely insane carnival of mishaps, chaos, and confusion, and the fact that we both survived was an unprecedented miracle. We’ve all had weeks like this: a kind of demented Butterfly Effect where one fucked up event creates opportunity for another, until you find yourself hitting new lows. “Inconspicuously” changing your clothes in your car because you no longer have time to practice appropriate hygiene in between all the obligations you’ve signed on for. Being mean to the children of people who you barely know (in my defense, the little bastard was trying to take my last potato chip). Questioning the inner workings of the universe while cleaning elephantine piles of dog shit off the living room carpet. This was my week.
On Monday evening after a lovely turkey dinner, Van had some kind of mysterious reaction to something. I suspected the eggnog immediately because eggnog is a disgusting mixture of two things that I cannot digest properly: milk and raw eggs. Even though he was clearly having a reaction to something, he continued to drink the eggnog until the rash that started on his face had spread to his chest, arms, and back. At that point he wanted to go to the hospital. My next door neighbor, an absolute angel, told me to leave the kids with her overnight. We laughed a little on the drive to the Emergency Room “Ha ha! What a funny way to spend our tenth anniversary!” We weren’t terribly concerned about the reaction, and our anniversary wasn’t actually until the Tuesday, so there would be plenty of time to get the rash cleared up and be on our way for some merrymaking.
Once he got checked into the ER, the full effects of Van’s decision to seek medical attention set in. He started complaining that he didn’t want to be there because it might take several hours. “Well what did you expect?” I asked. “If it’s an allergic reaction, we need to get it treated.” When the triage nurse saw us, Van went all out, claiming that I had sexually assaulted him on multiple occasions, and when he was asked about mental problems he stated, “You should probably ask my wife; she will give you a better answer.” She looked at me with something like sympathy and I said “Just check the mental problems box, but NOT the sexual assault box.” I kind of wanted to slap him but reminded myself why we were there. We were ushered back to the waiting room, where one T.V. was blaring Fox News and the other was blaring Disney Junior. Oh good, the inner circle of hell. Luckily, I had brought along my copy of Les Miserables so at least I had something to do. Van had nothing to keep himself occupied, so he wandered around talking to the young mothers with tiny babies. I’m sure the last thing they wanted was a bright red lobster man looming over their babies, asking questions about eating habits.
Before long, we were taken to an exam room. I wondered if it had something to do with my husband complaining a swelling feeling his throat, but I didn’t know if he was just saying that to get through the exam and treatment process faster, or if he really was having trouble breathing. Either way, we were in and there was no backing out. The room was small, and I had nowhere to sit except for an uncomfortable molded plastic chair shoved up against a scary garbage can used by everyone who came into the room. The entire process took around five hours, with various medical staff coming in to perform diagnostics. Van remained in character, harassing everyone within ten feet of his bed. He wasn’t going down without a fight, anyhow. The doctor determined that he absolutely needed an Epi Pen injection with a steroid chaser, and some monitoring afterward. I was tempted to ask if I could do the honors and re-enact the Pulp Fiction scene where Uma gets the adrenaline shot in the heart, but held my tongue because Van was being obnoxious enough for the two of us and I didn’t need to start doing or saying anything to keep us there longer.
The shot went, disappointingly, into his arm, and within a few minutes, his face looked clearer and he was actually dozing off. Go figure! While I sat in the uncomfortable chair, my legs and ass going numb, Van snored very loudly for about two hours. Towards the end I passed out across the garbage can (gross) which is probably why I am sick with a mystery virus now. When the doctor came back to check his vitals, Van said that he could breathe much better, which convinced us both that coming to the ER was the right decision. We were told to never second guess an allergic reaction, since it’s difficult to know if and when it could cause the throat or tongue to swell.
So you are probably wondering what any of this has to do with marriage, right? Van and I both woke up right after midnight on Tuesday. I smiled at him across the room and said “Hey, it’s our anniversary! We made it!” Van smiled and asked, “Do you want your present?” I looked at him, a bit bewildered, and said, “Well I kind of feel like I deserve one after what you just put me through.” Van said, I’ve got your present right here; do you want it or not?” So I said okay, yeah, I wanted it. And do you know what he did? He stuck his tongue out at me! So I flipped him off. But then he pulled a little ring box out of his pocket, and popped it open to reveal a gorgeous Black Hills Gold ring. I was more than just a little surprised. Van had that ring in his pocket, and at some point during the jackassery he thought to himself “Hey, I can give Georgeann a ring right here in the Emergency Room!”
This summer at Porter Sculpture Park in Montrose, South Dakota.
So, this event set the stage for one of the weirdest weeks I can remember. Van is okay. We never found out what he is actually allergic to (which makes life even more mysterious and exciting). Despite the strange week and all the challenges, we have been very close as a couple, which has led me to want to share my advice to couples who don’t yet know what ten years of marriage looks like, as well as to those lucky ones who do.
1. First of all, it takes work. Van and I didn’t get to this point without romantically pursuing each other constantly, appreciating each other’s qualities, and maintaining a special friendship. Anyone who says marriage is easy is full of shit.
2. Next, be patient with your partner. So many times at the ER, I had to draw on my reserves of patience, and I am glad I did (I got a ring out of it!). I didn’t feel great that night, and had been looking forward to a bubble bath and an early bed time. No such luck, but that is part of a relationship. We often have to put our needs on hold and be patient because our partner might need our understanding, and that becomes the priority at the moment. It all evens out, so don’t keep score.
3. Don’t be afraid to have fun. Van and I had to take a hard look at our resources, goals, and limitations this week, and reframe the definition of “fun” because it turns out that the fancy anniversary dinner we had planned for this weekend isn’t quite so practical for us right now. We are still exhausted from Monday’s trip to the ER. And cleaning up dog poop off the carpet on Tuesday. And decorating for an office Christmas party on Wednesday. And attending said Christmas party on Thursday…and, well, you get the picture. What is more practical and within our capabilities right now is a pizza and movie night at the house. One of the best gifts I could give my husband this year was this statement: “I don’t need to have fancy steak dinners or big gifts as proof that we love each other. I just want more time with you, and I will never outgrow that selfish desire.” This was actually before he gave me the ring, so try not to find hypocrisy in this. A solid relationship requires an investment of time, not money, and fun doesn’t have to be expensive!
4. Say please, thank you, and I love you. A lot! Couples forget to say these phrases. I feel spoiled because I have a husband who says these things many times a day, and on top of this, he does little helpful things for me, which makes me even more eager to reciprocate. Let me tell you, nothing made me feel better than waking up this morning to a clean kitchen with loaded dishwasher full of clean and dry dishes, and neatly lined up CLEAN pots and pans, ready for cooking! It allowed me to sit and write this post. So when he wakes up, I will be in such a good mood and feel like helping him with a project. Provided the dog doesn’t poop on the floor or the kids don’t flood the downstairs bathroom…
5. Learn how to communicate. This really ties into to my first piece of advice. Van and I went through a long spell where we really weren’t communicating but we didn’t realize it. I tend to use a passive aggressive tone, and he got to the point where it was just easier to tune me out. So it took a lot of courage for us both to decide to develop better communication skills. It has worked wonders for our relationship in just a few months.
6. Spend time together, but be individuals. Van and I like to do things together. We hunt, work in our garden together and sometimes we cook together. We also have individual hobbies that allow us to have circles of friends who offer us support and advice to bring back to the relationship.
7. Last, because I like the number 7, but also because this is a very important tip, take care of yourself. If you don’t practice good self maintenance, how are you going to take care of your partner and family? This includes being your own best friend, caring for your needs and learning how to make yourself a consistent priority so that you feel taken care of. Even if it means locking yourself in your bathroom so you can take a bubble bath without being interrupted by the entire neighborhood (which is my problem when I want to use the bathroom), it’s worth the effort to find time for yourself each day. Doing so will create more energy for you to be open and loving toward your partner.
The Red Hammer sign next to a sculpture at Porter Sculpture Park reminds me of our marriage.
Last night we had a little dinner and some friends came over. We cracked open a bottle of wine that was part of a case given to us ten years ago when we got married. The first bottles were consumed years ago, with the last one drunk at our five year anniversary — and it was still good then. We were not sure how the wine would taste last night, and when we took a sip we discovered that another five years of Army moves, bad storage choices, and general abuse had turned it into weird funky grape juice. We laughed about it. After our guests left Van hugged me and said “We outlasted the wine! Should we keep the bottle as a souvenir?” I said “Yes, let’s.” Van gave me a kiss and said “You know, we still have one bottle of that stuff left. We need to keep it and open it in ten more years.” I giggled “It’s a date!”