A Perfectly Imperfect Marriage
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A Perfectly Imperfect Marriage

My husband and I have been a couple for almost nine years and married for almost four. Yet, ask me if I believe in soul mates, or the idea of Mr. Perfect, or “The One,” and I’ll tell you no.

I don’t believe in “The One,” but I DO believe my husband is the one I’ve chosen to love and continue to choose to love everyday. He’s wonderful, but he doesn’t complete me or fill some insatiable void.

This doesn’t seem like a popular opinion in a world where we’re surrounded by The Bachelor(ette), Edward and Bella fantasies, and rom-coms that conclude with a fairytale wedding to Prince Charming but don’t depict the day-to-day marriage that comes after it.

That’s because what comes after the wedding isn’t always romantic. It’s work– sometimes fun work, sometimes hard and emotional. Contrary to Jerry Maguire’s “you complete me” attitude, I believe that marriage is a process of taking two separate people with two different set of personalities, quirks, and ideologies and figuring out how to make it work, side by side.

Recently, I’ve been deeply inspired by a video by sex and relationship columnist Dan Savage called “The Price of Admission” — required viewing for anyone in or wanting to be in a relationship, in my humble opinion. Dan describes the price of admission as “the personal sacrifices, large and small, that make long-term relationships possible.” He suggests that we consider the perceived flaws and annoyances of the other person and assess whether they are truly dealbreakers, or whether they are just the price you might have to pay to be in a relationship with that otherwise great person.

“There’s no settling down without some settling for.” ~ Dan Savage

Mark has no shortage of flaws (sorry, Mister… but I’ll get to me in a second!). He plays a lot of video games, and often spends entire weekends away at disc golf tournaments. He leaves the cabinet doors open in the kitchen all the time (WHY??). He can be so laid-back that it sometimes comes across as indifference. He often doesn’t do his share of the chores until I ask him to, which drives me cah-razy.

And I’m no picnic either. I require a ridiculous number of backrubs on a weekly basis. I’m hella indecisive and too insecure. I’m much less athletic and outdoorsy than Mark. I sometimes complain about going to visit my in-laws. I’m less patient and have a much shorter– and more colorful– fuse than Mark.

At one slightly-less-evolved point in time, these may have been dealbreakers for us in relationships (heck, I’ve had roommate relationships go sour for less than that!). I might have been so focused on the idea of Mr. Right that anything less than perfect would scare me away. In fact, the first few months after our wedding three and a half years ago was a really hard time as we adjusted to each other as husband and wife and as I came around to the idea that marital bliss was not a given, but something we had to work for continuously.

Now I accept our flaws and challenges as the prices of admission. While I still admit to being triggered by Mark’s actions on occassion, I don’t let them build up into animosity or score-keeping. The value I get from our relationship is so much greater than being right in an argument. As people, we are so much greater than our flaws, and we recognize that in each other. We still get angry or annoyed, but we’ve established a rule of respectful, open communication about any topic to alleviates tensions, and the humility to say we’re sorry. Conflict makes us better, not bitter.

Lately, I’ve been taking the price of admission idea one step further and have been trying to use my marriage as a mirror. When I feel the frustration start to rise towards some aspect of our relationship, I turn inward and ask myself what that feeling says about me. Sometimes (often?), it shows me that I’m trying to be controlling. And I then remember that the only thing I can ever control is myself and my reactions, which helps foster kindness, politeness, patience and acceptance within me– a much better approach than anger.

My favorite trick for a quick attitude adjustment is to replace “I have to” statements with “I get to.” If I end up doing something Mark was supposed to do and find myself mentally grumbling, “I have to pick up after you,” I’ll correct myself to say, “I get to pick up after you.” I get to pick up his stuff– I have a husband who is a part of my life and the “stuff” is all evidence of our life together. I am not burdened, but lucky. I do believe this is some sort of reverse psychology jedi-mind trick that I’m performing on myself, but, hey, it (usually) works– or at least makes it less annoying to deal with!

I wrote in my wedding vows to Mark that he has inspired me to be a better person. That still holds true today. Marriage has a lot to teach me about myself and others. I have so much to learn about vulnerability, forgiveness, generosity, teamwork, intimacy, and love… Notice that perfection is nowhere near that list.

“That’s the only way you become The One. Is because somebody is willing to pretend you are.” ~ Dan Savage

To admit that we aren’t a perfect match might sound sad and unromantic to some people. But we’re two people who commit to working on the relationship everyday, learning and growing as a team, and choosing to love each other in spite of our flaws. That couldn’t be more romantic to me.

{Photo by Olivia Leigh Photographie}

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