March 10, 2016

The Secrets Behind Sixteen Years

Sixteen years ago today, Handyman Husband and I started our life together. It's been a crazy wonderful, although sometimes difficult ride.

Yet we survived.

In a world where divorce is common and relationships are temporary, we've beat the odds and made it this far. Not only that, but we're doing better than ever.

Not too shabby for only knowing each other for three months when we tied the knot, huh? No joke. We met December 5, 1999 and got married March 10, 2000. It was obviously meant to be.

I bet you're dying to know how we lasted this long. Don't pretend nonchalance about this. You know you're DYING to know. So I'm going to tell you our tips and tricks for our marital longevity. Sixteen of them - one for each year.

Man, were we young!

1. Talk and talk often.

We rarely go more than a few hours without talking or texting. We tell each other everything. If I stubbed my toe, he knows. If he ate at the outdoor burrito guy's stand for lunch, I know. It's stupid little things, but we don't generally hold back.

Not even when one of us is into something the other isn't. He loves NASCAR, I love writing. He loves woodworking, I love piano. We both talk about our interests and we both listen. This is what drew me to him in the first place. We would talk for HOURS and not run out of things to talk about. It's still true today.

Our sweet little family back when it first started.

2. Have common interests.

There are a lot of things we love to do together - binge-watch TV shows, play video games, go to the shooting range, build and create, play board games, run errands (unless it's the fourth trip to Home Depot in less than two weeks), try new restaurants, goof off.

It gives us a way to connect, to identify with each other. And it gives us an excuse to be together. 

Like we need one.

3. Have separate interests.

This one took a while for me to understand. If we're married, shouldn't we have all things in common?


While I love spending time with my husband, I need time away as well; time to cultivate my own interests and explore who I am as an individual. By doing that, I remain interesting and intriguing. I become better than I was and my self-esteem improves.

I encourage Handyman Husband to explore his interests as well. After all, we can't all be crazy writers who talk to themselves while developing character arcs, can we?

4. Be supportive.

There were several years when my husband worked odd hours. He'd be gone most of the day and part of the night. He worked Sundays. He went out of town. I understood he did it to support our family. Yes, there were difficult days that ended in tears. I often felt like I was on my own with only my baby boy to keep me company. But I knew Handyman Husband was doing what he needed to do, so I sucked it up. Mostly.

I also supported him as he honed his handyman and woodworking skills. When he wanted to go camping or work with the boy scouts, I encouraged him and helped him whenever necessary.

Nowadays, he does the same for me. I adore how he insists I go to my writers group twice a month and attend my favorite writers conference in May, even though it often lands right around his birthday. He even has me book a hotel room so I don't miss anything. 

That beach looks awfully nice right now.

5. Play together.

Goof off. Be silly. Be cheesy. Enjoy being together. 

I saw a meme on Facebook the other day that said something about "One does not walk past one's wife in the kitchen without slapping her on the butt."

So very true. (Although I recommend avoiding doing that when your spouse is still hurting from leg day at Pilates. Unless you like receiving the evil eye.)

One of our favorite things to do is having board or card game tournaments. We're currently in the middle of a Farming Game tournament. The last round he beat me by over $140,000. The one before that, it was just $600 AND we both thought I had won until we tallied up our money and property. He's currently ahead by one game. Which means we need yet another rematch so I can redeem myself and totally kick his butt.

It's a must.

6. Argue.

No, that's not a typo. No marriage is going to be perfect. You're not always going to agree. I know Handyman Husband and I don't. 

Argue in a calm and fair manner. If it gets heated, step away until you can both talk in a reasonable fashion. It's okay to be angry. Just don't take it out on your spouse.

Most of the time, Handyman Husband and I agree on the big things. When we don't, we work through it until we come to a solution we can both agree on. That usually means compromise. Yes, compromise can stink. But in the long run, it's so much better than continually butting heads over something that won't even matter five years from now.

Besides, there's the bonus of making up afterwards. :)

7. Go on dates.

For the longest time, we didn't do this. We had a phobia about having someone else watch our kid(s) or something. Maybe because all three of my boys have been handfuls. Not bad, just extremely busy and energetic. 

Or we just didn't want to impose on someone and were too cheap to get a babysitter.

I don't know. It just didn't happen. 

Those years were also some of the hardest of our marriage. Coincidence? Maybe. Maybe not.

What I do know is once we started getting away, even just escaping to our room while our 14yo let his younger brothers think we left the house, things have gotten MUCH better between us. Most weeks, we just go to dinner, maybe run an errand or two, then hide in our room to watch Netflix or play board games. (Now I really feel the need for another round. Love, you are going DOWN.) It doesn't matter what we do, just as long as we do it together.

I love how he plays with our boys.

8. Laugh. A lot.

This we do often. And not just because our kids are riots. We tease, joke, and share funny memes. I'm a huge fan of "dummy" jokes. You know, the ones that are so dumb they're funny? It gets really fun when I'm tired and "fake drunk" me comes out. Handyman Husband ends up laughing at me more than what I'm laughing at. 

Yeah. I'm just that hilarious. *snort*

I was hanging out in his newly constructed hammock he made. It was quite comfortable.
I love the look on his face here. It's the "Are you done yet?" look combined with "I'm trying not to laugh."
I get this one a lot.

 9. Surprise!

Every so often, Handyman Husband likes to surprise me with roses. And not always on special occasions. This particular bouquet was a combination "Happy moving day!" and "Happy anniversary!" He brought them to me a year ago when we were moving into our beautiful new home. Every bouquet of flowers gets featured on Facebook where it can receive the proper adoration from absolutely everyone I know.

Handyman Husband gets a whole different surprise from me. Each year on his birthday, our kids and I surprise him with a "Welcome home, birthday boy!" party. One year, we decorated the house, turned off the lights, and left a Nerf gun with ammo by the front door. The Mission: Impossible theme song played while we ambushed him as he walked through the door.

Last year, we surprised him with a "cake" made out of Diet Mountain Dew cans. This year...Ha! This year is a secret since we haven't done it yet. But it's going to be awesome.

I occasionally like to surprise him with treats, too. Or t-shirts. Or whatever else I happen to see while at the store that reminds me of him.

10. Do things for each other.

Not only does my amazing husband like to surprise me, he loves to build things for me. My absolute favorite thing he's EVER built for me is my writing desk. In fact, I'm typing this post while sitting at my beloved desk.

A little backstory - when we were engaged, we traveled up to Boise and bought a digital piano from my favorite piano store. It was beautiful and looked just like an upright. I played that instrument for years.

Just before we started building our current house, my digital piano died. Not just died, it let out a keening death wail that could have pierced eardrums if we hadn't hurried and unplugged it. After researching options, we came to the sad conclusion it was done for. One hundred percent toast.

I was devastated. I couldn't bear the thought of taking it to the dump.

Handyman Husband came to my rescue. We gutted it and he transformed it into the most amazing writing desk ever. 

Not every gesture has to be so grand. Some of my favorite times are when Handyman Husband rubs my back or keeps the boys quiet so I can take a nap. Assuming keeping the boys quiet is even possible.

11. Show affection.

My 6yo drew this a couple of years ago and insisted I take a picture and text it to his dad. It's us kissing. My husband and I kiss in front of our kids all the time, which is where he got the inspiration.

Not only do we kiss, but we sit next to each other at the dinner table every night, despite our children's protests. ("But I want to sit next to Mom!") We snuggle and hug. We hold hands. We pinch each others, uh, arms. Yeah.

We're even ridiculously mushy every so often.

12. Plan together.

Handyman Husband and I love to plan our future together. Even if it's as simple as planning our garden. There's something exciting about collaborating and then seeing what we've designed come to fruition. 

We've planned gardens, houses, moves, vacations, birthday parties, and rearranging of rooms together. We've planned our retirement, our "if we ever get a million dollars" list, and more.

Not only does planning together help to get things done, it gives us something to look forward to.

13. Mourn together.

Admittedly, I do this more than he does. He tends to rein in his emotions more than I do. But those times when I felt my heart was breaking and he held me tight while I cried pitifully into his shoulder...they mean more to me than a thousand roses. 

It goes both ways. When I know he's hurting, I make sure to take care of him. If he needs space, I give him space. If he just wants to be close, I do that, too.

14. Put family first.

There's a reason we fell in love and got married. When life gets crazy, it's sometimes hard to remember that, which is why our family is a top priority. Everything we do, we make sure to protect the sanctity of our marriage. 

Sometimes that has meant sacrificing something we really wanted. Other times, it's meant putting dreams on hold. Or even changing those dreams altogether.

It's worth it.

15. Just be yourself.

I grew up being extremely careful, scared to make the wrong move. That attitude followed me into the early years of our marriage. I never felt like I could be myself, never could let my guard down. I pretended to be something I wasn't to please my husband and everyone else.

That didn't last long. 

It wasn't until I allowed myself to be, well, myself that I became truly happy. Which translated into a happier marriage. You know the adage - "If mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy."

Not only am I happier, I'm more relaxed. I can go with the flow and be open-minded. I smile more and roll with the punches. 

Hmmm...a nap sounds good about now.

 16. Remember - not everything lasts forever.

Kids grow up and leave the nest. Trials run their course. Bad times come and go. Good times, too. Even the most horrible day must come to an end. The only thing you can do is count your blessings and hold them close to your heart so when the difficult times come, you have something to help keep you going.

We may not have everything we've ever wanted, but we're happy. And we love being together. One day, we're going to be old enough to get away with hitting on perfect strangers a quarter our age and have people find it "cute". We'll laugh and find the whole thing entirely hilarious as we plan out our next round of old people pranks while wearing mismatched clothes and purposefully slathering on enough joint cream to make people gag if they get too close.

Or not.

But whatever we do, we'll do it together.

Happy sixteenth anniversary, Handyman Husband! Here's to a whole heck of a lot more.

Coming soon...

It's Capsule Cooking time again! Woohoo! I love doing these posts. It's a good one, too. Pudding Cake using just four ingredients. That's right, FOUR! Come back next Thursday to check it out. You won't regret it!

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