let's stay together

If you know me or have read my blog much at all, you know that my husband and I have been together a long. mother. effin. time.

We moved in together after the spring that I turned 21. I will turn 36 this next spring.

We did not put a lot of time into thinking about what we were doing, a luxury of youth. Time was on our side. If things didn't work out, I would still have time to move on and enjoy a lovely, optionally promiscuous rest of my twentysomethings. But things did work out. When you think about how young we are, it's hard to believe. We were really young. It was so long ago that--

1. We used to ask for Sunday nights off so we could watch the X-Files in its first run. Justin's big brother Brendan, now known as the Sarge, would leave his 101 dalmatian pajamas all the way in OKC to drive out to watch it with us. I was obsessed with the show. I had the book companion...it was my first foray into dorkdom. Ahem. Into fandom.

2. Justin had a bucket of quarters and a pager; I had a landline. Cell phones were still really big and most people didn't have them until a few years later. I used to accidentally wash his pager in the laundry. He would get super pissed and tell me how expensive it would be to replace; fortunately, it was nearly indestructible.

3. We had a waterbed with black satin sheets and thought this was awesome. It turned out to be less awesome as time went by. I am pretty sure time will tell that waterbeds are terrible for our spines (and romantic lives, but I don't really want to get into that).

4. I was thoroughly impressed by Justin's extensive CD collection. I was still mainly listening to cassette tapes.

5. I was also thoroughly impressed when we got the Internet. Before I moved in with Justin, I thought the Internet was something government agents used to communicate top secret info and break down spy rings. Of course, like everyone else, we had a dial-up connection. I would wait, wait, wait, for it to connect listening to the horrible worse-than-nails-on-a-chalkboard sound and finally the page would start to load and some jerk would invariably pick up the phone and knock us offline. I used the Internet to plan our wedding a few years later and thought it was the most amazing thing ever, and that was still when the web was pretty deep discount looking.

So that was a long time ago, right? I've seen lots of couples get together and break up and been to many weddings only to later be a victim of the brutal ceremonious friend division that comes with a breakup. Sometimes I wish more people would ask how we stayed together so long in an age where almost no on stays together. My cousin and her husband, who we lost earlier this year, seemed to have it figured out, and I know that will bring her comfort the rest of her life and be a blessing to their children. Our friends Melissia and Keith seem to have figured it out. Kate and Chris from St. Louis seem to have it figured out. Everyone else is still getting there, so we'll have to wait and see.

Here are some of the things I believe have kept us together. This is geared towards marriage, but of course could apply to any relationship. Good luck! The world needs more love in it.

1. Annual vacations. Every year we take at least one vacation and as many weekends away as we can. The first year we went to San Antonio, and we've gone someplace at least once each year. Even if you can only get a weekend away, think of it as an investment in your marriage. It's a way to hit the pause button on your life, and getting caught up in all the chaos of your life is what often makes us forget to prioritize our loves.

2. Taking a few minutes each day to talk. We don't always get to but when we can we do.

3. Prioritizing intimacy. If you don't connect physically, your emotions start to follow suit. Then you detach. Sex should be a place to put everything else aside and just connect on the most basic chemical level and is very important in a marriage.

4. Realizing that if there is some stuff about them making you crazy, guess what? There is some stuff about you making your partner crazy. This is normal. It's understanding that you have to put up with a certain amount of another human being's annoying qualities to be in a long-term relationship; you just have to ask yourself if your love for them outweighs your irritation. This is a question you ask in the beginning; you don't get to change your mind after ten years. I promise you, if it bugs you in the beginning, you won't train it out of them and it's not going to get better. If you make a commitment to be with someone, this is part of what that commitment means.

5. Understanding there are some battles you will never win, you will find yourselves having over and over and over, and that doing the same thing over and over and over with the same negative results reinforces bad energy in your relationship. Have a sense of humor about it, but pick your battles. Just be happy he is so handy with tools he can replumb the house, fix the washer and dryer and central heat, build a dollhouse, and deal with his inability to prioritize changing the bed linens. It's not going to happen so get over it. It's not worth wasting minutes of your life you'll wish you had back at the end of it.

6. Disallowing certain things. Don't ever talk about splitting up unless you are having a serious heart to heart in which it's an actual possibility...don't just throw it around. Don't call each other names. Don't give in to anything you'll regret later. This is a person you love and have committed your life to. Remember that you don't want to hurt them, even if you think you do at the time.

7. Disallowing jealousy. Jealousy is poison. If you have to go through his/her cell phone or email messages, you shouldn't be together. Period. You cross that line and you've brought something ugly into your home that will slowly poison your relationship. If another girl smiles at him, flirts with him, be proud that a man so fly is going home with you. If he smiles and flirts back and you know he's a cheater, why the heck you with him in the first place?

8.  Find time for joy. We have been to hundreds of movies together and almost 300 live music shows. Dance, have fun, realize how short life is.

9. Don't reprogram your life for a person. If you find your friends, taste in music, taste in everything has changed, your relationship probably won't last forever and you're going to feel pretty empty when it's over.

10. Don't talk bad about that person to your friends when you are mad. Respect the special bond you have by keeping the trash talk out of it. Trust me, you'll regret it and your friends/family will never look at him the same way again.

11. Remember why you loved him/her in the first place. Write love letters or send texts reminding them of this. People step out because they aren't getting something at home. Make your home the center of love and joy. It should be the place they can't get enough of.

12. Have a short memory. Forget about why you were mad easily and never drudge up things that have long passed. You'll  both be grateful.

13. Admit when you screwed up at least some of the time.

14. Laugh. A lot. Mostly at yourselves.

15. Love your children with all your hearts, but don't let them get between you. You and your husband/spouse should be at the center of the family. You are its foundation, its heart. Be committed to making that your biggest priority. You are modeling love for your kidz and every relationship they have will be based on how they see you interact.

16. Be affectionate. Don't be afraid to kiss in front of the kidz. It will give them security to know that you are in love with each other.

17. Celebrate your love as often as possible.

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