A relationship in its early years can be exciting, gorgeous, and even more especially if it is shared. Highs and lows pass you by, events and events tumble one another. As you figure things out together, your cheeks glow and your eyes sparkle. It doesn’t take long for your relationship to reach the “firsts” you have always wanted. Once that is done, you are… you are happily married.
Having experienced all those firsts, once the glitter of the early days has settled, you may wonder… after this, what comes next? As a couple, what will we learn from one another? Can you anticipate anything that might be challenging? Looking forward, what can we expect?
Here are some of those really real, raw, and beautiful milestones that Mark and I have been through. They have ended up being as important (if not more) for our relationship than that day I put on the white dress.
Sharing of Personal Data
Your tiny hotel room in which the paper-thin door to your bathroom allows you to get explosive diarrhea. Of course, this is a theme with many variations. It’s comparable to childbirth. This milestone was triggered by malaria and was characterized by violent vomiting and high fever for Mark and me. As colleagues attending a meeting together, we were also on our very first date, although we didn’t realize it at the time. In spite of us not even being together yet, Mark is the epitome of a stand-up guy. Having someone stay with you when you’re out of control and disgusting is incredibly tender. As I cried for my mommy at 4:00 a.m., Mark clothed my head with cool clothes and fanned me with matches in the toxic bathroom, and sat me in the awkward chair in the corner so I would not be alone. Even though it would not be ideal for a first date, I knew right away that Mark was someone to rely on when things go awry (really, really, really bad). It is certain that our bodies will fail at some point in our lives. That is why you should choose your partner carefully.
The Secret Powers They Develop
It was easy to fall in love with Mark because he had many superpowers I was familiar with. Cooking and loving are two of his greatest strengths. He knows carpentry like no other and is a kickass business analyst. It has delighted me that he has been swooping in and saving the day every so often with a surprising superpower that I had no idea he possessed. I recall the time, when I was in graduate school, I was struggling to figure out how to manage a giant Excel database while working late at night. Scrolling through hundreds of cells and counting things, I found myself lost row by row. I began whimpering, sniveling, and then full-on snortling during the early hours of the morning. “What’s up, Honey?” Mark awoke and asked. In a matter of minutes, he had created a table that used “COUNTIF” and spits out precisely the numbers I needed to analyze my data. In no time, I was completely smitten and I just had to crush all over again.
Being Crazy For Someone Else
Occasionally, outside of our marriage, both of us have felt a bit of a crush on someone. There is currently a flirtation going on between Mark and one of his former colleagues who is really cute and one of my best friends. Having it happen to me for the first time signaled a milestone in my romantic life because it made me realize that commitment is a result of effortless, 100% focused attraction. Once I detected that he had a crush on someone, and after he confessed it to me, I had an emotional breakdown, completely damaging my confidence in him and our relationship. The fact that we were able to see each other’s sexuality as separate from our own was sort of exciting, as we are both outrageous flirts and love a little sexual charge. This is why we develop our relationships and share our crushes, tease one another, and assert our marriage’s boundaries overtime alone with the crush. This is what gives our marriage luster.
I consider myself to be a kind, honest, and good person most of the time – and I’m the best version of myself when I’m around Mark. Bringing out the good stuff is what he does. The problem is, I can become viciously mean when I feel like I have no way out of a situation. I can sense the deepest fears a person harbors about themselves, and I can lure them into a trap and take them down. My tendency to go there only occurs under extreme duress, which I do not like about myself.
Earlier last summer, Mark witnessed me going there (I’m not telling the details for his protection). Despite understanding the distress that drove it, he lost respect for me at that moment even though he was shocked and disappointed. Later on, he told me that it felt like I was being possessed by an evil ghost and was forced to act that way. Although he struggled for years to understand me, he never gave up. As for myself, I have also encountered parts of Mark that I am not comfortable with, from minor irritations to larger issues. A real-life together for decades produces this kind of result when you are living it. Recommitment and reckoning mark these milestones.
A Change in Terms
Our marriage has often experienced power shifts, as Mark and I have found. When we faced both physical and mental health issues (including unemployment) we had been going through a hard time. Since we have each been between jobs over the years, we each had to rely on each other to sustain the family foundation. It is easy to support each other, and we take turns fairly equitably when everything is going well and we are both healthy and contributing to our life together. The other individual may be bedridden for three months with crippling nerve pain, or will be depressed, or will lose a job, in which case you have to find new ways to love and support each other. Growing old together is a practice for these milestones.
A Delightful Karaoke Surprise
A storm swept through Manila last weekend, pigs flew somewhere, and my shy, but very soft-spoken husband sang Karaoke. Despite my best efforts, I cannot stop him. A lot of money would have been wagered if he hadn’t done that. There is a scenario in my imagination where a group is pressured into it and he stands in the back mouthing the words. I was too stunned to speak, but there he was at a birthday party pulling me up to the stage and saying: “Don’t go breaking my heart!”.I didn’t realize it was playing until we started holding mics. I am ashamed of how we acted. When he sang his part, I grabbed his hand and snuggled up to him. Despite clammy hands and wild eyes, he clung tightly to the rail. When it comes to bravery and vulnerability, I am totally attracted to them. He continues to surprise me even after all of this time together.
How Does Marriage Work?
Once we’ve passed the exciting stuff, what is marriage? While some aspects of it get deeper (dealing with the death of someone close to you), and other parts get shallower (dealing with the strain of keeping a household going when both you and the kids are going full force). There are things that become less exciting (like getting engaged and getting married) and things that become more exciting (like, perhaps, going to jog together after surgery and a year of physical therapy and thinking that you may not jog ever again). The friendship becomes more difficult (when one of you is depressed for months in a row) and easier (because they already have stayed in the ugly situations). Though the events that change your relationship might not be as scenic as the early ones, they are also more personal, less clichéd, and only you will know how they happened.
Get Married or Not?
Mark and I got virtually married 5 years ago and experienced the face to face wedding the following year when we got the budget for it. For me, to be with someone you deeply love despite all of those challenges you faced all through your relationship, deserves a paper to prove your love for each other. Getting married is one of the greatest decisions I made in my life and my kids are the fruit of that decision.
Just trust the process! Then, someday, it will be the only thing you can trust and you’ll always know that it’s true. Even on the hardest days, you will give every bit of love and care the other has to offer to the other. And it will be enough. All of it.