No matter who you are, someone in your life has, at some point, given you some advice.
Don’t chew with your mouth full.
Be nice to people and they’ll be nice to you.
Never cross the street on your hands–it’s illegal in 4 states.
Most of the time, you nod and smile and think, “I already knew that, but thanks.”
Sometimes, though…sometimes it’s the kind of advice that changes your life.
I’ve been in exactly 5 serious relationships, including my marriage. For the most part, the boys I dated (and I say boys because I met my husband while we were still in college, so these relationships took place while I was a kid) were nice boys. They treated me well enough, and each one taught me valuable lessons to take into life.
My High School Sweetheart taught me to love earnestly, with my whole heart. He also taught me about heart break.
My Musician taught me to live in the moment, and to enjoy life as it comes. He also taught me to pine.
My Best Friend taught me to dream a little, and plan a little. He also taught me what it feels like to have the rug pulled out from beneath your feet.
Then there was The Jerk. I think every girl dates at least one, and The Jerk stole most of my sophomore year of college from me. He taught me to be mistrustful, but he also taught me how to take up for myself. And eventually, how to walk away.
Each relationship, each lesson, put me in a place to be ready for that one big Love that came my way. It prepared me to love My Husband with my whole heart, earnestly and completely, without giving up my own identity.
I thank each of them for that.
A few years later, as My Husband and I prepared for our wedding, advice started coming out of the woodwork.
Never go to bed angry.
Don’t bring up the past when you fight.
It’s not okay to call your spouse a cotton-headed ninny muggins.
I can’t tell you how many people said the same thing to us. “The first year of marriage is ALWAYS the hardest. If you make it through that first year, you’ll make it through ANYTHING!”
We weren’t worried. We went into our nuptials with confidence, never wavering. As we stood on the beach, hand in hand, with the sun setting behind us, the rest of the world disappeared. I never expected it to be like that—movie epic good—but it really was, for me. There was a moment, standing on the dunes with my parents, just before they gave me away, when I felt my face break and the tears well up, and for that fleeting moment, I thought I would cry. And then I thought, “No, don’t miss this.” And I didn’t. Not a single second was missed, and I was beaming from the “Dearly Beloved” to “You may kiss the bride.”
A few days after we were married, my brand new father-in-law took us aside and sat us down for “the talk.” (Not “the birds and the bees” one, the “you just got married and here’s the wisdom I’d like to pass down” one.)
He told us that we would face times of trouble. It’s inevitable, everyone does. He prepared us for money woes and growing pains and silly disagreements. And along with it all, he gave me the most profound advice I have ever received.
“No matter how noisy life gets, don’t be afraid to turn down the volume and focus on the most important thing of all—-each other.”
It may not seem like much, it may not shake you down to your foundation, but this has become our Marriage Mantra. If everybody else’s problems start to bog us down, we disconnect from the world, shut it down for a few hours (or a few days) and just focus on our relationship. When real life gets too real, too scary, too much to handle, we regroup and refocus on each other. We constantly remind each other how lucky we are, and that as bad as we think it is, there are people in the world who don’t have what we have. And for that, we are always grateful.
This advice has gotten us through those money woes, and those growing pains, and those silly disagreements that my father-in-law warned us about. It got us through B deciding to go back to school. It’s helped us deal with our fertility problems, and the fact that, after almost 7 years of marriage, we still haven’t started a family.
It got us through cancer.
So now, whenever a friend announces they’re getting married, or they’re having a baby, or they’re facing new life complications, I always pass along the seed that my father-in-law planted. Because it has truly shaped our lives, our love, and our relationship. And it has grown into the bedrock of our marriage.