Family Practice: Marriage, Part II: Our storyWritten by Shannon Szyperski | | firstname.lastname@example.org
I can define why my marriage works by relaying two instances. The first happened when I met my husband, Mike. I told him that I took care of children for a living, wondering if, as the academic type, he might think my occupation to be less than intellectually challenging. He instead replied that he believed a caregiver of children to be one of the more difficult positions in life, assuming one does it right.
I literally decided to marry him that first day based almost solely on that one sentiment. Not being able to eat, sleep or think about anything but him for the next three days also led me to believe that he might be “the one.” After three years of ups and downs and lots of convincing Mike that he also wanted to marry me, we got hitched.
The second defining incident of our marriage was 13 years in the making but occurred only recently. Although I couldn’t wait for us to adopt a dog, those first years of apartment living led me to compromise and become the cat person I never wanted to be. I somehow learned to love life with cats, but 12 years, two cats, three kids and two houses (with fenced-in backyards) later we still didn’t have a family dog.
The fact that we never adopted the dog we had agreed to eventually culminated into the biggest fight we have ever had as a married couple. That’s right — not money, not kids, not a job — a dog. I was bound and determined to finally get my dog and my husband was bound and determined to convince me that a dog would end up costing us thousands of dollars. Long story short, I won the argument, but my husband was right. Within a few months our $70 dog actually ended up costing us thousands of dollars (not including the $72 per bag prescription dog food he will now need for the rest of his life).
For as much of a fight as he put up to not have a dog and for as much as he was absolutely right about the money, Mike has never said a word about having told me so. He loves our dog. He loves me. That’s marriage.
I may not have been able to remain quite so subdued had I been the one in the right. In fact, I likely would have even made a graph or two depicting just how wrong he had been. That is the interesting part of marrying someone not because they compliment you, but because they complement you. My spouse is not just my knight in shining armor, he is my constant shining example of ways I can be better. I never fully understood what “better half” meant until I had one.
Don’t get me wrong, if I wanted to I could make a list of ways he has been wrong and/or flat-out upset me over the years so long it would make even the most accepting of people ask, “What in the world are you doing with that guy?” The problem is that he could make an unflattering list about me that would be just as long and likely much, much longer. Truth be told, such a list could be made about any one of us if someone had reason to try.
After 13 years, I’ve found that the single most important thing I can do as an individual in a marriage is to concentrate on the list of my better half’s better qualities and better moments whenever I start allowing the list of negatives to get too long. Reminding myself of the long list of my own worst qualities and worst moments also tends to put things in perspective. There is not a perfect person nor a perfect marriage among us, but marriage lends us an incredible opportunity to create a system of checks and balances that allows two people to bring out the best in one another.
Our marriage worked in the beginning because Mike and I went into it with a mutual appreciation for one another, a willingness to compromise and the realization that neither of us has it all figured out. It continues to work because we are also both willing to accept and work through the mistakes and missteps each of us makes on a regular basis. Marriage is less about always doing things right in the first place and more about figuring out how to set things right and then move on when things go wrong. It is about each person doing his or her best to do the right thing while the other one has the decency to not only notice but also take notes.
Shannon and her husband, Michael, are raising three children in Sylvania. Email her at email@example.com.