There are many things that I have learned during my first decade of being a married man. There is such thing as too much paper towel for a spill. A cook must always taste test when making dinner and that not all spices are meant for all dishes. If you think you are an awesome parent because your first child was "easy" then your second will be an ego buster. If you do not groom yourself, prepare to be tweezered when in compromising positions. But the most important thing that I've learned from my 10 years of being married is that I can always be better and I should strive to be the best.
The status quo is the comfortable but is also where the passion gets sucked out and a person can find themselves trapped. After 10 years of marriage with Emily, we've had our ups and downs. When we decided to toss in kids at the end of 2011, there were times that we've been roommates who are pretty good at raising kids. Over the last few years, I've have had my own personal emotional battles where my days are trying to get work done and look after Everett and Danika (who dares for me to spend 5 minutes not watching her) while toxic emotions and anxiety whittle me away until 8pm hits with my body drained and my brain foggy, In the evening if I am not catching up on work then I spend more time on a pillow than with my wife. Then I wake up at five in the morning to try to get more work done before the family wakes, so the cycle of spending little time together continues.
If I wanted to be pessimistic, I could say that those stagnate times or moments the passion is absent means our marriage is imploding. But my ten years has proven that there are time our marriage is full of love and magical moments but are sometimes followed by those harder and more challenging days or weeks or months. A relationship flows and bounces and bumps and soars and crashes, and I think some relationships that enter the graveyard are examples of people not realizing that. Things change and change can be good and bad, but one must adapt and aim for better no matter the situation.
Marriage is a lot like most things in life such as careers or hobbies or projects or other relationships. All these things present challenges or have their rough patches, but it doesn't mean they will always be bad or stagnant. Or it also means that things won't always be amazing and wonderful. You have to accept the dark and the light. One also has to realize the need to do their part to try to make it better and closer to their goals and desires.
In all these cases, I've learned the most dangerous idea is thinking relationships are static or that the status quo is good. Marriage has taught me that like almost everything in life, I should always strive to be better. It has taught me that I can always be better and you never truly reach your best. The best is the unattainable goal but on that journey, we improve, learn, teach, cry, love, grow, tumble, climb and celebrate. My goal is to be the best husband, father, son, friend, writer and human that I can possibly be. There are a lot of times where I end up failing, but in that failure, I learn where I can be better.
On this journey to be the best. I have realized that I do not have to stay on the path in front of me but can always redirect the route by getting that machete and chopping down the vines that cover the path to my real goals. If what you've been doing for the last few years has got you farther away from the golden city then check the compass and map, and recognize there are multiple paths and routes. It is easy to blame those around you for making the journey hard, but it is more rewarding to learn that it is time to alter the direction yourself and figure out how you can be a better traveller. The more I am in the relationship with someone else, the more I have learned to take self-ownership for the state that I am in.
Hitting ten years of marriage reminds me of a story that my mom told me. She loves and adores my dad, but for the first ten years of their marriage, he wasn't able to comprehend that his dirty clothes should go in the hamper. Over those ten years, she would delicately tell him it would be nice if he picked up his clothes and made use of the hamper. She even once wrote him a note detailing the wonders of that basket in the corner of the room (likely a letter far less sarcastic than the one I would write, obviously). The first ten years, my dad was an amazing husband in many ways but he failed at getting those dirty clothes into the laundry hamper. Until one day, he figured it out. After a while of the clothes landing in the hamper every single day, my mom asked him what changed. My dad's response was that he decided it was time that she stopped picking up after him. It is a minor thing, but it shows a good marriage is one where a person is willing to change and adapt to make it work (just may take a decade to get there, but that also means my mom has had 30 years of clothes free floors).
I've always said my parents are my role models of a loving and working marriage. I know they both are still smitten with each other even after 40 years. My dad has been a shining example of having a willingness to change and adapt for his marriage (even if it was a slow and methodical change). When I was young, if my mom was out for the evening that meant my dad was ordering pizza, which meant a tower of boxes awaiting my mom when she came home after being away for a few days. In my teenage years, I remember my dad cooking dinner every Sunday because my mom had piano lessons that afternoon and so there was always food waiting for her that did not come courtesy of Domino's. The older that I got, the more I saw my dad contributing to things like doing laundry or vacuuming if my mom was away for a weekend. Emily has always known my dad as someone who is very affectionate and quick to help my mom. She can't fathom that when we were kids at theme parks that my Type A and tunnel vision dad would abandon my mom with all the kids (and strollers) while forging ahead into the crowded sea of people to his destination. This would never happen today, and has been my example of how I should always recognize my weaknesses and turn them into growth points and eventual strengths.
I want to be the best husband that I can possibly be for my wonderful wife, Emily. I know part of achieving that is realizing that I can always be better and our marriage can always be improved. That type of outlook is important for all things in my life including being a dad, writer, cook, photographer, and interpretive dancer (some of these things may have a lot less or none of my focus). I recently started doing workshops for writing and looking at various writing courses, because even though I've been doing this professionally for several years now and I am confident in my skills, I am well aware that my writing can always be refined and there is still lots to learn. It is why I need to humble myself to listen to other's advice on writing or parenting or dodgeball. It is why reading and experiencing and observing and just being open to all around me is vital daily activities. Life is organic and evolving, and everything contained in it is as well.
My hope is as several more decades go on that I continue to become a proactive, compassionate, receptive and loving partner and husband for Emily. I don't care about actually being the world's greatest husband, because I don't even know what that would be. My goal is that as the years go on that Emily will know without any doubt that she is deeply and truly loved by me, and I am the best husband for her.