Monday, February 10, 2014

Things That Matter

Before I got married, I had a very different idea about what matters for a relationship (of a romantic nature, mostly) to work. There were lots of things that I thought really mattered, and sometimes I actually lost interest when I saw these things weren't present in a potential prospect (which probably was because there was something else going on that wasn't working, but to me it was always THAT THING.)

Some things I thought mattered: 
  • Music taste. I wanted someone who would go to concerts with me, rock out on road trips, reference songs in normal conversations all the time. Also, it would be nice if he were a singer or a guitar player or something, since I liked to sing and wouldn't it just be so cute if we could sing, together? 
  • Writing ability. I was just so bothered if they didn't punctuate correctly. What good would love notes be if they made me cringe grammatically? (My husband is a really smart guy, but I proofread his stuff for him before he submits it to clients - and in fact, it doesn't seem to matter.) 
  • Political affiliation. Because I was SO INTO THAT. In that obnoxious collegy way where you really have no idea what you are talking about but you are really passionate. 
  • Movie taste. Book taste. It was obviously important that we be able to see awesome deep films together and read the same books and discuss them at length, because we would always have time for that. (As it is, we like to watch movies together occasionally and can usually pick something with both want to see, and we both read a lot, but most of it is totally different stuff.) 
  • Similar interests. Because my college interests were going to be SO permanent. It was essential for him to love England and WWI history and opera and whatever else I was so very into at the time.
And then I think I had some vague notions about being able to talk to each other, sense of humor, kindness, blah, blah. 

When I met my husband, a couple of these things seemed like they were part of the attraction. The first time I rode in his car, he was listening to The Jayhawks. I didn't know ANYONE who listened to the Jayhawks. It was fate! He was into history, which I dug. We could talk about politics, we could talk about books, we could pick out movies to watch together, including nutty documentaries. We'd go on long drives and talk and listen to music. We liked to cook together. It was perfect. 

It turned out there were lots of other things that were really perfect as well. We could talk about anything. We could hold each other and offer comfort during frustration. We could make each other laugh. He was genuinely thoughtful and kind, and he liked to surprise me. 

And then we got married and moved to a totally new place, and I learned that a whole different set of traits were important. And then I got pregnant and had morning sickness for 5 months and that brought out a NEW set of things that mattered. And then we had a baby, and good grief, who even thinks about those things when they're dating? 

So with a disclaimer that I've only been married three years and that I also understand that other people's lists of things that matter will be totally different from mine, here are some new things that I've found really matter to me. 
  • We make each other laugh daily. I knew that this would be something I wanted to have in my life, but sometimes one of us says something and I just feel so glad that we are so funny to each other, especially when I know other people (including my college self) would probably think we are so lame.
  • He knows how to handle things when I start disagreements. Sometimes I get frustrated. Sometimes, whether it's his fault or not (it's usually not), I take those frustrations out on my husband. Sometimes I really don't want to talk about it. But he always knows when to drop everything and sit with me until I am calm enough to articulate my emotions and explain my needs, because he knows I need to talk it out before I can move on. 
  • We can come to a consensus about money issues. It isn't even that hard. We can agree that there are things we don't need or can get used, and we can agree that sometimes we need to wait for things. We can agree about what matters to our family and save accordingly. Money can be stressful, but I'm never afraid that the stress is going to come from a fight about money. We aren't rich, but we can figure out how to make our budget work for us and still be happy. 
  • He doesn't keep score. It's pretty easy to start feeling like the other person in your partnership isn't pulling his or her share of the weight when it comes to taking care of the responsibilities that come with taking care of a family, paying the bills, keeping a house in order, etc. This is because people have a tendency to overestimate our own contributions and underestimate other people's. My husband is really good at just doing what needs to be done, no matter how much he has done that day. We're both working toward the same goals, so it doesn't matter who is doing what. We understand that sometimes one person is going to be shouldering more of the work for the family, and we accept it because we know that the balance will shift later. 
  • He flirts with me - even when I'm embarrassed. I'm such an awkward flirt, and sometimes I feel dumb when my husband flirts with me in front of other people - but I'm so grateful that he does it anyway. 
  • We listen. No matter what it is, if I need to talk, if I have a problem I need to discuss or he's feeling frustrated, I know we will be able to talk it out and listen to each other until we understand each other and figure out something that works for both of us. 
  • We find each other interesting. We both love to learn, but we're always learning about different things because we have some different interests - and then we can share the things we learn with each other. I love learning new things or discussing things and getting new perspectives from him. 
  • We trust each other's opinions. We consult each other when we're working on projects, and we help each other produce our best work by offering feedback and encouragement. 
  • Bonus: He's not afraid of babies. I know this sounds funny, but my husband's only younger sibling is two years younger than he is, so it's not like he was raising babies as a teenager or anything. He didn't babysit or have many nieces or nephews and he didn't have any experience with kids - but he just decided he could do the whole father thing and did it. I learned very quickly that I could count on him to change some of the diapers, take the baby out when he got home from work and I desperately needed some alone time, swing a crying newborn who was just crying for no discernible reason (without getting stressed out), talk through decisions with me, and support my decisions when I needed him to back me up and boost my confidence. 

This is not a comprehensive list, and I'm sure it will continue to evolve as our relationship does, but I love discovering new things that matter and are wonderful. (Also, happy birthday honey!) 

What have you discovered matters/doesn't matter to you? 

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