My husband spent the last six months secretly planning a surprise wedding ceremony to renew our vows. I had no clue. Zip. I showed up in a t-shirt, shorts and a ponytail. If I had even had the slightest suspicion, my hair and makeup would have looked more Cosmo crazy rather than country lazy.
Twenty years. That’s a lot of face time with one person. We’ve traveled the world, had babies, changed jobs, changed homes, changed furniture. You know you’ve spent some serious time with someone when you’ve replaced all the appliances you received at your first wedding.
The night was romantic, sporadic, and casual. We laughed, we kissed, we danced, we ate… I cried. After twenty years of marriage what was the big question everyone wanted to know… how did I get into my wedding dress? Not one person asked us how we’ve managed to stay together for twenty years, which struck us as a bit curious.
I’ve had enough time to learn a thing or two about my body and my marriage. What I discovered was that the same lessons apply to both. The Skinny:
I accepted my body type before we were married. I’m never going to have broad shoulders, or trim hips or model long legs. It takes me forever to build muscle tone but then again I can eat a stack of Oreos without unsnapping my pants. No matter how hard I work out or how well I eat, my general frame is going to stay the same so striving to look like a gym goddess is an utter waste of my time. I’ve spent the last twenty years making “Monica” the best I can possibly be.
The same can be said of my marriage. I’m never going make my husband into a jolly, devil-may-care guy, and he’s never going to make me competitive, so there’s no use trying. We’ve never spent a moment comparing our marriage to someone else’s or tried to be the poster child for marital bliss. Each relationship is a unique creature with its own energy and purpose so enjoy what it is, thrive in it and feed it.
Love what you’ve got. Strive to bring it to its fullest potential.
Listen to Connect
I find all the diet research incredibly frustrating. I’ve literally read an article advocating one thing to read another article pushing the exact opposite: take vitamins, don’t take vitamins, eat lean meat, go vegetarian, run a marathon, don’t run a block. I believe, over the next decade, research is going to prove that “diet” is not a one-size-fits-all formula. You’ve probably already noticed this in your own life. Your girlfriend lives off Ruffles while you gain a pound walking by the chip aisle. The expert that is going to know what’s best for you is the body you’re living in; forget Slim Fast, listen to your hips.
Over the last twenty years I’ve become an expert at listening to my body. When a New York State Fair blooming onion brought me to my knees at thirty, I stopped eating deep fat fried foods. I avoid cheesecake because rich food makes me nauseous. I never take Tums or Pepto-Bismol because they mask the messages my body is sending me. I’ve learned to control my weight by what I eat and my health by the exercise I get.
One of the best tools for communication I’ve found is the scale. I get on the scale each morning so I can see how the food I ate the day before processed in my body. I’ve learned that carbohydrates, late dinners and alcohol bump up my weight while a solid breakfast, lean protein and green juice notch it down. And believe it or not, marathon training and long distance biking triggers my body to gain weight. You’ve got to stop looking at the scale as a torture mechanism so you can receive the daily personal messages your body is sending.
The same holds true in my marriage. Listening to one another is a big part of staying connected. True listening is done when you not only hear the words, but the needs behind the words. When I say that I need him to help me with the yard work he hears “I’d like your support.” When he says he wants to decide what we are doing this weekend I hear, “I want to be included in our family.” We’ve learned that when one of us becomes defensive the communication is over. He knows what matters to me and I respect the things he cares about. When we came to a shaky phase in our relationship we always, always turned to one another, even when the truth was painful to share.
Every successful relationship requires deep listening.
Your body is going to evolve. What I got away with in my twenties, lots of hiking and walking and four slices of pizza, stopped working in my thirties. The spin classes and two slices of pizza in my thirties aren’t cutting it in my forties. Too many of us are trying to make our comfortable, nineteen-year-old diet work in a fifty-year-old body. Accept that things are going to shift, change, fall, and tighten; that doesn’t mean it has to be a fight or an impossible task. Look at this aging thing as an opportunity to try something new. Try a yoga class, run your first 10K, hike a fourteener, learn how to swim, try quinoa, eat at a raw food restaurant. Your favorite new food, the activity that gives you fantastic energy may be waiting for you to evolve into it.
The same can be said of all relationships. While we can not change another person it is likely that they will change on their own. Pray that they will. The worst thing we could wish upon someone is a total lack of growth. Knowing that your partner is going to change means you’re going to have to stay flexible and supportive of their aspirations. My husband has had to mold to my career changes, my goal shifts, and his little introvert breaking out of her box. I’ve had to shift with his job changes, his changing aspirations and his ludicrous passion for Nebraska football.
Commit to the evolution; commit to making it the best it can possibly be at every given moment.
I’ve accepted who I am and the relationship I’m in for what it is. I’ve learned how critical it is to listen to my husband and my body. I know everything is in the process of evolving so I take it on as an adventure rather than battle to keep what once was.
Yes, I managed to wear the same wedding gown I put on twenty years ago, but make no mistake, that wasn’t the same girl strutting up the aisle. Nor will it be when I wear it twenty years from now.
Is it your goal to wear your wedding gown on your twentieth year anniversary? What have you learned listening to your body, despite what the experts say? Is it odd that no one has asked us how we kept our marriage thriving after twenty years?