Peter and I are about to celebrate 30 years of marriage. We are headed off for a week in Paris and London without the kids and without my computer. This is serious.
Here’s my list of 30 things I’ve learned during 30 years of marriage.
Marriage isn’t good or bad or even the ideal because people aren’t good or bad and we are never the ideal. We are complicated and nuanced and so is marriage.
Sometimes you go to bed angry because sleep is important. Staying awake angry won’t solve things, especially if it’s the same thing that’s been festering over and over. Go to sleep, and find a therapist.
If you’re so angry you can’t stand the sound of your spouse’s breath, you or your spouse should sleep in another room.
Because of #3, invest in a comfortable couch or guest bed. Better yet, buy that king size bed so there is space for the days you’re not angry but just need space.
Love isn’t a feeling. It’s a verb. It’s action. Action takes work.
I am not lovable when I’m hungry. My dad gave Peter this advice when we left for our honeymoon: Feed Kathy and she will be happier.
Do your own inner work. Your life partner isn’t your therapist, even if that person happens to be a therapist. Mine is my dentist and can actually fix my teeth but isn’t responsible for brushing and flossing my teeth.
Which means you can’t fix your partner. You can’t love them to mental health. You can make a way for them.
For all the US reality shows, this society is not built for healthy marriages. It is built for whitewashed fairytales.
It’s ok to want and create fairytale moments. Look, as you are reading this post, Peter and I are flying off to Paris. FAIRYTALE. But the moment is fleeting because the reality is that I have a sinus infection with lots of congestion. We are flying economy, and I am super proud that we bought roundtrip tickets under $500 each. Make sure the moment is grounded in reality.
My friend Tricia asked me what I like about traveling with Peter, and that was a great question. The lesson? Friends who ask you about your marriage keep you honest and real. (I like traveling with Peter because he is up for just about anything and we enjoy trying things the other person is really excited about.)
You don’t have to like the same things, but you should be respectful of each other’s interests. Peter used to run and train for races. At some point I asked him to reconsider the hours he put into training or pay to take care of some of things he was in charge of around the house. I spent a lot of money on scrapbooking supplies, and then when Peter saw the end products he didn’t question the investment. 😉
You can teach a dog new tricks. I am the dog. (I was actually born in the year of the dog.) Because of Peter I have learned to drink beer, watch a variety of genres of film, and tolerate some classic rock.
You don’t have to do everything together all of the time, but find things you do enjoy doing together – not things you have to do like the dishes or laundry but things like going to the library and browsing aspirational reading and viewing or occasional trips to a thrift shop. Yes, those are things we like to do together.
Money doesn’t buy happiness, but it does provide access to healthcare, housing, food, etc. and those early years of marriage were full of stress as we were paying of student loans, credit card debt, and failing at saving. This is related to #9.
Growing up in church and an immigrant home did not set me up well for a healthy understanding of sexuality and the role of sex in a healthy marriage. Sex is more important than is preached about and less important than it is preached about. It’s not a dial you turn on at marriage.
Menopause really messed up my sex drive. Perimenopause messed up my sex drive. Having children messed up my sex drive.
Good sex in a marriage is important, and “good” has to be agreed upon between partners. That said, the “in sickness and in health” part really comes into play with sex so it helps to shed purity culture notions of sex and get creative and playful and, if you have young children, quick. Good sex is mutual and sometimes you take turns. You can also take matters in your own hands, or each other’s.
My spouse doing the dishes is not foreplay. Folding laundry isn’t a turn on. Peter vacuuming the one carpet we haven’t isn’t sexy. If that’s your thing, awesome, but it’s not mine anymore.
All that talk about sex is really about communication. Over communicate. Conversations in my head do not count.
The big and little things matter, but you can only hold them against your spouse if you’ve communicated them and agreed to action. I can’t be angry at Peter for not doing “x” for my birthday if I have not told him that is what I would like. I learned this by being angry at Peter for not reading my mind. This is expanding on #19.
Learn to apologize AND repair. You can say you’re sorry but words don’t matter if the behaviors and actions never change. Sometimes the apology comes years later, but even then we have to decide if we will work together to repair the harm.
Learn to let go. I got tired of making the bed so I started making my side of the bed. Now we each have our own blankets, and it’s what it is.
Stand your ground. I thought I was being helpful when I would reorganize Peter’s closet or tidy up his office. It was not, and he told me so. I tried for a few years to convince both of us he was wrong. I was wrong. He just makes sure his closet door is always closed.
Small gestures count. Peter put the kimchi in a small dish and made Shin ramen for me the other night.
Big gestures count. A few years ago we made it to Mount Rushmore because Peter REALLY wanted to see it. Many of you can guess how I feel about that place but it was super fun to watch him take it all in. (If you’ve never been in person, it really is something.
MUTUAL respect in public and in private is important.
I still close the door to the bathroom even though I know he can hear everything. It’s just a me thing.
I am glad I kept my “maiden” name, and I still love getting junk mail addressed to Peter Khang because the patriarchy is still hard at work.
Time is very weird. I can remember so much of our wedding day – the cake topper went awol and we didn’t know the guy who caught the garter, and I can’t believe it’s been 30 years. It feels like yesterday and a lifetime ago. I’m so grateful we made it to 30 because if I’m honest I wasn’t always sure we would make it. But here we are, Peter. Here we are. I love you.
This is our third anniversary celebrated during the global pancetta. It’s surreal to think that in April 2020 all three of our children were home perfecting our personal athleisure style, doing puzzles, and naively believing that it would just be a few more weeks of sheltering in place.
Today is our 29th wedding anniversary. We had a big fat Korean immigrant wedding with 1,000 people – friends, family, and church members with a buffet dinner in the church basement. He was 28 and I was 22. This year we can start making withdrawals from his retirement accounts. (Fortunately we don’t have to and won’t.) We were incredibly young and naive. It bothered Peter, but I often said I was young and stupid. It was true. Now I’m older and definitely stupid, and I know it.
I wrote my first list of this kind in 2013 to mark our 20th anniversary. The rules are simple. I don’t look at the list from the previous year. I sit down, and I write. I write what I learned about marriage, myself, and love.
Sometimes being the sacrificial mother and wife is stupid and actually harmful.
The finality of menopause is a lie. There are no more eggs in the basket yet I’m still hot-flashing and night sweating. It’s hard to feel sexy and attractive when your body suddenly feels like a burning house.
Love is a discipline and a choice.
Saying “I love you” can be a lot easier than actually loving my husband. Hearing “I love you” isn’t as important as feeling loved by my husband.
I’m grateful to be aging with someone.
It took a lot longer for me not to care about farting in front of Peter than it did for Peter to not care about farting in front of me. Now we either don’t care or our hearing is starting to fail and we just don’t hear it. Yes, sometimes we still act like we are in middle school.
We each have separate blankets instead of fighting over one. GAME CHANGER.
I regret having waited so long to buy a king size bed.
I’m glad we have the terribly produced wedding video. It took years before I could laugh at it and appreciate it.
Money doesn’t make you happy but it sure is helpful.
I have never regretted keeping my “maiden” name.
I regret not going back to school.
Just because you forgive someone doesn’t mean you can’t still feel hurt.
Purity culture really messed up the early years of our sex life.
Marriage and parenting have a lot of similarities. There is a lot of deciding “is this the hill I want to die on?” moments.
A coffee drinker and a non-coffee drinker can stay married.
Peter can’t read my mind.
Sometimes I can read Peter’s mind.
It’s never too late to start therapy, get a mental health diagnosis, take a sleep study, get a CPAP, or start medication.
You marry into another family and that means double the fun and double the baggage.
Your spouse’s habits, hobbies, and interests can become your own. I now read and watch sci-fi and he likes to go thrifting. For a few years I stopped making the bed because Peter never made the bed. Then for awhile I just made my side of the bed. And then I just stopped. Now that we have our own blankets I have gone back to making my side of the bed.
That probably means sometimes you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Yes, I am the dog in the scenario. It also could be Peter and learning how to fold and put away the linens.
Having sex when the kids were little was challenging because being parents of young children was exhausting. Now, having sex is challenging because we are tired because we are getting older. Also, our 22-year-old son lives at home, and clearly I haven’t shaken off all the purity culture baggage.
I’m not sure if streaming services have been a good thing for our marriage or a bad thing.
Maintaining good friends – singles, couples, our “own” separate friends has been as important for me as my marriage.
Over-communicate not only your needs/wants but also what you love and appreciate about your spouse in ways they can understand and receive.
I really enjoy cooking and feeding my family until about Wednesday night.
In my most honest moments, I wonder what it would’ve been like if I had gone back to school or gotten divorced when our silence was so loud or put my name in the hat for the job that would’ve required more travel and time.
I still hope to grow old with Peter and be that old couple who holds hands on walks.
It seems appropriate that I share a photo of the two of us in masks. We were waiting to watch #RunMySon graduate.
The annual list is here. For newbies, I’ve been writing a list like this for the past few years, and it’s the one thing I remember to blog about. I don’t look at the lists from prior years because that’s cheating. Not really. I don’t look because it really is an “off the top of my head” list.
Backstory: Peter and I were living in the same area and introduced by mutual friends Scott and Irene. They are Peter’s youth group friends and my college friends. They thought he would make a good “Oppa” or older brother because he is seven years older than I am. We met, fell in love, and got engaged… in six weeks. As in met and then had an official engagement party/ceremony with almost 100 people present for our engagement. And then we were married four months later with about 1,000 guests for a buffet of Korean food in the basement of Peter’s church.
Marriage is hard work. There is a lot of joy and heartache, and it is A LOT OF WORK. It’s good work, but it’s work. That’s why we celebrate even if it’s dinner in a restaurant, which still feels weird because of COVID and feels small because it’s 28 years. Thanks, COVID. You can also put in all the work, and your marriage may still not work out with a fairytale ending. Do you know why? Because fairytales are lies.
The marriages in your family of origin are not a predictor of how your marriage will look or be. You are not by default your parents’ best and worst patterns of relating. You can choose to emulate the best and break the worst patterns. Again, it takes work.
There are some things that will make you cry in the moment that over time will make you laugh…and maybe still cry. (Remember, I was 22-year-old Kathy up against my future mother-in-law during wedding planning. If you’re lucky enough to have seen our wedding video #3 makes perfect sense.)
Spend money on amazing photographs of you and your spouse on your wedding day because video formats will change. VCR anyone?
“Married a long time” sex is better than honeymoon sex.
Sometimes sitting in silence doesn’t mean you are comfortable with silence. Sometimes it means I’m really pissed off.
Marriage and/or your spouse will not complete you. You are a full human.
If you think marriage will complete you, go to therapy first.
Marriage therapy doesn’t have to be a crisis thing. It can be a normal thing. It should be a normal thing.
Individual therapy doesn’t have to be a crisis thing. It should be a normal thing.
You really do marry each other’s families whether or not you or your spouse is close to said family. Those family issues and ties show up EVERY DAY in big and small ways.
The way you “fill-in-the-blank, i.e. did household chores” growing up doesn’t have to be the way you and your spouse do it in your marriage.
Having children doesn’t complete a marriage. It makes your family bigger.
Having sex when your kids are babies, toddlers, etc. can be challenging because one or both of you are always tired.
Having sex when your kids are teenagers or college-aged can be challenging because they keep weird hours. This does not apply if you don’t care if your kids know or hear you are having sex. I am still a bit prudish. Leave me alone.
Buy a king bed as soon as you can afford it. It doesn’t mean you want to be far apart. It just means that you are prepared for when you want to be far apart because you’re mad, you have kids or fur babies who crawl into bed with you, or you need the space because of peri-menopausal night sweats.
Talk honestly about money. I don’t know if money is the root of all evil but remember #9 and #10. There’s a lot to learn about each other when you talk about debt, spending, time, etc. Peter knows I have fun money stashed away because I have a really, really, really hard time spending money on myself. He doesn’t have to have a stash because he doesn’t have the same problem.
It’s important to have common friends and your own separate friends.
Same with hobbies and interests. He had bowling and I had book club.
You do start picking up each other’s best and worse habits. Case in point? For me: flossing. For him: moisturizer.
When he tells me I am beautiful he means it. He may want sex, but he still means it.
When I tell him he is handsome, I mean it AND I want him to finish some project around the house.
After 28 years he still can’t read my mind so I’ve told him that I really love it when he occasionally buys me flowers for no reason at Trader Joe’s. I have also circled things in catalogs.
This is particularly important for women because it’s 2021 and the patriarchy: establish your own credit history.
It’s never too late to apologize or to forgive one another, but you also can go to bed angry. Staying up late past your bedtime to argue doesn’t make for better arguments. It makes for cranky adults who have to go to work in the morning with unresolved feelings.
You don’t have to make every decision together – big or small – but you have to know you’re on the same page about which decisions fall into that category. For example, I really don’t care about the exact make and model of our next car, which actually will be my car. He enjoys this much more than I do.
Over communicate because back to #23 none of us are perfect at mind reading.
Say “I love you” every day even when you don’t feel it. Love isn’t just an emotion. It’s a decision. An action. A choice of movement towards each other. Every damn day.
Happy anniversary, Peter! Here’s to another year of learning and loving!
No, I’m not talking about making it to the end of sheltering in place. We’ll have to wait at least another month for that.
We made it to our 27th wedding anniversary, and, even though the global pandemic has been challenging for my own personal mental health, Peter and I are celebrating with our three children who have been sheltering in place with us for the past six weeks.
What have I learned? It may not be a list of 27 new things, but every year for the past few years I’ve taken some time to reflect on marriage – how the covenant, the commitment has changed me and what it continues to teach me.
Sheltering in place makes all the small cracks really obvious. I think we were just a few days into all of this and we argued during a walk because ….
It’s hard to argue authentically with all the emotion and gesturing one needs to release when you have three almost adult children under the same roof ALL DAY AND ALL NIGHT LONG.
This also makes having sex very challenging and so far impossible. I think it’s been impossible. I can’t remember.
Love is not blind. Romance is blind. If you believe love is blind there is this train wreck of a reality show (and really no judgment because I watched it twice and would love to talk about it with you if you want) where you can laugh out loud about losing butterflies. Love is about both partners seeing the cracks and STILL CHOOSING TO STAY.
You do not need to share everything. He has his shampoo. I have my shampoo bar. He doesn’t mind plastic cups. I always drink out of a glass made of GLASS.
We don’t have to share all of our interests. We are two people despite the fact that I have lived more of my life with him than without. There are some tv series, movies, books, beverages, etc. that I will just never get into. Ever. He still runs. I smile and tell him to have a good run. Sunday evenings he would go kickboxing and I would practice yoga.
Sometimes we learn to love each other’s interests. We often talk about how it took me three times to enjoy Monty Python. Once I was able to stay awake I was hooked. Whenever we have to trim the shrubs we laugh. If you know, you know.
Communication is key. Even after all of these years we are still learning how to communicate. I may be able to finish he sentences and thoughts more often than he can mine, but that doesn’t mean we don’t crash and burn. We do. We are learning.
Over communication is key. We now have enough toilet paper to last us through the second wave of COVID19 because I didn’t tell him I had asked my sister to grab some at Costco and he didn’t tell me someone scored double-sized rolls on Amazon.
It’s important have shared dreams and goals. We haven’t done much traveling as a couple, but when we eventually become empty nesters we have some dreams.
It’s important to have your own dreams and goals and to support one another. More than a decade ago I wanted/needed an office where I could shut the door. As the kids grew up and started leaving home I wanted more physical space to work – write, practice yoga, read, etc. He now has my old office. I have the living room. (Although with everyone home all day every day I wouldn’t mind some doors now.)
I learned Peter likes sipping tequila and mezcal. I had no idea. We have now gone from no bottles to four bottles.
Missing Peter isn’t the same as being sad. This past year we both have been traveling for work (not anymore, obviously), and it was the first time I have been the one parent at home as often as he was. It was weird being the one to drop him off at the airport, and I definitely missed him but I wasn’t sad. I hope that doesn’t sound bad. I was so glad he was enjoying a new part of his job – Boston, New York, Nashville, and Antigua.
Sometimes we don’t mind living into gendered stereotypes while also dismantling them. Again, a recent discovery because of COVID19 and both of us being Asian American – he does most of the grocery shopping because even if people want to be rude because they are racist they are less likely to take it out publicly on Peter because Peter is a big strong man.
It’s important to say, “I love you” even when you don’t like each other in that moment.
Your bad habits can become your spouse’s bad habits. I realized that slowly over the years I stopped making the bed. He never made his bed as a single man. I always made my bed. We got married. I made the bed. And then I just made my side of the bed. And then I just stopped. But since we’ve been home ALL DAY EVERY DAY I started making my side of the bed and sometimes the entire bed. Wouldn’t you know it, lately when he gets up before I do he makes his side of the bed before he goes downstairs. Amazing.
Even though I can sometimes read Peter’s mind, he cannot read mine, probably because I am thinking about a bajillion things at once. And just because I tell him exactly what I want for our anniversary dinner doesn’t mean he doesn’t love me. The fact that he will order it on the way home from work and pick it up means he loves me. (I also told him exactly what I wanted for my 50th birthday. We shall see, my Dear Readers.)
Sometimes when your spouse says, “I don’t have a preference.” you can take it literally.
But when your spouse says, “I don’t have a preference.” you should always ask, “Are you sure? Here are some options.” just to be clear and over-communicate.
Sex can still be really good and beautiful and awkward and mutually satisfying after 27 years (even if you can’t remember the last time you had sex).
I’ve known this for a few years but I don’t know if I’ve written it on this annual list. My in-laws, specifically my mother-in-law, and I had a challenging relationship until her death more than a decade ago. Difficult in-law relationships strained our marriage but they were never the root cause of the strain. The ways Peter and I managed or didn’t manage that relationship with the health of our marriage as central as opposed to pleasing our parents is what exacerbated conflict.
Which leads to this. Go to counseling. Everyone. Even when you’re not at your wits’ end. Especially when you’re not at your wit’s end. Get counseling before it gets really bad so it doesn’t have to get really bad.
We both have been in the slow process of decolonizing our faith. I don’t know what I would’ve done if Peter hadn’t trusted me. I don’t know what our marriage would look like if he wasn’t also asking questions about his beliefs.
Parenting young children AND working on your marriage is exhausting and you can’t always give both 100%. We are almost empty nesters and I don’t regret not making my children the center of my universe. They have always known they are loved. Peter and I will be sad when we drop Elias off at college (that will happen in the fall, right?) but neither of us will wonder if we have purpose left in our lives just because the kids don’t need us the same way. (I will return to this lesson over and over and over when I am sad.)
Even some of the most horrible memories and moments can change shape over time. Take for example our wedding video for which we paid several hundreds of dollars and is one of the worst videos ever made for the money. We now show it freely as a way to cry laughing because it really is so bad it’s funny.
We became that couple who fills their respective pill boxes every Saturday night a lot sooner than we thought.
The wedding photos are more “important” that the video or the dress or the cake or the whatever, but even the photos (and the dress) are in a box upstairs collecting dust. Marriage isn’t in the memories. Marriage is in the present tense. We do. Now. Again. And again. And again. I love you, Peter.
We are sitting next to each other at the kitchen table planning another “this might be the last time we can vacation with all three kids” vacation. He is planning it because I spent the week prior figuring out how to maximize 160,000 frequent flyer miles between five of us, one of whom does not live at home. He wanted to me to help decide between the upper canyon or the lower canyon or both. I told him I can’t make any more decisions today.
Peter and I met in November 1992 in Appleton, WI. He was recently separated from the U.S. Air Force working on getting his dental license for Wisconsin. (No, the government didn’t pay for dental school.) I was a very green newspaper reporter in Green Bay, WI. Our friends Scott and Irene (who were my college friends and went to church with Peter) introduced us thinking Peter would make a nice oppa- older brother-type person. Awkward.
We met at the mall and he ate something from Taco Bell while we talked. I had eaten at a work function. He remembers me firmly shaking his hand. I remember he was eating Taco Bell.
We had our DTR (defining the relationship talk) two weeks later and defined our relationship as headed to marriage. We were young, though I was younger, and we were in love. We were engaged on December 26, 1992 with about 100 of our family and friends in attendance for a tradition Korean engagement ceremony. We got married on April 24, 1993 with about 1,000 friends, family, and strangers to us but connected to our parents. It was an intimate gathering.
We have moved three times, each time getting us closer to the Promised Lane – the north suburbs of Chicago. We moved into this home, our second house, almost 15 years ago. Elias decided to start potty training while we were still unpacking boxes. We have yet to remodel the kitchen. Maybe goldenrod laminate countertops and linoleum floors will make a comeback.
And here we are. We often look at each other, usually as we are getting ready to go to bed, and say how incredible this all is. It is.
The sooner you figure out how your strengths work together the better. He paints with the roller brush. I do all of the detail work without painter’s tape.
The sooner you figure out your weaknesses the better. I recommend marriage counseling before and during marriage.
Maintain your own friendships, aka you don’t always have to do things as a couple. Peter and I have been really #blessed having a group of friends where the wives became friends first and then set up play dates so that our husbands would get to know each other, and now the husbands are good friends who plan their own nights out
Every stage of marriage and life will impact your sex life. It’s called stress, pregnancy, post-pregnancy, those long days and short years, menopause and whatever the male version of that is, etc.
Over communicate. We are still working on this. It’s not just about talking a lot. It’s about communicating details and emotions and not just the number of words.
Remember what you enjoyed doing before you were married and keep doing some of those things. For years Peter was in a fall bowling league (that started in the fall and ended around our anniversary, which also was the cause of some tension because of the lack of over communication). I went to the lanes once to stop in and say hi. I like to get lost in a book, alone in silence with coffee or wine and the option to fall asleep.
Learn to enjoy things the other person enjoys. Peter still doesn’t enjoy coffee. I still don’t enjoy running. I have learned to enjoy basketball, baseball, and football. He pretends to enjoy gardening with me.
Learn to say you are sorry, what you are sorry for, and how you are going to change your behavior moving forward, and then change.
Spend some time getting your own shit together, aka staying emotionally healthy. No money for a therapist? Read or listen to some podcasts. There is a lot of information out there to help though a therapist or counselor if you can afford it is the way to go. Peter and I would’ve fought a lot less if he had figured out why he thought his parents were perfect and why I had stayed in an abusive relationship in college. Yup. Lots of fighting.
Non-sexual touch can be very important. There were years when my body was all about gestation and lactation and then the needs of small people’s bodies. A back rub with no expectation it was going to lead to sex was important.
Your marriage isn’t doomed if you can’t do weekly date nights. We didn’t have the money, the time, the energy, the babysitting, etc. We felt like marriage failures, and only the last few years did we understand that was some weird unrealistic BS that didn’t fit us. And how many times can you go out to eat if you don’t have amazing ethnic food close by??
Instead of date nights figure out what will work so that you can connect on a regular basis and have time to laugh, talk, enjoy each other’s company. It’s a lot easier for us now that we only have one child at home but also easy to forgo because we have unrealistic expectations for what family time will look like. Monday night was date night. We went to yoga and had a beer. PERFECT!
Learn to forgive each other. I can remember many of our biggest fights, and that memory is a problem when it’s not coupled with forgiveness. Yes, there are still things I am working on forgiving.
Try to stay physically healthy. If you are reading this blog you can search your heart out for all the little things you can do to stay fit with or without exercise equipment, health insurance (but boy does that help), fancy fitness watches, etc.
We are both Christians so we also work on our spiritual health. Find and develop a relationships with people who share or honor your faith, faith practices and rituals, etc.
You will change. I used to make the bed every day, and it would drive me nuts that Peter didn’t. (I still refold the towels every now and then.)
You won’t change. My shoes are in clear plastic boxes and labeled. The shirts are organized by color and sleeve length. I don’t even look in Peter’s closet any more.
Money doesn’t buy you love, but that security doesn’t hurt. When you can’t pay the bills the stress can be overwhelming, and it strains even the strongest marriages. Don’t pretend money doesn’t matter. It isn’t everything, but it isn’t completely irrelevant.
Problems and strengths in the marriage can spill into parenting. Becoming parents doesn’t fix your marriage. It amplifies the strengths and weaknesses in your relationship.
Learn to celebrate each other in ways that are meaningful for the other person.
Have sex. When you have kids you may have to plan for it or make it super quick. If you don’t have kids already just make it a habit to sleep with your door closed and maybe even locked so that when you do have kids and they get older everyone is used to having to knock. Teenagers sleep weird hours so there’s that, too.
If you don’t enjoy or want sex or it becomes painful, talk to your spouse and maybe a doctor. Seriously. It’s not about procreating. Sex is meant to be fun and enjoyable, not that scary evangelical/fundamentalist stuff Peter and I grew up with. (I should probably write more about menopause. Yay.) If you’re both ok not having sex, carry on.
Sometime you go to bed angry or annoyed but don’t be passive aggressive about it. Figure out when you’re going to pick up the fight/disagreement/conflict, but for goodness sake SLEEP. Most fights aren’t resolved by staying up all night. We’ve tried.
Say “I love you” in as many different ways as often as you can. Variations include “I trust you,” “I am for you,” and ” I believe in you.” I love it when Peter takes my car and fills up the tank. Peter loves it when I make Elias take out the garbage. He knows my current favorite red wine. I buy him his special fancy pants chocolate bar.
Make room for each other’s dreams, failures, growth, doubt, and changes. It isn’t perfect. It may not even come close to the plan, but talk about the crazy dreams and maybe you will find or make some space. I am an author and a yoga teacher. Those were some crazy dreams.
Don’t just look back and remember what made you fall in love or what you loved about your spouse when you first met. Gratitude is a discipline and a daily practice. If I’m lucky I’ll get to write another list next year, but for now I am so grateful that despite being groggy and tired and probably running a little late, Peter will wake up and wash the dirty pots and pans in the sink.
I know you have been waiting a year for my new list. I toyed with the idea of simply adding #25 to last year’s list of 24 things I’ve learned during 24 years of marriage, but I didn’t feel like it. I didn’t look at last year’s list. I’m just sitting here across the desk from my groom (Bahahahahahaha! No, I don’t ever call him that. He was my groom 25 years ago. Today he is my husband, spouse, +1. We put a ring on it so no more bride and groom unless we are referring to the Church and Jesus or we are around white Christians.)
Peter and I are celebrating 25 years of marriage with a day off. We might even go buy some towels because we still have towels from our wedding shower. They are thinner, unlike the two of us, but just like us they have absorbed so much in the past 25 years. We also took a cooking class together on Sunday where he learned to separate a yolk from the egg white and practice/learn knife skills. I learned you don’t always have to stir the pot because sometimes too much stirring ends up steaming the food instead of browning it. That is definitely something I need to do some more thinking about…
We met in November 1992. We got engaged on December 26, 1992 with about 100 friends and family exchanging gifts in the Korean tradition. We then got married in front of a gathering 10x that size. From the time we met to the time we were married was just over six months. I’ve learned so much.
Sometimes you have to go to bed angry because you have to go to bed and go to work the next day.
Commitment is a lot harder when neither of you are changing in the same way at the same time.
It’s easy to criticize the parents-in-law when neither of you are a parent-in-law.
You learn a lot about yourself and about your spouse when you take on DIY home improvements.
Our taste buds change as we get older, and for us that has meant he has always liked beer and I now like red wine, bourbon and whiskey.
Our sex drives change as we get older. I’m premenopausal and have barely any sex drive. He is not premenopausal.
Despite changing sex drives, the most difficult thing about having sex is working around the schedule of teenage children. They stay up so late!
Your spouse doesn’t have to be your best friend. If your spouse is your best friend, lucky you. I mean that. But that won’t make or break your marriage.
Try to find things you enjoy together and bless the differences. I just don’t see the point in paying to run, but I make awesome signs and ring a mad cowbell. I also don’t see why you need multiple bowling balls but he also doesn’t share my desire to overcome my fear of being upside down and learning to handstand. Mutual respect.
Even after 25 years we can’t read each other’s minds. Instead, we try to practice over- communication: I dramatically unplug the little fragrance things in his car vents because they give me a headache.
Work on your own shit. Seriously. Marriage won’t fix you, and you can’t fix someone else.
Sometimes I actually can read his mind. It freaks him out every time, and I revel in it.
Be playful. A friend gifted me a life-size Rose Tico cut out and I put her by the kitchen light switch in hopes it would scare the bejesus out of Peter. It did. For several days. This morning I came down and he moved Rose, but it did not scare me. I’m moving her tonight. He is going to pee in his pants!
Maintain your friendships. My best friend from college and I used to joke that we would outlive our husbands and move into a retirement community together like a Korean American Golden Girls. We are serious. I love Peter but it is special to have friends I’ve known longer than Peter and I have been married.
Maintain good couple friendships. We are truly blessed to have neighborhood friends where the husbands genuinely like each other and no longer need the wives to set up daddy playdates. We also learned that none of our husbands went to prom and all of the women did so there’s that.
If you’re the praying type pray for each other. I grew up in a culture that encouraged singles to pray for their future spouses with little instruction on how prayer would change, let alone last 25 years. Yes, there can be things you are praying about for 25 years and celebrating answers to prayers of 25 years!
If you have children and are hoping things will get easier in marriage as the children get older or, in our case, start leaving the nest. The problems you don’t address in your marriage don’t leave with your children. They stay. Across the table at breakfast or dinner when it’s just the two of you.
Have each other’s back and dreams. He wanted to run a half marathon, and then a couple more, and then a marathon, and now maybe back to a 10k. YES! Run! Stay healthy because I selfishly don’t want to be a widow. Me? I want to write and speak at events across the country AND go prepare for my midlife crisis by wanting to get certified as a yoga teacher. He says, YES! buys me coconut water so I stay hydrated during training at a hot yoga studio, rubs my feet after I get home from the airport with puffy feet.
There is no perfect marriage. Even the bible is lacking in perfect examples. So don’t beat yourself over the head if you don’t cook meals together. We have done just fine with divide and conquer. I cook. He cleans. I wash. He folds and irons. He puts away the towels, I rearrange them the right way.
Buy a king-size bed as soon as you can afford to or have space for.
If your spouse tells you that you snore, you snore. Get checked for sleep apnea because snoring can be a strain on your marriage and on your heart.
Just like with anything, learn to ask for help – help from each other or for your marriage.
Look into each other’s eyes and tell each other, “I love you.” Emojis and texts are cute. Handwritten notes are lovely, even with horrible handwriting (his). Eye contact is severely underrated.
Learn to apologize.
Love is a verb. (It’s also a four-letter word in the very best way.)
Happy anniversary to us. Peter, I love you. Here’s to the next 25.
————————————— This is us on our 24th anniversary, celebrating Corban’s senior night for gymnastics.
My husband and I did not court. I don’t even know if that is the way you say it. He didn’t court me? I wasn’t courted? We met in November 1992 through a mutual friend who knew we weren’t interested in dating. We were so disinterested in dating that we went straight for marriage. We got engaged December 26, 1992. We got married April 24, 1993. We had a simple ceremony with three pastors and about 1,000 of our parents’ closest friends. We have been married 24 years.
This past weekend we decided to use our daughter’s final faculty dance concert as an excuse to go away for the weekend. Our collective memory is a bit foggy, but we agreed that it was the first time we have gone away alone on a trip since our first wedding anniversary. We can unpack that later, but here in no particular order is a list of things I’ve been reflecting on as we approached our 24th wedding anniversary.
Sometimes you need to go to bed angry because you can’t solve anything with sleep deprivation.
Don’t get married if you don’t like conflict or if you don’t like working hard at relationships. Get a pet. Seriously.
Loving someone isn’t the same as liking someone. There are many moments when we have had to remember we love each other even though in the moment we don’t like each other.
If you have access to health care, see your primary care physician regularly. I love Peter, and I want “until death do us part” be later rather than sooner.
Marriage isn’t 50/50. It isn’t a contract. It isn’t a cake you split in half. It’s kinda like sharing an ice cream sundae – messy, imprecise, etc. There isn’t time to count the peanuts or sprinkles before the ice cream melts. And you usually only get one cherry, which I would give to Peter because I don’t like maraschino cherries. I don’t actually like ice cream sundaes…
Don’t forget your friends. Women, don’t forget your girlfriends. Really. They will rage and complain with you, but when the crap hits the fan they will help you fight for your marriage. I’m assuming the same goes for you men and your friends, whom you probably don’t refer to as your boyfriends because of socialization.
Marriage counseling is a good thing. It’s even better if you do it before you want to kill each other.
Over communicate. I fall into a rut with all this texting, assuming I told him about something at some point when in actuality I had not said anything. I may have started a text or thought about telling him when we had time in the evening.
I wish Google calendars had existed earlier in our marriage.
Keep doing the things you enjoy doing as a couple. You are married to each other, not your work, not your children, not your garden or your car (neither of which are our issues).
Talk with each other. I know and Peter knows when I’m talking at him as opposed to talking with him. Talking at him serves a purpose – grocery lists, last-minute errands on the way home from some other thing, etc. Talking with him is what keeps us connected to each other.
We change. Neither of us had a taste for alcohol when we first got married. Five years ago I didn’t think I’d ever enjoy beer…or whiskey. Twenty-four years ago I would never have imagined Peter ordering an Old Fashioned.
Sometimes we don’t change because we aren’t given the opportunity. For example, if you don’t like the way the other person folds towels, discuss it early on in the marriage.
Sex gets better only if you have it. Have sex. Women, if you haven’t had an orgasm (and if you don’t know if you have, you haven’t) talk to your spouse. Seriously. What is the point???? (And please don’t comment if you are going to tell me the point is only procreation. I am not having any more babies.)
I am always learning how to communicate better. Yelling often doesn’t help, but sometimes it does.
Give space, time, and money (when possible) to each other’s dreams and God’s gifting. Peter has learned what an all-night writing session does to my meal planning.
Try new things. It took three attempts before I could appreciate the humor of The Holy Grail. It also took several attempts before I agreed to watch Battlestar Galactica. I am so thankful Peter was patient and persistent.
Give space, time, and money (when possible) to each other’s healing. Counseling takes time. Getting to a place where I could say, “I think I’m depressed” took time. Going on meds took support, time, and health insurance. Be gentle with each other.
If you choose and are able to have a family, children will not make you better spouses. Having children make you parents. There is a difference and overlap. Know the difference.
Practice being that old couple you see. You know that couple that walks around the neighborhood holding hands. Practice being that couple.
Even after 24 years, some jokes are still not funny.
Even after 24 years, we can still surprise each other. He says he can’t multitask but last night he folded the laundry and ironed shirts while watching the playoffs.
You actually can start to read each other’s minds but don’t rely on it.
Sometime ago I saw a post about how married people shouldn’t be congratulated for staying married. I tried to read it and couldn’t track with it. Perhaps it was because I have now been married for as long as I have been single, and being single between the ages of birth-22 isn’t the same as being single for those same years, nor is it legal to be married for most of the former.
I’m all for self-congratulating and celebrating every year of marriage. There is something to be said about the honeymoon period of any relationship, but in marriage the end of the greeting card images shot with a hazy filter and perfect light can be a rude awakening. It is the moment or moments when two people learn that love is a verb, a choice. Marriage is serious work in close quarters until death if I am to take my vows literally and seriously. When we hit 20 years I wrote a list of things I had learned, and I am still learning. Neither of us are dead yet.
So, here are 23 things I am still learning in no particular order. Some of them might be repeats. I don’t know. I just linked the blog post from three years ago. I didn’t re-read it. I’m too busy learning about marriage, love, and being a perfectly broken human.
I like things my way. He likes things his way. My way is still right and better. He is still learning.
My way isn’t always better, but when it is, and he admits it, things go a lot smoother.
When his way is better, and I tell him so things go a lot smoother.
I can simultaneously miss my husband and not want to go home and listen to his c-pap machine.
Speaking of c-pap machines, love isn’t blind nor is it deaf.
Sex with young children is tough because you are so sleep-deprived. Sex with teenagers is tough because teenagers stay up later and know things and we are still tired.
Sometimes scheduling sex is as necessary as scheduling date nights.
Sometimes #loveiscold, and it’s perfectly normal to do the happy dance together in the middle of the kitchen because the new refrigerator is quiet, big, cold, and clean.
Fighting fair still eludes us.
I can’t always read his mind, but it sure is funny when I can complete his sentences.
I love being married to a feminist who also understands when I have had it with shoveling the snow or moving furniture.
He is perfectly happy pointing out the large spiders for me to kill.
The concept of generational sin becomes clearer to me the longer I am alive and the older our children and families of origin get.
I have worn my traditional Korean dress (which I didn’t pick out nor know what it would look like until it arrived from Korea) more than I have my western white wedding dress (that I ended up choosing because it was the middle ground between what my I would wear and what my MIL and mother wanted), and my daughter most-likely will wear neither of them. I’m still figuring out how I feel about that.
I love that no one laughs as hard at my jokes as Peter does. And I love that.
It drives me crazy when he reads my blog posts and his first comments are about grammar or punctuation, but then I remember grammar and punctuation are love languages.
Speaking of love languages, others include empty dishwashers, folded laundry, new running shoes, the library book sale on bag day, and encouragement to go see movies with other people who share one’s enthusiasm and fandom over such movies. And we both love high-quality pens.
It is hard to teach an oldish dog new tricks. It also is harder to unlearn old tricks regardless of the age of said dog(s).
Don’t judge the quality or character of your spouse’s heart based on your dating story, proposal story, etc. Creativity for a one-shot deal is great, but sustainability is another thing entirely.
I regret how my value for frugality killed some of Peter’s attempts at loving me and made him feel foolish because I know now that sometimes lovers are stupid and foolish when in love.
When life gives you lemons, find some other citrus and maybe some strawberries and make sangria. Lemonade isn’t going to cut it.
Making only my side of the bed doesn’t look as weird to me as it used to.
You can never say, “I’m sorry” or “I love you” or “I bought you some wine and dark chocolate” or “Have a great night bowling” enough.
why yes, we do appear to be floating in a dirty champagne glass lacking champagne…