Let it be known that it is utterly ridiculous that I have been married to Jason for twenty years.
People have been asking me for marriage advice since we'd been married five years. This is also ridiculous. Look at me laughing at how ridiculous this is:
Five years is nothing. NOTHING.
Twenty years? Also nothing.
I blinked my eyes and twenty years have gone by.
At ten years I thought we were starting to have examples. Maybe I could have some ideas for you, if you were asking.
Twenty now feels like a drop in the ocean.
We've survived the first twenty though, and that matters. So here's my list of twenty ways to stay married for twenty years.
1) Remember you are marrying a human being, not a movie character.
There are people in my life that I love very dearly who have divorced or broken up with other very fine people because it wasn't a romance novel 24/7. I love all of y'all, but that is dumb as hell.
You are marrying a flawed human. YOU are a flawed human. Life is not a movie.
2) Expect things to change.
I think a lot of people get married either praying that the person they are marrying will never change or praying that the person they are marrying WILL change (and that's a whole 'nother can of beans).
The reality is...people are not stagnant, nor should they be. You absolutely should not be the same person at 27 and 47. You have to grow and change. You have to find someone who will love you as you grow and change.
3) Very little of this *gestures around vaguely* matters.
When I think back to the disagreements Jason and I have had over the years the main thing I think is, "Wow. We are so dumb".
Two very strong-headed people getting married can definitely be tough and JESUS GOD we made it tougher on ourselves for a really long time. When I reflect on a lot of the stuff that we argued about, the reality is that most of it was completely pointless and stupid. Everyone argues over dumb stuff sometimes, but really? The small things just don't matter and too many people let the small things ruin the big things. Don't be like this.
4) The wedding is one day.
Our wedding sucked. It was genuinely an awful day and I have very few positive feelings about it.
Our vow renewal at 10 years, just the two of us, was lovely. It was definitely more of what I wanted in a wedding.
A wedding isn't a marriage though. So many people put a huge amount of time and thought and effort into a wedding and then forget that you have to live with this person for the rest of your life.
I don't begrudge anyone a nice wedding, don't get me wrong. It's just that it's one day and that's it. In the grand scheme of twenty years it was like a couple of hours and that's practically nothing.
5) There is no such thing as husband jobs or wife jobs.
I don't cook because I'm the wife. He doesn't mow the grass because he's the husband.
He's a better cook than me. I cook because I like to cook (sometimes. I really don't cook very often anymore). He mows the grass because it's his favorite hobby. I am fully capable of running the lawnmower. He does the laundry. He folds the towels. We both do the dishes, take out the trash, feed the dog, and vacuum the rug. Neither one of us change the oil in the car because we don't want to be bothered and we just pay someone to do that. It's fine.
No gender bs has worked great for us. If something needs done, one of us does it. No matter what it is.
6) Don't do everything together.
I cannot count the amount of times people have asked, "Does your husband work out as much as you do?"
When I stop laughing, I tell them no.
And that's okay.
He doesn't have to do all the things I do. I'm very happy doing things by myself and he's very happy doing things by himself. We don't do everything together all the time and I am very thankful for that, because I love and adore him but I believe it's very important to be okay being by yourself.
We enjoy spending time together. We enjoy spending time alone. It's a nice balance.
7) Marry someone who thinks you are hot as breakfast.
Jason thinks I am beautiful.
Even when I was 200 pounds heavier, Jason thought I was beautiful.
After twenty years you don't always only see someone in the most flattering ways. I have ugly cried until snot was running down my face in front of this man. I have seen him in the hospital more than once (and he's...not at his best in the hospital). I still think he's handsome. I think he has the most beautiful heart of anyone I've ever met. I can look at pictures (these pictures, in fact) and see how we have aged, but when I look at him I still see the Jason I met when he was a mere 23 years old (AN INFANT, OH MY GOD).
8) Marry someone you can be insanely stupid with.
Rarely a day goes by without Jason belting out a song he's made up about me. He's endlessly funny and says things to make me laugh constantly. We have dozens of inside jokes. I can be ridiculous around him and he completely matches that energy.
Marry someone that is always willing to match your energy.
9) Find something you love to do together and do that thing as often as possible.
We love to hike. We love to have coffee dates. We love to see comedy shows. We love to watch every episode of Law and Order: SVU so I can talk about how much I want Elliott and Olivia to JUST GET MARRIED AND BE IN LOVE ALREADY, OH MY GOD.
Okay, that very last part is mostly just me, but we do these things together and it's really nice. Some of my favorite memories are of us just sitting together, drinking coffee and talking. We've hiked some of the most beautiful places in the country together. I wouldn't trade any of it for anything.
10) Dream impossible dreams together.
Jason and I were so poor in our early years and so many things that felt impossible have now come true for us. We've traveled to places we never thought we'd get to go. We've been to other countries. We've seen dreams come to fruition and we are both so incredibly grateful. It's really lovely.
I remember the day we bought this house that we live in and we both just stood in the front yard, staring at it in awe. Two poor kids who never even dared to dream that we could own a house in a subdivision. It seemed so beyond our wildest hopes at one point and then here we were. Here we still are.
We still dream wild and crazy things together. We talk about going to Spain, we talk about immigrating to Canada. We dream about owning a small business and a mountain house in Burnsville, NC. Anything is possible and even if it never happens, it's really fun to dream!
11) Be the biggest cheerleader for each other.
I have come up with some crazy ideas over the years and every single time my husband has said, "You will be amazing at that!"
Friends, I have not always been amazing at the things I have tried, but his undying support in every aspect of my life has made me willing to try and try and try again.
I believe in him and he believes in me. I cheer for him and he cheers for me.
I have a few Hills and mostly they involve children and there is no way I would marry (or even date) someone who disagreed with my Hills. I don't get spun up about a lot of things and Jason and I have differing views on several things that really aren't a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but if he ever said something like, "I don't want my tax dollars paying for children's school lunches" or something I would probably have to re-evaluate my life.
Similarly, if I suddenly decided that it would be cool to take on multiple husbands or being a member of a cult or something I would fully expect him to leave me with the quickness.
(I have no desire to do any of these things, mind you. I don't even know how or why I came up with those examples. Jesus)
13) Keep trying.
I think it's totally, 100% okay to be yourself.
I also think it's a really great idea to try to be the best version of yourself that you can be.
There have been days and times in the last twenty years that Jason has seen versions of me that I'm not particularly proud of. I've had grief, loss, depression, and anxiety. He's seen me looking less than my best.
Also, I still like to try for him. I still try to look and smell and be nice for him. I want him to be proud of me. I want him to feel like he got a real catch.
I am not always going to be picture perfect and I know he loves me anyway, but I like to try to be my best for him.
14) Close the bathroom door.
This is apparently a very controversial stance, but I have never left the door open when using the bathroom and neither has Jason.
Some people think we are extremely weird for this, but we've been married twenty years so whatever.
(I didn't say you had to follow this list, okay? Calm down. Poop in front of each other if that makes you happy. It's just not for me)
15) Don't speak negatively about your spouse to others.
I have been guilty of this and I regret it.
I have said things to other people about Jason over the years when I was angry with him or annoyed with him and I wish I hadn't done it. It's not okay.
The problems you have are your problems. You shouldn't make them everyone else's problems.
I always say, if you have to talk about your husband to anyone, tell your dog. She won't blab.
If you don't have a dog, tell your mother-in-law. She'll just blame you anyway because she thinks her son is perfect.
This one was Jason's suggestion and I compromised and put it in the blog. I AM AMAZING AT THIS.
No, I'm kidding. It really was his suggestion and it's really a good one. Compromise is way, way, WAY more important than I realized twenty years ago.
17) Forgive each other.
Let's be real. At some point you are going to do something awful.
Your spouse? The human one? Will also do something awful.
Most of the time, that awful thing isn't really that awful. Thoughtless, crappy, stupid...probably. Truly awful? Probably not.
You'll forget a birthday or an anniversary. You'll say something mean in anger. You'll do something insensitive. You'll take your bad day out on the person you love.
All of these things are forgivable. In the grand scheme of things? They are very minimal.
Some things do not deserve forgiveness. If your husband beats your child and you say "Peace out Girl Scout" I would totally support that. If your husband says something rude because he's tired and had a horrible day and then later he says sorry, you can just forgive him and move along. You'll probably do something he needs to forgive you for soon too.
Along with that...
18) Say you are sorry.
This one is hard for me. The hardest.
I don't know why. It's not that I'm not sorry. Whenever I do something boneheaded, I regret it. I seriously think it's my perfectionism complex that makes me choke on the word sorry sometimes. Admitting I am sorry means admitting that I'm not perfect. Like everyone doesn't already realize I'm not perfect. 😐
I've gotten better about this over the years, because it's important.
19) When things fall apart, fall together.
2022 was a year of almost intolerable grief for me. There were days I honestly did not know how I could continue to breathe. Honestly? There were days I didn't care if I continued to breathe. There were days that I actively did not want to breathe.
Jason said, "Nope. We're not doing this" in the nicest way possible. He made sure I got outside. He made sure I had food and sleep. He brought home Starbucks tumblers and large cups full of cold brew. He said, "Let's take a walk" and he went further down paths than he wanted to go, just so I could speak, just so I could vent, just so I could breathe again. He did not leave me when I told him how bad things had become. He did not tell me to get over it, he did not say I should try to be happy. He just let me feel whatever it was that I needed to feel. He let me say anything out loud that I needed to say. He lets me cry. He supports whatever I need to do to try to heal.
I hope and pray to God he never experiences anything like the loss I experienced last year, but if he does, I have an excellent example of how to be a good spouse.
20) Always, always, always assume the other person has the best intent.
This was actually a game changer for us and let me explain why.
Jason did something thoughtless. I can't remember what it was, nor does it matter. The point was it happened and I told him that it hurt my feelings.
He said, "Well it wasn't my intention to hurt your feelings, so your feelings shouldn't be hurt."
We went back and forth about this for a while, me trying to explain that feelings don't care if you are trying to hurt them and him trying to explain that HE didn't see it was upsetting so clearly I shouldn't either, and the same thing wouldn't hurt HIS feelings, so it should all be fine.
Finally he said, "But don't my INTENTIONS count? I didn't INTEND to hurt you and that should matter."
I responded, "It doesn't matter, because I always believe you have good intentions towards me."
Then he said, after a long pause, "I get it now."
I do not ever believe he does things intentionally to hurt me, because that's not who he is. He believes me the same thing about me. If he hurts me, he now understands that I know he didn't MEAN to, but it still happened and he should apologize. (Same goes for me, I would never do it on purpose, but I have definitely done it!)
I don't think everyone in the world always has good intentions. In fact, after the last few years I think a WHOLE LOT of people have really bad intentions. But not Jason. I know he wants the best for me and he knows I want the best for him.
So here you go.
20 years, this is us.
Here's to the next 20.