“You look like a princess Mummy!” says the spawn.
I turn around and look at the spouse. Our eyes meet, and we burst out laughing.
She says this while I am squatting over a dead bug, inspecting it for vital signs using her blue polka dot flip flop. My pajama pants are hiked up and the bottom part is wet because I was mowing the lawn earlier (yes we have a backyard now…more on that another time), I’ve been cleaning, my hair hasn’t been washed in two days and in summary, the only princess I could possibly look like is Princess Fiona from Shrek after sunset.
My husband says through tears of laughter, “Mummy use to look like a princess when I married her. Now she’s a lawn-mowing, weed-wacking, bug-killing, floor mopping machine!”
“You should use that as a tag line for marriage”, I say wryly.
My husband and I have known each other for 11 years. He calls me the “Beast” and I mock him relentlessly on everything from his lack of fashion sense to his bad spelling. But we are still each other’s favourite person on most days.
We are diabolically different people and others find the combination of the two of us peculiar at first, then entertaining, and then endearing. People are always curious about how we met. They ask him how he “scored” me. I tell them through lies, deceit and at gunpoint. The truth is, the first time we talked, we talked endlessly about nothing and everything. He was my easiest conversation.
But that doesn’t mean we don’t have days we want to kill each other. Here is my favourite discussion on the topic of love by comedian Chris Rock:
It’s true. Your spouse shares your bed, your bread, your homestead. They benefit from your strengths and endure your weaknesses. They best know your ability to be strong and invincible, as much as being fragile and vulnerable. They are your teammate, your secret keeper, the other set of wheels that keeps the car of life rolling forward. It’s the two of you versus the world.
But then there are phases. When you fight and disagree and argue. When you dislike everything about that other person. Like the way they breathe bothers you. You want to go at them across the dinner table because they are chewing on asparagus too loudly. You want to chop the sleeves off all their shirts just to get back at them. Like Chris Rock says, the only thing keeping you from killing them is an episode of CSI. That’s how you know it’s true love, because only the people who truly matter have the ability to get a rise out of us like that.
Marriage is the institution that keeps you sane while driving you crazy. And parenthood is a game changer for marriage. You suddenly have another human being in the middle of you. And not just figuratively. Most days the spawn comes into our bed at 4 am and sleeps between us horizontally, our bodies forming the letter “H”.
This third human’s constant need for attention means you have lesser of it to give to each other. Lesser time to spend together, lesser energy to have meaningful conversations, lesser patience to deal with each other’s crap. Though I realize this may just be the case for the first few years of child rearing, maintaining a happy marriage becomes more challenging when every single conversation is interjected by “Mummy, mummy, mummy! Daddy, daddy, daddy!”
Every single conversation.
Last year, for the first time, the spouse and I left our daughter behind and went on a week long vacation, and I was absolutely caught off guard. I thought we had lost the old pre-parent versions of ourselves. That our marriage had gotten a tired, parent-y software upgrade. But when the child wasn’t around for a week, we surprisingly reverted back to our old selves. I am no longer the baby-faced girl he once met, and he’s no spring chicken either anymore, but our conversations were still effortless, there was still the same comfort and the same ability to show care for one another. It’s just that life gets in the way sometimes. Things like traffic, taxes, mortgage, diaper changes, and grocery lists.
And it’s really easy to have a perfect marriage while you’re on vacation.
But all those things are life. So there’s no point in aiming for a perfect marriage outside of those realities, you just have to work within them. And so if you manage to find someone who you can laugh with while stuck in traffic, work together to find the perfect home, chit chat while grocery shopping, lean on when life gets rough, then you’re one of the lucky ones.
Because there is no such thing as a soulmate. The perfect life partner is the one who makes the least perfect scenarios bearable, even enjoyable.
My mom use to say that when you’ve been married a while, the idea of romance changes. I thought that was code for a boring, romance-less existence. But now I realize that the most romantic thing my husband can do is make a cup of coffee for me, or clean the house when I am exhausted, or take over dinner responsibilities. Conversely, if he ever sends me a romantic text, I’ll probably respond with, “Did your phone get stolen?”
The thing is, you seldom marry a person. What you marry is a conversation, which evolves and changes and grows and transforms over time, much like a tidal wave. You just hope that its ebbs and flows happen in the same direction as yours, that your spouse doesn’t adopt ideals over time that clash with yours, that the changes to their personality remain congruent to those of yours, that they don’t fall out of love with the spark that you are, that through all the crazy shit life throws at you, the pieces continue to fit in the puzzle of your relationship.
So I say this to single people: don’t look for the perfect person who fulfills your checklist of requirements. Because you change and so do your needs and checklists.
Find the easiest conversation. The conversation that starts effortlessly and runs smoothly. Because this conversation may get hard at times, it may get interrupted, it may get heated, it might even pause for a bit, but it’ll always restart. And it’ll be one that’ll keep life interesting.
To the married people, especially the ones with kids who find some days so hard, I say this: We are all in the same boat. And keep watching CSI.