Tomorrow is our 12th anniversary but we have been together since September 2011. If you do the math, our relationship is 15 years old. That's right, our relationship is a teenager. We've passed the cute goo goo gah gah of infancy. Our baby marriage shit its pants over and over and we've had to clean up its explosive blow outs. Our infant relationship was needy and we were very dependent on the other. Back then we always had to be held and we co-slept. Our baby relationship needed the bottle as much as the breast and sucked its thumb for comfort. The first stage of our relationship was all about the basics and immediacy and survival.
We fell and picked ourselves up as relationship toddlers. This couple has thrown themselves on the floor and tantrummed like preschoolers. We've had many growing pains. We've grown and stretched and grown some more. Somewhere around 2010, the relationship lost its chubby baby fat. We learned the A,B, C's and 1,2,3's of marriage. We learned to read one another. We gained more independence and could go for longer periods of time apart without missing the other so much. Our school-aged marriage learned something new every day and it seemed like every day required something else for us to learn. We mastered the relationship building blocks needed for future marital success. All of our energy was spent on building the marriage ,and the family, and we went to bed exhausted and often dirty because we forgot to take care of ourselves or it didn't seem to matter as much at that time.
Then, we became pre-teens and we felt ugly and awkward. Things changed so fast while nothing changed fast enough. The past was forever ago and the future couldn't come soon enough. Our relationship's voice got deeper and the shape of our relationship changed, and changed, and changed again. We'd go to bed thinking one thing about us and wake up thinking the exact opposite. We realized there were people that now expected things from this relationship. We knew this marriage was about more than just us. We had a purpose. Our marriage wasn't just play anymore and the work seemed harder, more complex and at times, too complicated or overwhelming.
Now, as we honor the teen years, we feel more assured in our relationship. We don't feel pressured by peers whose relationships glow and sparkle on social media, because we know better. We know who we are and we are true to it. We celebrate our unique relationship. Like most teens, this relationship needs time alone. Away from family. Away from kids. Sometimes, we just want time alone from each other. Our relationship is excited and it's scared. We love watching our children grow into themselves and we are sad that they have grown so fast. We are not new parents. This relationship is not new. This relationship can get zitty and its emotions are like a roller coaster. "I hate you. I love you. I hate that I love you." This relationship gets depressed and isn't always sure why. Sometimes this marriage feels like a cloud and sometimes this marriage feels like we're walking on a cloud. This marriage is combative and argumentative and sometimes rebellious-"I will not empty the trash today even though I know he hates that." "I'm going to buy that shirt and not even hide it for a week before I wear it!"
This relationship is no longer fresh and soft and new. It is hardening and maturing and solidifying. We're not cute but there's something powerful in how we have grown. How much stronger we are; more confident and aware. The shape and outline of this marriage show it is aging. We're edgy and liberated and starting to tune into the world around us not just to our own little life bubble. At this stage of our relationship we have wisdom to share, experience under our belts, and we can fall fast asleep without the other at our side. We have no issue sleeping alone in our big girl/big boy bed -or alone on the couch. This couple is not afraid of the dark.
What will the next five years bring to us, I wonder. My twenties were a shambles. The decade of highs and lows and self-loathing and second guessing. I'm assuming that our marriage may feel similarly, mostly because at year 20 of this relationship, we will be the parents of one 15 and one 11 year old girl. I'm pretty certain most parents experience a great deal of self loathing and doubt while parenting teens. Yet, our 20th year of love will likely also be monumental. For all of the hardship I experienced in my twenties, I also found joy- joy in finding a person to spend my life with, joy in giving life to two children, and joy in being a mother and wife. I didn't realize it at the time, but when I was twenty, the world was my oyster and I had my whole life ahead of me. What had come before was merely the brief beginning of a long, wonderful, hard, challenging, exhilarating journey. Will our twenty-something relationship look back and see that our past two decades together were just a blip in time, the foundation for adventures and better days ahead? I suppose only time will tell.