In my last entry, I wrote about my parents’ relationship and how they became my sort of yardstick for marriage.
Since Moe and I just celebrated our 4rth anniversary, I decided to write about how we sort of discovered our own lessons as well.
Sidenote: I’m also the putz who forgot about Valentine’s Day, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that this entry makes up for my putziness.
CELEBRATING EVER-EVOLVING DIFFERENCES
Like my parents, Moe and I are way more different than we are alike.
If you asked us to pick a genre that would characterize how we deal with adversity, Moe would, hands down, pick one of them inspiring Pursuit-of-Happiness -like stories. The ones where the hero starts at the bottom, and in the middle of a particularly excruciating scene where his whole life goes to sh*t, he finds enough mettle to climb some obscure mountain and to shout at the top of his lungs with his fists raised, “I will prevail!”
I on the other hand, think my life is one big sitcom. I treat every unfortunate event thrown my way not as an “I-will-prevail” moment, but as an opportunity for a punch line.
Moe loves living an active lifestyle – he runs, does Crossfit and all that sweaty crap. I am a sedentary creature. Nothing, not even the threat of my rapidly expanding waistline, can make me work out. Sometimes, I look in the mirror and realize with horror that even my fingers have gotten pudgy. For a brief shining moment, I consider getting a gym membership; but then I shrug my shoulders and say, “Meh, it can’t be helped.”
Moe likes feeding his mind and keeping up to date with events that have national or world-wide impact.. I like children’s books and Keeping up with the Kardashians. He likes watching TV, I like reading books, he’s a narcoleptic, I’m an insomniac…I could go on and on. But the point is, like my parents, we found a balance that worked for us and have even learned to enjoy being opposites.
The thing we realized though is that being in a relationship means constantly adjusting. We all grow as individuals; and as we mature and learn, our preferences and habits transform.
Super babaw example, when we first got together, I was the extravert and Moe was the introvert. The tables though, have surprisingly turned. Moe has morphed into some social butterfly who actually relishes people time. I have become a cranky, lazy homebody who has grown quite resentful of anyone who would force me to go out and put on pants.
For both of us, it is not exactly what we bargained for. He married a sociable, vivacious girl and ended up with a crabby recluse. I married an enigmatic, self-reliant boy and ended up with quippy Mr. Congeniality. But for some reason, it still works. It took some getting used to, but I’m now quite happy to use Moe as a social crutch and and he seems equally happy to indulge in veg-out weekends with me.
I guess what I’m getting at is that, not only do we need learn to respect differences but we also need to learn to give each other room to grow. Goals change. People change. But changing doesn’t necessarily mean growing apart. I find that the more we give each other breathing space to develop, the more our differences actually compliment rather than clash.
ON LAUGHING AND FIGHTING
Like my parents, laughter is an integral part of our relationship. The reason why we got together to begin with is that we both seemed to have the ability to make each other laugh. When we used to live in Subic, our road trips to Manila were always filled with funny anecdotes about our childhood and senseless wisecracks about the inane things that we see along the way. Sometimes, when we were feeling creative, we would even invent silly games to keep us entertained. (“Boom, hubad!” was a particular favorite. This game has gotten incredibly nuanced and complicated, but it’s just really a contest on who could spot the most number of shirtless tambays.)
Unlike my parents though, Moe and I both have nasty, volatile tempers. And although we laugh a lot, we also fight a lot.
Moe takes life a hella more seriously than I do. He has tendency to get brooding and can ruminate about the unfairness of the world for weeks on end. I inherited my dad’s chronic moodiness and mom’s tendency for dramatics. So I tend to snap or have bursts of anger about small annoyances.
This used to cause a lot of tension in our relationship. Since we tended to reign our tempers in, we were always so tightly wound. This would cause us to get very resentful when the other one inevitably bursts. I guess in our heads, we were both like, “how dare you get mad at ME, when I was patient with YOUR crap for weeks!”
Over the years, we have learned to let each other have it. Sometimes, we have enough self-control to still choose words that won’t draw blood, sometimes we end up getting personal.
The strange thing about this is, letting it all out actually helped us become more tolerant and patient with each other.
Funny story: Moe loves wearing and pimping up his suits. So his box of ties, cuff links, lapel pins, pocket squares and tie bars is incredibly precious to him. One day, we were on our way to a wedding and he couldn’t find his box. He was SUPER upset. When I asked him why he was being so petulant, he bursts out, “I’m going to look ordinary!”
Normally this would set me off. I mean, Wtf?? I’m scrambling to get all our crap ready, and you’re griping about freakin’ cuff links! Dude, even I don’t have my accessories with me and I’m a chick!
But I nonchalantly let him have his tantrum. And then when he was over it, I laughed at him and called him out on his douchebaggery. After a while, he sheepishly starts to laugh too.
He’s not the only one prone to ridiculousness though. After my mom’s funeral, Moe and I decided to check in a hotel instead of going home to Subic. When we went out to eat, the staff accidentally threw my pack of cigarettes. For some reason, this really ticked me the hell off. Sure, it only had 3 sticks left, but it was the principle involved! Moe offered to buy me a fresh pack, but nope, I wanted that particular pack. Knowing that he couldn’t reason out with me when I’m in the throes of a fit, he patiently let me turn the room upside down looking for it. After a good hour, I exhaustedly “allowed” him to buy me a new one. I then nonchalantly proceeded to smoke like the outburst never happened. To this day, he still teases me about how I went mental over cigarettes.
I realized that letting each other have irrational outbursts shortens the burst’s life span. If we had given each other hell for being petty, then our fights would have extended and ruined our day. But just letting each other have our “moment” helped get rid of the bad vibes faster.
I also think, that our ability not to harp on the other’s pettiness comes from being able to have real, down and dirty fights about more serious matters. Since we’re able to express our issues with each other, there’s no need to make trivial situations bigger by adding extra baggage.
Being able to express anger has become the gateway to voice out other feelings as well. I’ve always been Ms. Little Ms. Honor-Your-Feelings, so expressing a range of emotions has never been an issue for me. But I found that once Moe felt comfortable enough to fight, he also allowed himself to communicate a multitude of other emotions– from anger, to sadness, to disgust, to joy to fear (just naming all Inside Out characters here).
Being able to say our thoughts and feelings candidly has helped us get through more serious and more deal-breaking circumstances. And more importantly, it has allowed us to feel safer, and more comfortable with each other. The safer we feel, the easier it is for us to go back to laughing together.
ON BEING BEST FRIENDS AND FINDING COMMUNITIES
Unlike my parents, who pretty much kept to themselves and were content to keep the world outside of their marriage, Moe and I realize the value of friends and a community.
We found that just spending time with other people together gave us shared experiences and strengthened our bond as a couple. More importantly, we found that when we started relying on our respective circles for support, they not only rooted for us as individuals but rooted for us a couple. I remember how, during a particularly difficult phase in our relationship, my brother in so many words, ended up saying, “You’re my sister, and I’ll always have your back. But when you married Moe, he became family too.”
His sentiment was echoed by all the significant people in our lives. Having our loved ones root for us really helped us get our bearings and got us through some of the more difficult situations.
A couple of years ago, we also joined an organization called Marriage Encounter. The group is composed of couples of varying ages, who have committed themselves to working out their respective marriages no matter what. It’s great because we don’t exactly go around sharing our private issues with each other, but we feel that if ever we hit a bump in our relationship, we have an entire posse to back us up.
Having great people around us helped us in more ways than I could ever describe, but it also made me appreciate my husband a little better. It made realize that EVERYONE has relationship issues. No couple has it all figured out and everyone has to deal with each other’s crazy.
But like my parents, I lucked out and married my best friend. And that made dealing with crazy, well, a little bit more doable.
You know how, when you’re a couple, you’re kind of less tolerant of each other’s mistakes, because compared to your friends, you expect more from your partner? Well, yeah that can’t be helped. 😛
BUT every so often, when particularly crucial, and disastrous conflicts arise, I find that being each other’s bff has helped us set aside our relationship hurts to be there for each other in an almost-platonic-chummy way.
The walang-kamatayang Scott Peck has always said that loving a person unconditionally is a choice. But the choice sure becomes hella easier when you actually like the person that you choose to love.
End note: Our relationship goals have definitely been influenced not just by my parents, but by other amazing couples as well. But I think what we really keeps us going is the recognition that our relationship is different from everyone else’s. No one can really define what works and what doesn’t work for us. Over the years, Moe and I have stubbornly stuck together and have done things our way. We’ve made a hella lot mistakes because of our pig-headedness, but at the end of the day, these mistakes have become a part of what makes our relationship uniquely ours.
So to Moe: Know that I will always I love every temperamental, brooding, sweet, and supportive part of you. Thank you for putting up with my dramatic hysterics all these years. You’ll always, always be my favourite. 🙂