The Bitter and Sweet of 16 Years Together #Sweet16

Sweet 16 anniversary cake

Sometimes happiness is best celebrated with a shared cupcake, glass of rose, next to a coffee table of laptops and summer board games. ( Not pictured a.m. mimosas, dinner at III Forks, a gifted emerald necklace and a flower filled tub by candlelight.)

June 21st Randall and I celebrated sixteen years together. SIXTEEN, Sixteen seemed monumental for some reason. I mean,while that length of time is certainly a great track record it wasn’t a golden or silver anniversary. More like a coming of age, I suppose, and well let’s just say I’ve had feelings about it for months. I’ve shared those feelings with a few friends and my husband obviously. BLESS. HIS. HEART. He has endured all the feelings about it. Since I’ve made a commitment to always be transparent with all of you, not just sharing the idyllic picture perfect parts, this felt like one of those real stories to be documented here too.

sweet 16 anniversary

We are happy.

Now before you get worried things are in some sort of downward spiral and the entire internet is a lie, WE ARE FINE. More than fine honestly, we are happy. Like really happy and somehow THAT is the thing that got me worried.

Huh? Being happy is what made you worried something was wrong??

I know, I know. Just follow me on this one. Back in March, a friend and I were reflecting on the past few years and we asked each other if we were happy. We talked about where we were in our careers, our family, and our lives. It was an honest conversation, with no expectation attached. No one’s life is perfect and there is always room for growth but I could honestly say without any hesitation I was very happy with my life and my relationship.

In the weeks that followed, I began to think more about that conversation. I have been known to over analyze – shocker, I know- this trait is both blessing and a burden. I thought about all the couples we’d known, parents, friends, people who got married around the same time we had, people who had gotten married since. How many of them were still married? How many had divorced? How many are living complacent and co-existing? It was exhausting and there were very few relationships that had a lifespan equal to or longer than ours. There were even fewer that I would consider emulating.

Behind the Scenes: Real Relationship Talk

This is where I began to panic. And because panic loves to party, I shared my concerns with Randall immediately. It sounded something like this :

Me: “Heyyyyy, so, we’re happy, right? Like REALLLLy happy? ” 

Him: “Yeah. I’m happy. Are you happy?”

Me: “Definitely. I was just checking because I was thinking that I don’t know if I know anyone as happy as we are and what if everything is suddenly about to fall apart and we aren’t prepared……”

Him: ( insert head tilt, adorable gaze, and light chuckle) “Why do you do this to yourself?” 

*Note: by this time in our relationship he is used to me running worst-case-scenarios full speed ahead. It’s who I am. He is the hype man and I am logistics. Logistics people run these things through. Logistics people have your back. The Hype Men assure you everything is good and you are going to have the time of your life. Sometimes we switch positions. Both are vital. We make a really good team.

At least I’m not alone.

So things are good but I’m still not entirely convinced. By April, I am still sorting this through. I confide in another friend. “Here I am living this dream, with this human who I entirely believe is the best relationship partner on the face of the planet. ( FTR: Randall Chase is truly the best human I know and better than I deserve. Although, he tells me the same and I’m pretty sure I’m amazing also so let’s just say we both lucked out and call it even) So, because I don’t know anyone that has really made love last longer, why should we be the lucky ones? Is the proverbial other shoe about to drop at any moment? And am I going to be the one to screw it all up?  Because I believe he is so perfect, I’m clearly the obvious choice to do so. But howwwww?”

My friend responds : “You are speaking my worst nightmares and fears, but go on.” 

At least I know I am not alone.

Life goes on

A few more weeks go by and my panic begins to subside. Life goes on as normal. We parented together. I won an award and he was my biggest cheerleader. He was finishing his graduate program, things were busy at work and I took on more. Our autonomy is one of my favorite parts of our relationship. We had kitchen dance parties listening to Snoop Dogg, Beyonce, and some version of yacht rock that I can’t recall. We laughed, cried, loved, won and fussed in those weeks. It was the life we loved living. I decided it was okay to be happy.

Moral of the story

Just last week, I was recounting this relationship journey to yet another friend as we walked along. It seemed silly as I was telling it but it was honest. She reassured me that there really is no normal just let it be honest. Your love/relationship doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s. It doesn’t have to be perfect or pretty. You don’t even have to be happy all the time. It was a good reminder that comparison is a terrible tool for relationships. Self reflection is totally different.

Moral of the story: Love still exists in many forms. It’s probably going to look a lot different each year it grows. Don’t panic. Sixteen years really is pretty sweet. If you haven’t gotten there yet, there is a lot to look forward to but enjoy the moment you are in because each of those can be pretty sweet too.

Oh, and keep good circle of trusted friends. I’ve got some of the very best.

Autonomy Makes Our Marriage Work

Chases in the Snow #SorentoFamily

One of my goals this year was to become a better writer. This summer I decided I would be writing something every day. Every.Day.  With kids out of school, moving to new places, traveling for summer vacations, it’s harder than it sounds. I suppose most things worth committing yourself to are. I haven’t necessarily published every day but I have been writing every day. I’ve also been reading more too. It helps to see what others are writing. The practice is good, the introspection better. So far I’ve learned a lot about myself and I feel I’ve been able to contribute more value to conversations with others as well. One recent conversation with my husband turned into a conversation discussing how keeping a certain amount of autonomy in our marriage has been part of the success.

We just celebrated our fifteenth wedding anniversary June 21st (the first official day of Summer and International Gnome Day, for those of you who keep track of things like that). I had just read an article shared by several respected friends who have all been married long over a decade or more. The article focused on the element of happiness in marriage and evaluating what marriage will cost you beyond the wedding day itself. It’s claims of sacrifice talked about much more than giving up half the closet space or letting someone else decide what would be on the dinner menu that night. I think we could all agree that marriage, along with most relationships, is full of compromise, but I completely disconnected when the author said “it will cost you yourself.”

I disconnected immediately but that statement still bothered me for days. I couldn’t reconcile why this piece resonated for so many others and felt so abrasive to me. I spent more time than I should have thinking about it and finally it occurred to me.

After fifteen years, the thing that has kept us together is allowing each other to be different. Autonomy makes our marriage work.

One of the things I have appreciated every day of our marriage relationship is the element of autonomy for both of us. Uniting in marriage has never required that either of us give up who we are as individuals. As we’ve gotten older and more mature we’ve changed certainly but not given up our individuality.

au·ton·o·my
noun: autonomy
  • the right or condition of self-government, especially in a particular sphere.
  • freedom from external control or influence; independence.
    synonyms: self-governmentself-rulehome ruleself-determinationindependencesovereigntyfreedom

     

Autonomy doesn’t mean that we are in an open relationship or that either of us have an “I do what I want” attitude with the other ( although I am known to jokingly reply with that on occasion.) We don’t typically ask the other to refrain from saying or doing something because we are adults capable of self-regulating and making their own choices. That’s how adulting works.

Autonomy Means We Won’t Always Agree

What autonomy in marriage does mean is that we have a mutual respect to allow one another to hold a difference of opinion on religion, politics, parental topics, who makes the best tacos, favorite IPAs and career choices. We don’t always agree. In truth, it’s our different perspectives that have made our relationship so intriguing and appealing from the beginning.

We don’t always agree but we ALWAYS communicate intelligently and respectfully. We allow one another to hold different opinions and can entertain discussions with each other without trying to convert the other. We communicate to understand and not change. Perhaps through various dialogue one of us will deliver a statement that opens up a point of view the other had not considered. Maybe not. Either way, allowing each other independence in opinion and thought continues the balance of equality that drew us to want to spend so much time together in the very beginning. This translates in how we choose to work together and make decisions in our life.

The article I was so bothered by positioned the “sacrifices” you must make in a marriage. I call those just being a decent human. If a person isn’t exemplifying that type of behavior from the very beginning I don’t want to commit to coffee with them much less a lifetime. Maybe that’s just me but I’m glad to be in a relationship with someone who lets me be me. We appreciate each other and don’t ever ask one another to play small or give up any part of ourselves. It works for us and I’m betting that we’ll be good at this gig for at least another 15 years.