Ed and I moved in together in the Fall of 1998. We'd been dating about a year, my lease was up, the timing seemed good. We signed a one year lease, and paid rent proportionate to our salaries. This was good for me as I was a first year federal employee and Ed had been working for a few years. The next year when the lease was up, I let Ed know I was ready for a longer-term contract.
Over Christmas of 1999, Ed and I got engaged, and we married a year and half later - May 12, 2001. We moved into our first home the next week.
I know everybody has their ways of keeping things glued together, but here's how we've had a mostly successful navigation of the past 11 years of marriage.
1. We buy homes when life is stressful. Doing this allowed us to always blame the house instead of the relationship. I'm only half-kidding here. The first year of our marriage and home ownership was a big lifestyle adjustment. Always, we blamed the house. This kept a lot of pressure off the marriage. Later, we would move when we were coming off a year with Helen's reflux and a stressful babysitting situation. Again, when in doubt where the stress is coming from, blame the house. It's big. It has no feelings. It can take it.
2. Marry someone who is brilliant. Regularly, Ed and I cross paths professionally. Always, when people realize we are married, they will tell me "Ed is brilliant". And I will say "I know". Just the other day, I received an email that said exactly this from a friend. I am certain that in 40 years, I will still have things to talk with Ed about. I'm only hoping when we start losing our minds, we do it together so neither of us notices.
3. Be willing to be apart. Some couples seem to jive on all-the-time togetherness. In fact, they seem to think it's a weakness when they're out separately, always ready with an excuse or an apology. Guess what? As much as I love pottery and yoga and knitting, I don't actually want Ed there with me. And he doesn't want to be there. Our apart time allows us to define ourselves as individuals, and it's good for us together. I can rock a crow pose and he can pretend to be impressed.
4. Be honest. That probably doesn't need much explanation, but I will insert a story about Ed being honest. After my first 10-week session of pottery, I brought home what I was certain was a masterpiece. Ed looked at my and my pot and said the absolute nicest thing he could think of - "it's almost symmetrical". That actually hurt a little, but he was right, and it made me trust his judgment about other things more.
5. Know your partner's lines and don't cross them. It's never funny. And on the flip side, stick up for yourself when your lines get crossed. If your partner loves you, they'll won't to know you're hurting.
6. Give up. As a former debater, this one is particularly hard for me. But over time I have learned, everyone is wrong sometimes, and nobody is wrong all the time. I'm not saying I won't argue tooth and nail over something, but I have learned to give up. Peace is important.
7. Find the compromise. We do it all the time. We don't hold a grudge about it. As an example, I like sit around vacations. Ed likes go-do-something vacations. One year, I enrolled us both in SCUBA diving lessons so that we could go to the beach and both enjoy it. This was before we had kids when we took more adventurous, but not always more relaxing, vacations.
8. Don't be involved in all decisions. Sometimes, it's just more efficient to let the other person make decisions and trust them. I can't think of many times when this hasn't worked out, even though letting go can be extraordinarily hard.
9. His family, his problem. My family, my problem. We're actually super fortunate here, but we established this one early on and I'm glad about it.
10. Share the load - and when you need help, tell your partner exactly what you need.
I have few ideas about what the next 11 years will be like, but I am looking forward to finding out!