Let's sidestep the part where I address the 22-month blog absence and instead consider today's post as nothing but an abnormally long Instagram caption. It's a blip. ("Blogs are out, but people are texting each other'" -Ryan Bailey Howard).

Today is our 13th Anniversary.  Or, to use Layla's favorite emphatic, we've been married thirteen frickin' dang years.

Lots of people stay married for 13 years. It isn't particularly impressive as a number. And even to say you've been happily married for 13 years isn't a terribly Big Whoop on the world stage of all whoops. Maybe a medium whoop. A grande at Starbucks. 

 Lucky and Plucky AF

Today becomes impressive for us only when you consider that Jesse and I were exceptionally--almost comically--ill-suited for having a healthy marriage to each other when we started out (in terms of temperament/conflict style/Enneagram type). It's a big whoop considering how much FREEEEEAKING effort and practice it took (and takes) to get us to this place where our marriage is now my favorite and most valuable thing on this planet.

SPOILER: the incompatibility had jack crap zero to do with how in love with each other we were. We were utterly obsessed with and committed to the person we were marrying and wanted nothing but the best and brightest and healthiest for one another and our marriage--and we still quickly pivoted right into making each other miserable. Precious.

Happy Anniversary, being in (what you think) is love is the stupidest thing you're going to have to overcome.  

Best wishes, SUCKAZZZZ.

I made a list of the 13 most important things we do and have learned. I will FORSHORE need to come back to this many times. It will also be worth the effort to write if it can spare at least one of you a failed dramatic exit from Outback Steakhouse in your own marriage (that example inspired by real events). 

1. Marry for LIKE

This is my #1 marriage advice. HEED ME, O ISRAEL.

Being in young, fiery so-called love is a trick of biological and evolutionary warfare waged by your DNA on your stupid, unsuspecting brain--the sole aim of which is to get your gametes together with another's to propagate the species and ensure your microscopic code pieces are a part of it. Your DNA doesn't care if  you are fire and they are ice, if all your disparate instincts and relational tools are incompatible--it just liked their musk and wanted to mate with it. It will wear off--and FAST.

"But we were so in love--TRUEST LOVE!" I proclaimed! Oh dummy, that wasn't actually love. It was lust and obsession and fun and adrenaline and dopamine--and it had to go away or else you'd never remember to pay your taxes or do the laundry because that feeling makes you a single-minded idiot. 

Jesse and I got lucky here (well, I did--he's not an idiot like I was). I had quite the history of being in love with people I didn't really like. *insert the face-est of palms.* But how many movies had I watched where someone you don't get along with, don't want to spend time with, or even actively hate, turns out to have been the one for you ALL ALONG. Awwww. 

No. This is a bad story. AVOID.

I don't care how good they look on paper, how hot they are, how much your mama likes them: if you don't enjoy talking to them (without touching or looking at their beauty) and want to change most of the things that come out of their mouth: IT ISN'T GOING TO WORK. 

Because that love-drunk, starting out feeling WILL fade. If you work at it, the REAL, enduring, deep magic kind of love will come--but in the meantime it makes things SO much easier if you actually like the human whose farts you have to smell. 

There were times in the first few years of marriage when we were over the crazy-in-love phase but were still figuring out how to build our real foundation. All the quick-burning fuel had consumed itself, and we didn't yet have a good stockpile of the clean, slow burning, renewable stuff to use. In these in-between times it was LIKE that saved us. 

When I didn't have grace to give or more effort to contribute to doing the hard or self-denying thing--the fact that I liked Jesse so hard was a marriage-saver. I'd want to be mad at him but he'd make me laugh. I'd be attempting to freeze him out and see a joke that ONLY he would get and have to share it with him. 

God makes us lots of promises about the power and immortality of selfless love and how we can have it infinitely for all humans everywhere. It can do just about anything and resurrect itself for sure. But I think He maybe left it more of a tossup when it comes to liking each other--some people you will like and some you won't. No big deal and it wont keep you from loving them like Jesus did, but go ahead and make sure you get it right in marriage because that ish is hard to conjure.

Just my frickin dang favorite

2. Say what you want, you idiot

We laugh now about the HOURS of our pre-children married life we wasted in a stalemate. We'd be in a fight and ALL I'd want was him to hug me or to just forget the stupid argument and go to dinner. But I wouldn't say it because that's not spontaneous or romantic. I'd just wait for him to think of it (IF HE REALLLLY LOVED ME HE'D KNOW) Again, I blame my poisoning at the hands of Hollywood for this. 

I'd be mad at him already for whatever, and then I'd double down in my head "and he's so dumb and evil he doesnt even know I want to be hugged right now as I'm actively pushing him away, what an unromantic fool; clearly we aren't soulmates, oh the injustice."

The first time I growled through clenched teeth with my back turned "canyoujusthugmeplease?" it almost physically hurt (SO UNROMANTIC IT SHOULD BE RAINING OR AT THE AIRPORT), but we saved like 2 exhausting hours, and I realized spontaneity and mind-reading are nice but I'd rather not get divorced waiting for them, so let's go ahead and speak up.

3. Go to counseling

It's 2019. There is no stigma. Find a mentor couple, an actual counselor, a trusted 3rd party and GO TALK TO THEM ABOUT YOUR JUNK. Go together and go separately.

You simply cannot be objective about yourself. You are the subject of your life and you are inherently biased. You cannot referee your own match just as you can't lift your own body.

You are riddled with blind spots and do not know best.  It won't work itself out on its own.  Get off your high horse and see a counselor. 

Also cannot dip yourself

4Ask "How can I help?"

I get crazy overwhelmed. When stress hits me my capacity to take things on plummets. This stresses me out even more. The cortisol hits my brain and my fight or flight almost always picks FIGHT. I  get angry and lash out.

One day a few years ago Jesse hacked this situation like he was getting infinite lives in Contra for NES.  Instead of defending against my crazy venting at him or telling me to calm down, he asked "how can I help?"

This stopped me in my tracks and forced me to analytically think about action steps rather than just unleashing a Jackson Pollack painting of stress rage AT HIM. I have to triage my current stressors to determine the most helpful thing I can let him do. Not only do I have one less thing on my plate when I give him one, but I have a more organized and rational picture of everything going on and how to tackle it.

This question is a gift. Give it and receive it.

5. Tell Reruns

This one is easy. Go back and retell each other your story. Indoctrinate yourselves with your history and legend. Parts of it, moments, the whole thing. Again and again. I make Jesse retell me about when he liked me and his secret thoughts from dating quite often. I ask weird and specific questions. 

We together try to go back and piece together timelines and situations from the early days. It's fun and puts a little of that early magic back in without the all-consuming-meth-addiction-like disregard for the rest of the universe that we had back then. Meth is healthy in small doses, after all.

6. Listen to the Fans.

Another easy one. Find people that adore your spouse and make them tell you why. When others start bragging on your other half, listen. Don't downplay it, lean in and hear. Coworkers, parents, friends, mentors, customers, whatever.  It's so cool to hear people love your person from angles you don't have.

"Jesse is an amazing dancer." Still waiting to hear than one.

7. Find Something to Lose About

It's natural for me in fights to amass a mighty stack of evidence against Jesse detailing his legion of wrongs. I will dig so deep to find more to blame him for. I have driven him to bitter tears of frustration doing this--when all he wanted was for me to see one way that I was hurting him and take responsibility for it. I just couldn't see it or hear it because it wasn't my mission.

It was after a Jesse had preached one Sunday about how "losing to win" was the entire essence and magic of how Jesus conquers that I told myself the next time we were in a frustrating, drawn-out stalemate of a disagreement, I'd attempt the mental exercise of TRYING to find something I could apologize for (very different from my typical "IT'S ALL YOU" method). I would purposefully lose the argument so our marriage could win. 

It was like dang sorcery. I said something like "I definitely could have done a better job hearing you and caring about what you wanted." Truly not that hard or humiliating but gahhhh it made things easier. 

Tons of energy is required when you're trying to convince someone that nothing is your fault and everything is theirs. When you admit that, okay, this one part at least was totally my bad, the pressure of defending your perfect behavior record disappears (surprise: it wasn't perfect), and it becomes much easier to keep finding ways you could love better. The first one is the hardest to see and admit. Dig for it.

What did I do?

8. Keep Choosing.

I like to tell Jesse " I choose you every damn day." I don't know when this started, but I do remember before. When things were impossibly hard, I'd get mad that some dumb 23 year old had "done this to me" AKA my younger self. She made the choice to marry him, and she's a skinny idiot. I blame her. Ugh, HER.

Instead of being some passive victim of the 2006 version of myself--living out the consequences of her choice--I decided to take active control and show up and choose Jesse again and again. 

I mean, I don't know what the alternative was, but this was a mindset shift for sure, and it helped me remember that this marriage and this dude were both something I have to continue to want and chase after. 

I'm not just married to Jesse because we said the things in 2006--I'm married to him every day still, by choice. I'm not bound by dusty old vows I said once and didn't really even understand back then; I'm purposefully renewing and trying to learn and live more of those promises every day (even when it's a pain in the ass to choose him and costs pride and ego and self). 

Choose each other every damn day.

9. Have the Sex

Non-negotiable (I mean as a concept in marriage-CONSENT ALWAYS, YALL. Come on). 

We have friends (male and female) who shave shared that they haven't had sex with their spouse in months and years. This is heartbreaking to me and I think fundamentally not how it's supposed to be. 

It's not always (or even often?) going to be earth-shattering, wake-the-neighbors level, but it IS almost always really important. For a few reasons. Some spiritual, relational, physical and some even animal in nature.  

I know you have a headache, I often do too. Just find a way at least weekly (and try to wake the neighbors a few times a year). I'm not a doctor. Don't @ me.


10. Request more info

"Oh look, Jesse put his used wet bath towel on top of my pile of clean laundry, CLEARLY he thinks his clothes and time are more valuable than mine, and even though we both work full time this is YET ANOTHER sign of the patriarchy in him and he's lazy and just doesn't care about me or the time I put into washing HIS children's skidmarked underwear because he doesn't love me enough to  even try."

And we're off to the races and the narrative is WRITTEN. Jesse's entire body of work from of loving me--decimated by a wet towel. Boom. 

Boy oh boy I can fill in some blanks. But maybe, just maybe, the actions that annoy me aren't evils on par with terrorism--even if that's where my brain goes  pretty fast and furious. Sometimes he IS just being lazy or careless, but other times he dropped it because Noa slammed her hand in a door and started screaming and he ran to her.

Maybe "hey, what happened with this?" is a better option than "YOU ASS!"


It's a little embarrassing that I had to learn to not throw someone's entire character into the flames before I asked them for the entire story, but here we are. I still get this one wrong more often than not (in all my relationships, you know who you are). I know that I'm ten times more likely to respond well if someone says "hey I have a question about something you did" versus "I saw what you did and I know exactly what you meant by it and YOU ARE OF SATAN." I appreciate deeply the people who have treated me this way, so I want to do it better.  Especially with Jesse. 

Because he often throws down wet towels but only rarely terrorizes intentionally, and I need to square these two facts in my life.

11. Get a Thing.

Oh a fun one. Find a thing you are both into and fangirl over it together. You don't even necessarily have to do the thing together at the same time, but you have to both be into it and enjoy talking about it. 

Example: about 2 years ago CrossFit  became one of our things (2 years is the longest a CrossFitter has ever gone on a blog without mentioning that they CrossFit). We rarely go to the same class, but even if he does the workout at 5am and I do it at 5pm, we can talk about it when we look at it the night before, he can tell me hints for surviving after he does it before I do, and we can fully debrief after I've done it. Then we can be horribly sore together for three days afterward and watch CrossFit videos on YouTube. It's A WHOLE THING and we share it and it's fun and awesome (and you love how much we are into it and need to come to CrossFit with us). 

It could be a podcast, a sports team, a board game, a TV show, a hobby. Find something that is not about your kids or directly about marriage, and nerd out over it together.

12. Jesus

Ok this one may be optional since I know many healthy marriages where the couple isn't about Jesus. And it's astounding to me that it's possible for them. Because it just isn't optional for us. And not in a "oh it's a deal-breaker" gross fundamentalist way. But in a practical "There's no way I could love you when I think you deserve my hatred if I hadn't been loved that way by God first and so much" way. 

I've said many times to Jesse "Efffffff I don't want to make this right with you and I'm so mad and think I'm totally right...BUT JESUS" (died for serial killers so I guess I'll forgive you).

He's the engine and example and authority over both of us and he says to never ever stop loving each other and that it's always worth it. That's a decent endorsement.

13. Keep Learning

This is kind of a cop-out because I couldn't think of a good last one, but it's also true. If i'd written this list at year 5, I wouldn't have known half the things on here yet. But if you'd asked me back then, I'd have thought I'd pretty much circled the basics so far. 


It's crazy encouraging to know that we will keep learning each other and about marriage as we go. And it's reassuring that those same things that drove us to the brink years ago? we now have solid strategies for and experience dealing with--and can even laugh at (sweet Moses, they were NOT funny at the time--that Outback storm out was SOBERING HIGH DRAMA). I want to remember that when new trials and issue come up and FEEL hopeless. 

"I hate your guts and kind of want to murder you right now, but oh, how we'll laugh about this one day, darling."

Our fire-ravaged wedding album. Kind of perfect.