I always reflect on my marriage at the end of May because it's anniversary time. Twelve years now. A dozen. That's like one egg for each year, and I suppose there are some cracked eggs in the bunch. This year, however, the egg is looking pretty good. I've been trying to put together some quantifiable reasons why this year has been better than others, and this is what I've come up with so far:
I've met a lot of difficult people this year, and it makes much of my husband's antics pale in comparison. I'm sort of saying this tongue in cheek, but then again, I'm not. I highly recommend having to deal with rough people on a somewhat habitual basis because instead of wanting to come home and bark at your spouse for who knows what, you might just want to cuddle up and say, "Hold me, Seymour." I know that's what I've been doing of late. Not so strangely, my husband prefers this, rather than going on, ad nauseam, about how he's making the foot of our bed his impromptu second closet for jeans.
I've also assumed that when people say marriage is an equal partnership, it includes sharing the annoyances equally, too. This matters because -- and I don't want anyone getting get mad at me for saying this -- wives are preternaturally less annoying than husbands. This is fact. (Among other women, of course.) The husband is the one who does far more annoying things, and the wife is the one who gets far more annoyed.
I've decided to equalize the distribution of annoyance. Take that impromptu second closet my husband is building at the foot of our bed, for example. It bothers me, but instead of getting worked up about it, I try to visualize what would annoy him in return. He doesn't like it when I go through a bunch of cups in the course of a day and then leave them out. Guess how many cups are on the counter by nightfall? As many as it takes.
And then, presto, annoyances are equalized and we laugh about it. Or, come to blows about dirty cups and thrown-about jeans, but mainly, we laugh because we think being stupidly clever is more fun than being annoyed.
Lastly, and I think most significantly, I've learned to get over myself. Somehow -- in those cracked egg years -- I managed to convince myself I had inalienable rights within marriage. Seriously, that's the stupidest thing I've ever heard and I'm the one who said it. How do two people, coming together to form a union, a partnership, each bear unchallengeable rights? That's not a marriage. Heck, those rights don't even exist in my house when someone wants to use the bathroom.
Charles really didn't have to get over himself as much as I did. He's more of a people pleaser, whereas I'm more of a ... um ... people enrager.
Anyway, the more I got over myself, the more I realized it wasn't as difficult to get along with others, especially the guy I married. I'm not suggesting being a doormat, I'm saying that sometimes (most of the time) when you know who you are, you don't have to defend your frontiers as much as you think you do. For example, does the fact that Charles loves the NBA playoffs more than me during the month of May and some of June mean that he doesn't love me at all? No! It means I need to accidentally on purpose forget to pay the cable bill starting in March.
Or, it means that he really likes basketball and I can give him that time of inattentiveness as a gift to myself, in that it's much easier to sneak in my unauthorized shoe purchases right under his nose.
And that's that. In all seriousness, I think after 12 years, Charles and I are starting to get the hang of this thing. Perhaps it really does have something to do with each of us putting ourselves second in the marriage, as well as realizing that if love is present, perfection doesn't have to be. Oh, and lots of laughter. Otherwise, you'll be crying.
-- Heather Ijames is one of three community columnists whose work appears here every Saturday. These are the opinions of Ijames, not necessarily The Californian. Send email to her at email@example.com.