December, Day 8: Stock-taking

This post has nothing to do with the holidays, for which I hope you'll forgive me. However, the holidays are always going to be intertwined with thoughts about love and mawiage. You see, I just had my birthday and my Second First Anniversary is coming up in just a few weeks, which is very exciting.

(For those not in the know, our First First Anniversary commemorated our first, civil ceremony in August 2008;The Second will commemorate our second, church ceremony, in December of last year. Aren't we just adorable?)Anyway, this sequence of events (Thanksgiving, Birthday, Christmas, Anniversary, New Years) sets me up for an annual festival of self-examination and stock-taking. With the Anniversary being a new addition to the line-up, my thoughts turn to What We Should Be Doing to Make The Marriage Last. We're still bona fide newlyweds, and as such are generally very happy. But who doesn't think a little bit a lot of the time about how things could be better in an ideal world? Dan's always said that we'd probably be a lot happier if we were a little less smart - or at least if we thought about things a little less. I think he's probably right, which brings me to this article from the New York Times Magazine. If you click on that link, be warned, it's a LONG article, but despite its navel-gazeyness it's strangely riveting.

The premise is this: two writers are married to each other for nine years. One of them gets the idea to try to improve their nine-year-old, stable, pretty happy marriage (and write an article about it!). The consequences are sometimes hilarious (sex therapy!) and sometimes heartwrenching (threats of divorce, power struggles, vicious sneering). Basically, these two actually managed to endanger their relationship in the attempt to improve it, only to arrive back at the conclusion that it was fine to start with.

Let me make this clear: I don't think I'd personally want to be married to either of the people in the article (or at least to the personas that develop in the article). But at the same time, I wonder - how good is good enough? (Pardon the Carrie Bradshaw inflection - hard to avoid in a post-SATC world)

We don't fight. We do laugh. We do things together. We do things separately. We don't share everything, but we do care to know what's going on with the other. We communicate reasonably well. All these things are fine.

That being said, isn't it easy to slip into stasis? I mean, we're just a year in (give or take, depending which date you go by) and sometimes it feels like we're newly-minted newlyweds and sometimes it feels like the honeymoon was a million years ago.

So my questions to you, faithful blog readers, are whether you fall into the navel-gazing whirlpool and whether, if you do, you've found a way to keep the spark alive and keep things getting better instead of slowly flattening and deteriorating. Is there a productive way to work on your marriage without it becoming some big drama? Those of you who who aren't so new at this, how do you keep it fresh and exciting and fun?

(I reiterate, we're happy, so don't call up the cavalry. I'm just engaging in some NYTimes-fueled navel-gazery.)


Liz said...

Though unmarried I be, I've read that article and I found it... interesting. I agree that those are two difficult people, and I was surprised that they both went into marriage so (apparently) blithely. It seemed like a lot of their problems stemmed from a lack of communication. They both seemed to address issues by either ignoring them (i.e. their total lack of communication about sex and what they wanted out of it) or acting passive-aggressively (i.e. him ranting about people who live in golf developments when they went to visit her parents). I would almost go so far as to say that when it came to dealing with problems, if you did the opposite from what they did, you'd be okay. I mean, not that I know anything about marriage, right? But that's how it appeared to me.

Sandicita said...

I think that there is a popular assumption that a marriage starts out great (the honeymoon phase) and then loses it's passion, excitement, new-ness (whatever you want to call it) and then slowly but surely reverts to boring routine, unless you do something to keep things fresh.

I'm not sure that assumption is true. In my experience of almost 4 years of marriage and more than 11 since I've been with my husband, I think that relationships actually have a more cyclical pattern: sometimes things are really difficult, sometimes they are great and fun and passionate; sometimes getting into a routine feels boring and sometimes it feels comforting and safe. My parents, married for 35 years, say that lately they have been going through the best years of their marriage, feeling more in love and having more fun that ever (despite all kinds of outside stress).

There's a meditation experiment in which you walk trying to be as mindful of every movement and part of your body. Eventually, it's almost like you forget how to walk! You lose your balance because you're overthinking something that comes naturally. My conclusion: Nothing can withstand that kind of scrutiny. I definitely agree that open communication is KEY, but if you're happy, navel-gazing might just bring trouble.

(Sorry for the long comment... The pics of your weddings are great BTW.)