Wednesday, February 13, 2013

5 Things Being Nick's Wife Have Taught Me

He tips my chin up to look at him, his green eyes hungrily taking in every molecule of me. I sigh, more than content to fully rest in his arms. Nick and I have been married 8 years now, together for 10, but I don't think this sensory explosion -- the feel of his strong arms under my hands, the sight of his mischeivous grin, the comforting smell of his body wash, the sound of my name from his mouth and the taste of his kiss -- will ever get old.

To quote
Kristen Welch, one of my favorite bloggers: monogamy is hot, ya'all.

In a world where a college football player's imaginary girlfriend, a superstar's lipsynching and the possible demise of the everlasting Twinkie can dominate the headlines for weeks, I revel in the reality of what Nick and I share.

Back in December, Nick and I went to a wedding. The bride had been a candlelighter in our own nuptials. As she took the hands of her groom, eyes shining, Nick leaned over.

"Katie and Ethan don't look old enough to be doing this," he whispered. "But they're younger than we were when we got married, right?"

I stifled a giggle, whispering back, "Babe...they're more than a year older than we were!"

The look on his face was priceless, making it even harder for me to control myself.

If you would have told me when I was 17 that I would one day be writing a blog called, "5 Things Being Nick's Wife Have Taught Me," I would have laughed and said, "You must mean another Nick, right?"

But here we are. And while I by no means have this whole marriage thing figured out, I have (mostly by trial, error and the grace of God) picked up a few tricks. So in honor of both Valentine's Day and our half-year anniversary tomorrow, here are 5 things being Nick's wife have taught me:

1) Everyday life is a GIFT.
I once thought that the only life worth living was an obviously exciting, adventuresome, fill-up-your-passport existence, that long absences apart from your humdrum life, small hometown and same-old friends were the ticket to happiness. And then I married a military man. By the time we hit our 5th anniversary, he had been gone more than a year. (And I have it "easy" compared to wives in the other branches.)

Straight up: Nick and I were not meant to be apart. When he deploys, it's unbelievable how much I miss his physical presence, handyman skills, dorky jokes (including the unfunny ones)...even getting to do his laundry! In the beginning, I took that all for granted. But today? I've learned that even a trip to the grocery store together (especially without kids!) is an opportunity for high romance.

2) True love is in the details.
On our wedding day, I thought I knew Nick. Re-reading that sentence makes me laugh.

I did know Nick, sort of. I knew lots about him. I knew his soul was beautiful and perfectly matched mine. But I truly didn't know the real him until life got messy and sticky and less-than-perfect.

Once I figured out that the key to Nick was in the actual little things, and not what I wanted to be his little things, our marriage got a million times better.

As silly as it sounds, it took me years to figure out that Nick is completely different than my brothers or dad. He doesn't dress like them, gravitate toward the same music (the day I catch Shane, Jonathan or Dustin blasting Prince and George Michael is the day I'll start loving Martha Stewart) or know every sports term like they do. He prefers picking his own clothes instead of letting me dress him (drats!), and it was me who taught him how to drive a tractor.

But more than that, he JUST ISN'T THEM. He is his own person, with his own opinions, love language, money style, hot button issues and so on. I had to learn to embrace those details, not try to re-shape them into something I'm more familiar with.

3) The quickest way a wife can sabotage a relationship is to take it over.
This one was really, really hard for me. After all, coming into marriage, I genuinely knew more about smart money and time management, the Bible, running a household, proper fighting techniques, etc. than Nick did. And boy, for the first few years, did I let him know it!

And guess what? It didn't work.

When I "led," Nick shrank back from his rightful role as head of the household. When I missed opportunities to positively affirm his job as provider and protector, his confidence plummeted. When I withheld affection from him over his perceived missteps, thinking it would teach him my supposed marital superiority, we both ended up empty and confused!

Women, don't get me wrong. I dig strong, feminist personalities; it's how world change happens. But when we continually mock (however demurely and subtly) our husbands' roles as leaders, we're only hurting ourselves.

4) True happiness comes from serving each other -- NOT yourself.

I remember thinking on our honeymoon that these would be the best years of our lives. My reasoning: we were skinny, together and had oodles of kidless free time. Once all the oxytocin wore off and the kids showed up, however, I figured the good times were over. And I lived accordingly; I used Nick and our marriage to make myself as happy as possible while I still could.

Like #3, this attitude also backfired. I soon learned living for myself made for a pretty lonely existence. Once the kids showed up -- once I saw how unbelievably sexy Nick was to me in his role as a dad -- and "real life" began, I was forced to think outside my little box.

Thankfully, Nick started figuring this secret out around year 5 as well. We started looking for ways to truly bless the other, no matter what sphere of our lives: work, home, exercise, the bedroom, church, our social lives, etc. instead of just using each other as good-looking hired help. It required a lot of communication, trust, patience and perserverance.

But let me tell you: that's when things got insanely hot.

5) A marriage truly is an INVESTMENT -- you get out of it what you put into it.
Any woman who's been a wife more than, oh, a week, will tell you that marriage can be crazy-hard. Nick has hurt me more deeply than I ever thought possible; he has pushed all my buttons repeatedly; he has made me wish he was uglier so it would be easier to hate him. And here's a confession: I have more than once asked God why the heck he gave me this man to love.

Answer: because Nick makes me a better person, even though it hurts sometimes.

Over 8 years, we've seen way too many of our friends' marriages end up in divorce court. It scares us, so much that we have taken concrete steps to divorce-proof our own relationship as much as possible. Like:
*regular date nights
*working with marriage mentors
*taking marriage and communication classes, reading marriage books, etc.
*intentionally staying away from temptations like porn and erotica (no 50 Shades of Grey for me!) and deep relationships with the opposite sex
*cultivating outside interests and staying in shape ("Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don't kill their husbands!")
*Staying accountable to friends and family
*remembering why we got married in the first place: because we're best friends.

Obviously, every photo in this blog except for the last is old. Neither Nick nor I have that same haircut, thank God. I'm out of college. Nick has switched jobs in the Air Force. We live in different places, and with kids who look like us (okay, me, but whatever). Life is different, and that's a good thing.

The first pictures show a couple. But the last one shows a team.
How about you? What has being a husband/wife taught you this Valentine's season?