Marital Bliss: Year 19

Written by: Julia Nelson, friend, philosopher and master fruit smoothie maker.

So I keep seeing all these articles and blog posts with titles like “Ten Things I Never Knew About Marriage,” or “Eight Things They Never Told Me About Marriage,” or my favorite: “Four Thousand Three Hundred Things the CHURCH Never Told Me About Marriage or About How You Have to Get Someone to Water Your Houseplants When You go on Vacation or They Will Die.”

I realize that Dean and I are extremely blessed to have been married for 19 years now without murdering each other or resorting to mood-altering substances stronger than coffee. But I am not sure this is due to the possession of any special wisdom that is being systematically withheld from the non-blog-reading population. To my eyes, 99 percent of the deep insights shared in these marriage posts boils down to:

Marriage takes a certain amount of effort
You have to, like, care about the other person

I kind of think these truths would be a tad obvious to anyone who has had extended contact with another human being. Yet week after week, extremely earnest articles continue to valiantly debunk the myth that marriage requires no effort or concern for the other person. It almost makes me want to write a parenting article debunking the myth that the diaper is supposed to go on the baby’s face.

I realize that the fact that many people do not grow up with a good model of marriage is a real problem. But honestly, wouldn’t that make you go into it with lower expectations? I see two possibilities here:

People are willfully disconnecting themselves from all of their life experiences and basing their marital expectations on what they absorb from television, movies and crappy romance novels.
There is some widely read, but wildly inaccurate marriage article out there that I must have missed.

We all know #1 is more likely, but in celebration of the 19th Anniversary of the Day We Tried to Feed Several Hundred People at Our Wedding Reception on Plates that Were, in Hindsight, Way Too Large, I thought I’d have some fun with #2. So without further ado, here is my attempt to recreate the Original Myth-Perpetuating Listicle on Marriage, Deceiving Millions and Providing Blog Fodder for Centuries to Come:

Have you never had a sibling or a roommate or interacted extensively with another human being? Great! Here’s your comprehensive guide to Marriage Truths that will prepare you to find profound revelation in thousands of generic marriage articles for the rest of your life:

The qualities that make a great boyfriend or girlfriend in a movie—extreme hotness, quirky personality and wild displays of emotional intensity—always translate into the stable, responsible, reliable behaviors that make humans tolerable for more than five minutes at a time.
Since all human beings are raised with identical habits regarding money, cleanliness and daily routines, you and your spouse will find that your lives will easily and automatically mesh together.
The day of the wedding is far more important than the decades of living together that will follow, so you should definitely spend all your time, energy and money on that.
Marriage causes a cosmic shift in the soul of your spouse that will transform someone who has been an entitled narcissist his or her entire life into selfless and caring human being, all because of YOU.
Marriage also causes a metaphysical change in your own soul whereby all of your dissatisfactions with yourself or your life will instantly evaporate. Should any of these dissatisfactions reappear, they will automatically be your spouse’s fault.
Living with someone for the rest of your life means that you will never run out of things to talk about, so you should definitely marry for looks. Also, once you get married you start aging backward, so you will both actually get hotter as the years pass.
You will be so hot, in fact, that you should feel free to gain 4000 pounds and become generally unpleasant.
A lifelong commitment to another human somehow causes there to be fewer dishes and clothes to wash, less clutter to pick up and less hair in the shower drain, so you will never, ever fight about housework.
Staying up late with a little human who poops and pukes all over you puts everyone in a really good mood. Look for your relationship not to be challenged at all during the early years of parenthood.
The society-wide rejection of gender-stereotypical roles means that men are now able to tell the difference between a tub that has been thoroughly cleaned and one that has been briefly Windexed and to know intuitively that fingernail clippings do NOT belong in the armrest of YOUR WIFE’S CAR.
Furthermore, the rejection of the idea that the man should go out and earn a living while the woman takes care of the house means that NO ONE actually has to do either of these things. Just focus on enjoying each other’s company and the bills will somehow get paid and the house will somehow get clean.
Also, don’t worry about your kids. The Village will take care of them.

By way of disclaimer, I am not suggesting for a moment that all marital problems are related to items on this list. Some are exceedingly complicated and tragic, and I don’t pretend for a moment to understand them. But the good news is that if you do experience less-than-perfect feelings related to items on this list, nothing is (necessarily) (very) wrong! You are just a person who married another person. (Better luck next time!) And people—in case you are newly arrived on the planet—are great, but they can also be the worst. (Although as a general rule, adult people will fare better in marriage than overgrown adolescent people who still think of themselves as protagonists in a Taylor Swift song.)

I realize I have probably had an easier journey than many. I married an easygoing, kind, low maintenance man (I highly recommend this course of action). And I like to think of myself as an easygoing, kind, low maintenance woman, given to the occasional spontaneous panic attack, lest my easy-going man become bored.

Dean and I are also not overly ambitious in our marital aspirations: we feel no need to be a cool couple, a powerful couple, or a couple who makes their own organic toilet paper from fibers grown sustainably in their yard. Most weeks, we aspire chiefly to be a couple who remembers put the recycling out on the correct day, whose children are preparing for some sort of useful adulthood.

Is this settling for too little? Is this not bold (or “radical”) enough? Year 1, it might have felt that way. Year 19, it feels pretty frickin awesome.