A dozen years ago, Hubby and I decided it was in our best interest, as well as the best interests of my three boys, to enter into a lawful union that would forever provide us a break on our taxes.
Since that major life decision, we’ve learned a lot about each other, family, and life.
We learned that food is much more important than sex or money when it comes to a healthy relationship. Food is going to happen at least three times a day or more. Food is a necessity and you will come by it no matter how much money you have or lack. But there is so much more to food than the obvious.
Cooking together creates bonds. It involves honing skills such as compromise, collaboration and communication. It allows for creative expression. Some of our warmest memories to date include our kitchen as the backdrop. And this is not solely because we were heating things up with the stove and oven.
Our kitchen is always in transition. As long as we are together, it will never look like the sterile, staged pictures of glamorous kitchens on the glossy pages of a magazine. There will always be homemade sauce splattered somewhere and at least one dirty cup, spoon or dish in or near the sink. The refrigerator will always be stuffed with fresh delicacies as well as old, forgotten leftovers.
Eating together is just as important. When Hubby went back to school this semester, which meant a grueling six-day schedule of classes and work, we reinstated homemade Sunday dinners. Every Sunday afternoon, we gather around the dining room table like it’s a holiday. We eat like kings and brag about it on Instagram. And while the food is great, the best part is being together and sharing family banter.
We learned that the porch is more important than the living room. Sitting in front of a television can be entertaining and relaxing. But just as entertaining and much more relaxing is the time we spend engaged with our neighborhood and each sitting in chairs outside our door.
From the porch we can wave to and greet folks walking their dogs or driving by. The porch offers scenic views of the sun, clouds, trees, moon, stars and angry squirrels blaming each other for losing nuts. The scene is always the same, yet always different. And we can talk about our days, share silly jokes or plan life events on our porch.
Lately, in order to preserve the sanctity of our porch time, we’ve begun leaving our electronic devices inside whenever we sit outside. If we don’t answer a call or reply to a text right away, feel free to assume we are catching up with each other, enjoying cool breezes and chirping crickets.
We learned that having lots of money is not an important goal. Money is a tool. It is best to only use what we have while trying to set some aside. Sometimes we might even have enough extra to enjoy a date night at a restaurant with a wine list and linen napkins.
Sometimes our checking account will be depleted by the needs of our children, pets and cars, leaving us with a date night menu of rice and something dug out of the back of the freezer, thawed and grilled with rosemary from our garden.
We learned that arguments are important. They don’t always have to be loud enough to rattle the windows and cause the neighborhood watch to go on alert, but they do need to occur. We do need to experience emotions together, and we need to find our way back to each other through the emotional turmoils of life.
There are both productive and destructive ways to argue. We’ve had our share of each. After a dozen years, it finally feels like the destructive arguments are waning and the productive ones are more prevalent. Arguments in general seem to be on the decline. Maybe we’re getting better at this relationship thing.
We learned that we’d rather be with each other than anyone else. When we are apart, even if we really needed and craved the space, embracing the freedom like a long lost puppy, we miss each other desperately.
Not to say that we don’t annoy the living petunias out of each other. I could write a full-length novel on the list of things I wish Hubby did differently, would stop doing, or would please, please remember to do, even just once. Hubby could dictate volumes on my shortcomings.
But the thing is, everyone comes with their own laundry list of traits that make them incompatible with other human beings. We happen to be fortunate enough to share a few core commonalities and values upon which we’ve built a relatively strong relationship.
Here’s to lots more time in the kitchen, at the table and on the porch, and a couple of dozen more anniversaries with you, Hubby.
Micki Bare is a columnist for the Arkansas News Bureau and the Courier-Tribune in Asheboro, N.C., and the author of Thurston T. Turtle children’s books. She and her family live in North Carolina. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.