Happy anniversary, Matt!

Brief background: Matt and I met in February 1998 on ICQ (random chat) and I moved to Canada in November of 2000. We were legally married two weeks after I moved in December of 2000 in a stranger's house (the man who performed the ceremony) with two of our friends as witnesses. This legal ceremony was required to fulfill the requirements of my landed resident visa. My family knew this was going to happen, Matt's didn't. We did plan all along to have a big wedding with both families, which we held on August 11, 2001. So, in honour of our 8th anniversary...

I've been thinking a lot lately about relationships: what is good, bad, works, doesn't work, why they fail or succeed. There are no absolutely right answers when it comes to the joining of two different people. Every life-altering event affects a relationship, even if the event happens only to one side of the couple. How a couple deals day-in and day-out with life will ultimately determine whether a relationship flourishes or withers away.

There have been times in my relationship with Matt that I feared we were far too co-dependent as compared with other couples we knew. It was five years after our marriage before we spent even one night apart. Since then, we've spent only four additional nights apart. (I don't count the days I spent in the hospital after Brandon's birth.) It's easy to keep track when there are so few. I've come to realize that we don't really feel the need or desire to be apart because we lived apart for the first (nearly) three years of our relationship. During that time, we got pretty good at communicating. We had no choice since that was the only way we could get to know each other. And we got to know each other really, really well.

I've always felt as if Matt and I are well-balanced. He's rational, I'm passionate. He's methodical, I'm inspired. He's a man of few words, I never shut up. He's reasonable, I'm a woman. We have similar tastes and some common interests that help us maintain a connection beyond being spouses and having a child. We also have unique interests that we each pursue separate from each other, giving us valuable time apart.

Perhaps it's an unusual and potentially unpopular view, but I told Matt before we got married that I didn't want divorce to be an option. I believe my exact words were, "Divorce is not in my vocabulary." I watched my parents struggle to keep their relationship together for essentially all of the years I grew up. There were major issues, major fights, and there were times I wished they'd just end it. When they finally healed their relationship, I was really grateful for their perseverance. As difficult as it sometimes was to live with them fighting, I was extremely happy for them and to see them become a happy couple who were best friends until the day my mother passed away - less than two months after their 30th anniversary. (To be clear, I do not judge anyone for divorcing, though I do believe it's a last resort for a troubled relationship. It's a must for abusive circumstances.)

Being friends - that is, best friends - with my husband makes me feel secure. I can tell him anything, from innocuous details of my day to personal confidences and I know that he loves me even when he thinks I'm certifiable. To be able to count on unconditional acceptance like that from another person is incredibly liberating. We've occasionally had friends comment on our tendency to tell each other everything. I'm not sure if we're considered odd because of this or whether it's a good sign to people. Either way, I hope it never changes.

I won't sit here and pretend that things are always tickety-boo with Matt and I - that would be grossly dishonest of me. We've had our issues (some minor, some major) that we've had to work through over the years. We've survived because we never lost the desire to be together. It isn't the fresh, new feeling we had over 11 years ago, but we have something that can last the rest of our lives - as long as we never stop trying.

I truly believe that most relationships do not have "irreconcilable differences"; it's usually more of an unwillingness from one or both parties to compromise, work together and/or change for the good of everyone. Relationships in which one half always compromises are no healthier (and possibly less so) than a relationship in which both parties refuse to compromise.

One of my all-time favourite movies is The Story of Us, a story that, in my opinion, is as realistic as they come from Hollywood. At one point in the movie, the two main characters who are newly separated are each talking to their best friends (who happen to be married to each other) about the problems they're having in their marriage; one friend says "people change", the other says "people never change". Personally, I think they're both right.

My core self hasn't ever changed, but how I react to various events can and does change. We all evolve as we mature; it's an inevitable part of life as circumstances shape our views and colour our responses. I have made a conscious effort to change things that bother Matt, just as he has changed things that bother me.

I have come to believe that "love" is a verb; it is a choice and is based on actions, not feelings. That's why it's hard work to keep a relationship together, because we're all in love with the feeling of being in love and when it fades, the assumption is that the love is gone. I choose here and now to love Matt today and everyday that we're together.

Happy Anniversary, Matt!
All my love,
Karen

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