Thoughts On My 25th Wedding Anniversary

“They look like somebody made them!” That’s what one of our wedding guests said on the day we married. She’d reiterated my exact sentiments ever since the first day we’d met—someone made him just for me.

From the very beginning, we’ve had best friend vibes. Whether we were bouncing a ball around outside of his apartment or lying in the grass on campus, while staring at the clouds, once we decided we were a couple, we pretty much did everything together.

I did that thing that a lot of people do—ignored whoever was a friend at the time and poured all my attention and energy into this new relationship. We created a bubble and constantly prioritized one another.

One time, when his friends were over having drinks, one of them kept asking me to grab him another beer.

“Aye! My babe is not the maid,” he replied, while gently stopping me from leaving the couch.

He saw me as important, and in that moment, decided I wouldn’t be treated any type of way.

I felt secure.

When he graduated, leaving me to finish two years of college and creating a 140-mile long-distance relationship, we remained committed to one another. We spoke on the phone every night, until our voices turned to snores. Friday nights, he arrived on campus as soon as he finished with work; Monday mornings he arrived back home just in time to clock in.  

We. were. in. love.

The three years prior to our marriage, we spent a lot of time talking. We still do. Whether it’s the big stuff, like abortion, religion, and politics, or concepts, like veganism and over-population, there’s nothing you can ask either of us that we won’t know how to answer for the other person.

By the time Dwight asked me to marry him November 1995, I already knew I’d say, “yes.” We’d talked about it. But I still cried. The whole ordeal seemed surreal. Even when we married the following year, I floated above our heads and watched myself utter those famous two words, and ride in a horse and carriage, and eat chocolate cake, and do the hustle, and…and…and. Even for my extroverted, partying self, our wedding was very performative, and I had a nagging sense it was unnecessary.

All I ever wanted was to be with Dwight, lying in the grass, looking at the clouds.

“Are you okay?” my father asked as he drove us to the airport for our honeymoon.

I always wondered if he saw the dream state in my eyes, the awe that any of this was happening.

“I’m fine,” I said.

Life buzzed by and we met the expectations of a husband and wife:

✅ 2 kids

✅ house

✅ dog

✅ bills

And the couple who used to walk in the rain, hand-in-hand, just because ceased to exist. Handwritten love notes attached to roses dissipated. Instead, we were replaced with society’s version of love and marriage. The world calls it “growing up,” but I call it a factory-model rendition of love.

I’ve been thinking about this for a long time, and I want to be clear. You can be in a committed relationship and never marry. You can marry and never have children. You can have children, be in a committed relationship, and never marry. I’ll stop here.

On our 25th wedding anniversary, I finally realized we could’ve done this love thing however we wanted. We can do this love thing however we want. Whether it’s walking in the Cloud Forest in Costa Rica or biking on a trail at the beach, I hope we’ll spend the next twenty-five years making up ways to be in love…in whatever way best suits us.



Monday Notes: 3 Ways Unresolved Trauma Showed Up In My 25-Year Marriage

Dwight and I met in 1993, four years after my mother died and three years after my father agreed to give up his parental rights. We married three years later. I’ve spent the last seven years deconstructing how these events (and others) impacted how I’ve functioned in relationship. Now, I’m ready to share some of it with you.

#1: I married out of fear. When I married Dwight, I legitimately believed no one else in the world was going to love me. NO ONE! Given my history of abandonment by all primary caregivers (i.e., biological and adoptive parents), this is not strange. I had a sense that if my parents couldn’t even stick around, then why would anyone else? I (unconsciously) thought that if this man, who I perceived as perfect, wanted to marry me, then I’d better say yes and speed to my “happily ever after.” This isn’t to say I didn’t love him. It’s just that I had a feeling that this was my last chance ever at being loved. I entered our marriage as a scared little girl, and I maintained that fear for at least eighteen years.

#2: I thought being married could replace the love I should’ve had for myself. My husband once said, “I love you more than you love yourself.” That’s deep. I didn’t even know what he was talking about. It sounded ridiculous. But he was right. My self-worth was so low that I (unconsciously) thought marrying him would solve my abandonment issues. I thought marriage could save me from that bottom-of-the-barrel feeling. Life doesn’t work that way, though. If you feel sad and dejected, once you get married, then you’ll just feel sad and dejected with a partner alongside you. And even though misery loves company, the company doesn’t love misery, especially when he didn’t ask for it. The only way to improve self-worth is to acknowledge your importance sans external validation. Worth doesn’t have to be earned. Self-worth is a birthright.

#3: I thought being married meant melding identities. I wrote about this here, but it’s worth reiterating. When Dwight and I were first in relationship, I was already dealing with the common identity issues associated with being an adoptee. I’d dissolved this already shaky sense of self and replaced it with his likes and desires. I thought I had to be someone else to maintain my husband’s love. This is unhealthy. It’s important for two people to have a clear sense of who they are and what they like prior to becoming a union. And afterwards, it’s just as important to maintain separate identities. At this point, I remind people that my husband and I are not Bobbsey twins; we do not do everything together. If you see me out and about by myself, it’s because that’s what I preferred at the time. Our separate actions have nothing to do with the love we share or the years we have.

There is a difference between how my personal issues affected our marriage and how much I love Dwight. One has nothing to do with the other. When we first met, there was an undeniable sense that we were supposed to be together. We both felt and still feel it; it’s kind of like a magnetic pull. It’s just that when you don’t resolve trauma prior to marrying, then you end up resolving it while you’re married. It’s not an impossible feat, but there will be negative consequences for one or both people.

Seek therapy. Get to know yourself. Then, commit. In an ideal world, that’s how healthy relationships would be created and maintained. But I also know we’re far from living in an idyllic society. And if we each waited for perfect wholeness in ourselves or another being, we’d probably remain by ourselves forever. Sounds contradictory, right? It is. Ultimately, I’d advise new couples to do their best to be healthy versions of themselves, while holding space for the one another to grow. That’s what we ended up doing, and we’ve been married for twenty-five years.



Post-script: I’ve got 3 more ways, but I gotta leave material for the memoir 💁🏽‍♀️

The Greatest Thing about Being Married…

…is being with your best friend for the rest of your life, assuming that you’ve married your best friend, which I highly recommend.

If your spouse is not your best friend, then I’d suggest you and s/he at least be friends.

Here’s why:

You probably wanna be married to a person with whom you’d like to actually be around for long periods of time, and with whom you’d like to do activities. For Dwight and me it’s important because we enjoy traveling.

img_7647Our adventures together began twenty-two years ago when his parents paid for our honeymoon to Puerto Vallarta. We saw an ocean for the first time ever! We snorkeled. We partied. We rode motor scooters through the tiny streets where I thought I was going to face plant onto the cobble-stoned roads and die. To this day that memory makes him chuckle. Those were good times and there’s no one else I’d rather have done it with than my husband.

Since then, he’s chaperoned a study abroad trip with a group of high school students and me. Aside from keeping track of everyone, we ate really bad fish and chips, saw the Globe Theater, and visited the British Museum.

vegas2We’ve flown to Vegas four times and each time I’ve wondered how this trip could be any different than the last. Well, each one has been. Every trip has been at a different stage in our relationship, with different people, and for a variety of reasons. Sin City never disappoints, but quite honestly, neither does our affection for staying up all night, gambling, strolling up and down the Strip, and eating fine cuisine.

japan2

For some couples, travelling stops once they begin a family. But not for us. In fact, the girls have joined us on a few trips. Years ago, when they were little, they went on their first real flight across the country to Seattle. We saw the first Starbucks, visited the aquarium, and watched fish fly through the air at Pike Place. By the time they were rolling their pre-teen eyes at everyone, they’d eaten authentic Philly Cheesesteaks in Philly and visited the Liberty Bell. And although it was a bit expensive, I insisted they come with us on our sixteen-hour flight to Japan. I wanted them to know the rest of the world existed before they left our little bubble.

I could continue recounting years of vacays, but the point is, there’s no one else I’d rather see another part of the planet with than my hubby.

Happy Anniversary Dwight! Here’s to twenty-two more years of sightseeing.

3 Things I’ve Learned being Married to Dwight for 20 Years

img_1814You guys, as of today, I’ve been married for twenty years! I don’t care what anyone says. Twenty years is a long time to do anything. But quite honestly, I’ve always said, I married the absolute right person for me. I couldn’t imagine being married to anyone else for two decades. One reason is because he’s taught me so much about living life. Here are my top three:

Leave the door open. I’ve written before about how I used to leave people alone when I felt rejected; however, Dwight has always suggested that I “leave the door open.” According to him, people might not get along with you today, but tomorrow it might be a totally different situation. The thing is, you never know unless you leave the door open for that opportunity. So whereas, I used to close the door, lock the door, and dare you to even knock, Dwight has always realized it’s a new day with new experiences. It’s challenging, but we can all do this.

Allow people to be themselves. This is not a new concept, but I’ve never met someone who allows others to be themselves as much as Dwight does. Sometimes it comes across as not caring, but it’s really not. It’s him allowing you to be yourself, no matter what. At first, this seemed odd to my little controlling self. But over time, I came to understand that allowing people to be themselves is the most loving thing you can do. Dwight believes that every person has his or her own journey and makes specific choices to walk that path. Consequently, who is he or anyone else to intervene or try to change that journey?

Be yourself. Anyone who has met my husband will agree that he is himself all the time. Whether he’s out partying, at dinner, at your house, or at our home, it doesn’t matter. You’re going to get the same Dwight Garland Jr. in each moment. If people are around him going nutz, he’s sitting there calm or deciding if he’s going to leave. He doesn’t conform his personality to the situation, but rather maintains himself in the situation. In 2016, it’s cliché to shout “be yourself”; however, I’ve had the privilege of watching someone do this unapologetically for decades. And finally, I can say that my private and public self match 100%, no matter the company I keep.

Me_n_DI believe that you can learn from any relationship, whether it lasts 20 years, 2 years, or 2 days. I’m so grateful for my two decades of marriage, not because it’s a societal milestone, but because it’s made me a better version of myself.

Have you learned anything from your relationships? Please share. You know I want to hear all about it.