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.

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Miss Sharlene from The Unhappy Wife book

unhappy-wifeMiss Sharlene was the 11th woman I’d interviewed. She invited me to sit in her living room and listen to her stories. For four hours, she described each and every marriage in detail. Here was a woman, old enough to be my own mother, outlining over 40 years of marriage to three different men: an adulterer, an alleged drug dealer and a drug addict. For much of our conversation, I sat with my mouth hanging open. The remainder included laughter and a lot of mmmhmmms.

Concept: With Miss Sharlene, I grappled with re-telling each marriage. Did readers need to hear about each man? Ultimately, I figured that’s what would make her story different. The book didn’t have the life experience of an older woman to demonstrate how one could fall in and out of love and continue to be unhappily married over and over again.

Like many of the women, Miss Sharlene sounded as if her husbands had done something to her. But surely, I thought, she must’ve learned something about herself with each of these unions. So, I asked her one question in order to prompt self-reflection. What advice would you give to younger women? That’s when Miss Sharlene provided me with lessons:

  1. You have to learn a person before you get married, but learning a person happens on a daily basis.
  2. Just cause you get pregnant from somebody does not make him your man or your husband. It makes him your baby’s dad.
  3. There’s no perfect person. We as women are not perfect. We have imperfections. But the thing is, we’re looking for perfection in a man. And that’s where we go wrong.
  4. We can’t be in a relationship when the person feels like we are his savior. You can’t save a person.

She actually gave me seven lessons. I wrote these verbatim in the book, but placed them at strategic points so that they seemed as if she had applied them to each of her marriages.

Commentary: At the time of our conversation, Miss Sharlene was two years newly wed to her fourth husband. I was shocked. Was she a hopeless romantic? Was it religion and the bible that kept her seeking marriage? Maybe it was her age? I didn’t ask her any of these questions because our interview was already lengthy.

But this came to mind. It’s easy to judge Miss Sharlene, or any woman for that matter. When we read about someone who’s been married 3-4 times, it seems obvious what the “issue” is, even when the men and relationships seem different. But none of our so-called challenges are ever apparent to ourselves. They can be though.

We have to be willing to look in the mirror and face what’s there. Change cannot happen without self-reflection. We have to be willing to admit our backgrounds have not only affected us in the past, but also shaped who we are in the present, including what types of relationships we attract. And ultimately, we have to take responsibility for the choices we make, whether conscious or subconscious. Otherwise, we’re doomed to be stuck in a cycle, same relationship, different man.

With that said, I included Miss Sharlene in the Detached Wife section because she seemed to be disconnected, not from her husbands, but from the reality of her self.

unhappy-wifeQuite a few readers have told me this story was their favorite. What did you think about Miss Sharlene?

Next month we’ll be discussing the last wife in this section, Pamela. Be sure to order your copy and catch up so you can join the conversation!

Side note: Many thanks to Mek over at 10000hoursleft.wordpress.com for the featured image.

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.