If life is like a box of chocolates, then marriage is a pizza pie. Every pie has the same basic ingredients, but you and your partner add distinct flavors and spices. I married later than most. In fact, I was single so long that on holidays my family stopped asking me when I was getting married. I was a happy bachelor. Although I shared a few live-in relationships and learned a thing or two about love from my partners, nothing prepared me for the commitment that comes with marriage. Maybe I’m old school because I could not ask for a woman’s hand in marriage until I was absolutely certain she was the only one for me. It’s been five years now and the time has flashed by like a blur. I’ve been up, down and all around in this short period of time and I’m glad I was lucky enough to wait for the right person to come into my life. And I was even luckier that she said yes.
I know everyone has a different experience in marriage. Some succeed and just as many fail. I also acknowledge that I am no expert, and much of what I include in this post may seem obvious to some. But here goes anyway. These are my lessons learned from five years of marriage, Guy’s Guy style.
1. Everyone is different. When you live with someone, over time you get a first hand perspective about their habits and how they roll. My wife has two masters’ degrees and is arguably the smartest person I know. So, at first I was surprised to learn that she loves to kick back and wallow in reality television and those hideous real estate fixer upper shows. And unfortunately, most of this drivel is on at the same time as my beloved Yankees and Knicks games. I usually skulk to my office and work on the computer. I never imagined such an intelligent person would consume this trash TV, but I’ve learned that this is simply her way to relax. Sigh. This is an example of how couples learn about and then deal with minor, but potentially annoying differences in lifestyles. Over time, I’ve adjusted my attitude and my routine, and once or twice I’ve even sat through “The Housewives of Beverly Hills”.
2. Change can be a good thing. To a certain extent, we are all creatures of habit. When you're single, you come and go as you please. You sleep in when you want to, watch movies until the earlier hours of the morning, and basically do whatever the hell you want to whenever you want to do it. And in a city like New York, that can be interesting, to say the least. After a few months of marriage though, you factor in how your behavioral quirks might affect your partner. So, over time, you realize that going out for a meal and drinks at 2AM is no longer such a great idea. You adjust your schedule to sync with your partner’s, and if you're a guy, it’s not a bad thing. Although I have always stayed in shape, my bachelor lifestyle was not the healthiest. Late night drinking and binging on bad food and falling asleep in front of the television were not conducive to a healthy lifestyle. Now I’m in the sack by midnight and I wake up in a good mood after a restful sleep next to my wife. And, she doesn’t even steal the covers.
3. Kids basically blow up your lifestyle. Holy shit. I had no idea that having a kid would create such a drastic change in my day-to day existence. Kids gobble up your time and continually up the ante. Just when you think you’ve got a routine set, they shift into a new phase of unpredictable behavior. And when they are young, you can never let them out of your sight. Man, that can be tiring. For a longtime bachelor, this has been a sea of change that I totally underestimated. Kids really do change everything. The good news is that you will never feel more unconditional love from another human than you do from your child. It’s a beautiful thing, and I had no idea.
4. Don’t take your partner for granted. Once you’ve been married for a year or so it’s easy to settle into a routine. Don’t do it, especially if you are a guy. Guys fall into patterns of comfort quickly and it’s easy to take what your partner does for you for granted. Big mistake, amigo. Big mistake. Marriage forces a lot of guys, myself included, to man up and stop being such selfish a-holes. I’m a work in progress, so as I evolve from a knuckle-dragging Neanderthal into a Guy's Guy, I at least make sure to tackle an increasing number of mundane tasks so my wife doesn't have to do them. When I was single, I could ignore most of this stuff for weeks, but now I am a table-clearing, dish swishing, vacuuming, garbage hauling, laundry loving, recycling, sheet changing, waste basket emptying, poop cleaning, diaper changing machine. I seek out and destroy every boring-ass menial job that comes along so I don’t leave them on my partner’s plate. It’s the least I can do for her.
5. Never stop dating. You know what I mean, and it’s easier said than done. When you’re married and have a kid, you’re pretty burned out by the end of the week. It’s hard to pull a real date together, and too often I find myself sprawled out on the couch next to my wife watching Bill Maher on Friday night instead of going out for dinner and cocktails. For now, since our little guy is a toddler and we are older parents, we regulate our “date time” to weekend lunches or earlier dinners with the little guy in tow. I guess that’s romantic in it’s own way, but I know I have to do more.
Those are just a few tidbits from what I’ve learned in five short years of marriage. I know I’m glad that I enjoyed my single life and I’m glad that I decided to wait. I also know that I need to keep improving, but at least I’m making progress.
This week’s Guy’s Guys of the Week are my parents, Serge and Carole Manni, who recently celebrated their sixty-fifth wedding anniversary (That’s a tough act to follow!). And of course, my lovely wife, Uni. God bless them.