My husband and I are celebrating 20 years of marriage, which seems kind of crazy. Crazy because I don’t feel old enough to be married for 20 years and crazy because when I first met Andy, I couldn’t stand him. Romantic, I know.
We went to the same college in Washington, DC, and while we had many mutual friends, he and I weren’t friends. After we graduated, we both stayed in DC. and I’d see him out on a few occasions. But it wasn’t until a couple of years after we graduated that we re-met at a Halloween party.
I admit that I didn’t want to attend that Halloween party, but my friends convinced me to go. Right when I walked in, I saw Andy. You could say I wasn’t too excited to see him because I remembered him from college and figured he hadn’t changed.
Of course, he was standing by the keg. “Ugh,” I thought. “I’m going to have to talk to him because I want a beer.” As he saw me approach, he took a red Solo cup and poured me one.
I thanked him and walked away.
At some point later that night, our paths crossed and we had a conversation. I have to admit: I was a bit intrigued, and I kind of liked him.
We ended up going out on a date later that week and the rest, as they say, is history.
Since that fateful party in DC all of those years ago, we quit our jobs, moved to Minneapolis despite extreme pushback from his parents, resisted the urge to keep driving west once we reached Minneapolis (we arrived toward the end of December), got jobs, got laid off, switched careers, got engaged, got married, bought a house, got a dog, had babies (two, to be exact), got another dog, changed jobs again, traveled a bunch, and a whole lot of other stuff, too.
It’s been a great 20 years that has luckily been filled with more laughter than tears, although that’s not to say that tears haven’t been shed because they have.
And in those 20 years, we’ve grown from young pups to middle-aged parents, and have learned a lot along the way.
As I reflect over the last 20 years, here are some of my favorite lessons from being with Andy.
1. Give people the benefit of the doubt — rather than running away when our paths crossed at that party, I decided to talk to Andy. As a result, he eventually became my husband (and a great one at that).
2. Compromise — our kids know that one of Andy’s favorite words is “compromise,” and it is such a good word. We tend to compromise if we can’t agree on something and for the most part, that compromise works out.
3. It’s OK to be stubborn — Andy’s a Taurus; I’m a Scorpio. Stubbornness is a characteristic of both astrological signs. Hence #2 above.
4. Separate interests do not mean different lives — there’s so much talk about “growing older and apart from one another” that it’s easy to get a little paranoid if you and your spouse pursue separate interests. But Andy and I realize that although we are both a part of a unit, we also are two individuals and that we aren’t clones of each other, thank goodness. That’s healthy.
5. Do the things you both enjoy together — we also realize that we love to be together, so we embrace the opportunity to do those things we enjoy with one another.
6. Dogs rule — we are both dog people, thankfully. Our first “child” was a dog, an amazing Airedale named Kaiser. He made us realize that we were ready for human babies. We are now on our second dog, Astro, who has been with us for seven years. Andy talks about one day getting a cat, or a pot-bellied pig. I say no to both; no compromise there.
7. Eat healthy & exercise — I had to throw this in because both Andy and I like to eat healthily and exercise. Doing both are habits for us, and as a result, for our kids.
8. Schedule date nights — some think that if you have to schedule date nights, there is something wrong with your relationship. Not true. Life is busy, and it’s busier if you have kids. We have learned the hard way that if we don’t carve out time for each other, we can go days or even weeks without really connecting. Not good so, we try to schedule time together. Sometimes we go out; other times we hang out at home. Either way, it’s great.
9. Not everything goes according to plan, and that’s OK — if you asked either of us 20 years ago if we thought we would be where we are today, I guarantee we would both say no. But that’s OK because I genuinely believe I am exactly where I am meant to be.
10. Appreciate each other — after 20 years, you might think we don’t express our gratitude for one another anymore, or even worse, that gratitude and appreciation has faded. Not true at all. I think we are both aware of what we do for each other and our family, and we express that to each other often.
11. Don’t be a dirty fighter — arguments happen. When they do, don’t be a dirty fighter. I admit, one of us was a dirty fighter when we first got together (hint: it was me). It was ugly and upon realizing just how ugly it was, I changed.
12. Communicate openly and honestly — this is straight out of “Healthy Relationships 101.”
13. Create an environment that fosters open and honest communication — see #11 above.
14. Accept your roles around the house — for example, Andy has placed his stake in the ground, or actually on the kitchen floor, on cooking dinner. That’s his thing and after some hedging on my part, I relented and gave in. I do the kids’ laundry.
15. Stay firm on those items you want to handle — folding the kids’ laundry is all me.
16. Celebrate the small stuff as well as the big — pretty self-explanatory.
To be sure, this is a big anniversary and deserves a big celebration. We will do that later this summer when we get away together, and then again the following winter when we take a bigger trip. And what are doing tonight? Life is incredibly busy right now, so tonight we will celebrate in a manner that is quite fitting for us: together at home with our kids.
Happy Anniversary, Andy!