My brother-in-law asked my husband and me for our best piece of marriage advice while we hung out together the last time we were all in the same town. I laughed. Out loud. It is truly comical to me that anyone would ask us for marriage advice. We have been married a little over nine years, many of them spent on opposite sides of the world.
Laughter aside, my response was, “keep showing up.” Perhaps between in sickness and in health and in joy and in sorrow we should say, “I promise to keep showing up.” I’ll show up when I don’t really want to. I’ll show up when I’ve been up all night with a sick child. I’ll show up for your promotion ceremony. I’ll show up in the morning with hot coffee and breakfast. I’ll show up when we had a really long and hurtful fight. I’ll show up when I don’t really like you. I’ll keep showing up. Period.
There have been many days in my marriage where I kept showing up, even when circumstances tried to divert me from the promises I made to my husband. Some days I chanted it in my head, like Dory in Finding Nemo, “Just keep showing up. Just keep showing up.” All those days of showing up have strung together the better part of a decade of marriage. And I do mean better. On the whole my husband and I have a good marriage. Most days we do like each other and we enjoy each other’s company.
What made the showing up better and worth it is the second piece of advice I would’ve shared with my brother-in-law had I not chuckled so much at his question. What I would’ve have said is be teachable. Being teachable made the showing up worth it-even on the hard days.
I’m the oldest sibling, a type-A personality. I’ve been called bossy more times than I can count, and I like things the way I like them. None of these traits bode well for a marriage that is a partnership. I like the coffee pot washed each night and set up to make a fresh pot at zero dark thirty. My husband can drink reheated, day-old coffee, out of a “seasoned” pot with no problem. I like to wake up to a gentle, softly ringing alarm. My husband needs an F-18 roaring next to his head to awaken him. I could care less if clean clothes sit in the laundry basket for days on end. He likes clothes folded as soon as they come out of the dryer. All of these little things have been teachable moments for us. We’ve learned what each one of us likes, and try for the betterment of the team, to bend on our preferences to show how we care for one another.
I’ve also learned that being teachable extends from a couples’ marriage to each partner’s family. Each partner was raised in a certain environment and those environments may not look one iota like the other. Teachable.
I went into marriage only knowing how my family did things-how we interacted with one another, how we showed up for one another, how we disagreed with one another. My husband’s family doesn’t do any of those things like my family does. It’s frustrating at times-see my above character traits, including, “I like things the way I like them”- that my husband and I approach interacting with family differently. Teachable.
Being teachable has allowed us to define and refine what we want for our family. The family we created by continuing to show up and learning from each other. Keep showing up. Be teachable. And laugh at yourself, especially when asked for advice!