Marriage: It’s Yours to Define

Guest Post on Mommy Miracles

Writing Vows

This is my first blog post I have ever written and published, and I am thrilled that I get to write about my marriage to my loving husband Bryn (pronounced “Brian”). When we first met in 2011, I was denying who I truly was and I was very much afraid of what the people in my life that I loved would think of me if I came out of the closet and if they would remain in my life. Bryn was there for me at every step in the coming out process and helped me realize that I had to do what was best for me and my own personal happiness, no one else’s. When I finally came to terms with my sexuality and I had to break up with my then girlfriend of 7 years, Bryn was there to provide me with the support I needed. When I finally worked up the courage to tell my parents, he was there to comfort me and provide much needed encouragement when their initial response was less than supportive. Fewer than 6 months after meeting Bryn and going through the most drastic changes of my life with him by my side every step of the way, I knew that I wanted him to be by my side for the rest of life. He felt the same way, and on August 11, 2011 we proposed to each other under a large tree overlooking a pond in the middle of Central Park in New York City.

Writing Vows | Marriage: It's Yours To Define | Anthony Jones-Vaillancourt

With two years between the proposal and the wedding, we spent that time becoming even closer and further strengthening our relationship. My parents and extended family started coming around and accepting me for who I was and recognizing my relationship with Bryn. We adopted two cats, Ryerson from the SPCA and Quinton from a local rescue group. In the spring of 2012, Bryn decided he wanted to try to make a big difference in the community we were living in and ran for election in the Halifax Regional Municipality Council Election to represent Dartmouth Centre. The strain that an election campaign can put on a relationship, especially a relatively new one like ours, is intense. Adding to that stress, I lost my job with the federal government after 3 years due to cutbacks in the middle of his campaign. It was tough, but I supported Bryn and encouraged him to finish what he started. Giving up at that point was not an option. Bryn didn’t win the election, but he gained valuable experiences and we proved our relationship was strong. So strong in fact, we decided to begin the process of becoming fathers and applied to the Nova Scotia Department of Community Services to begin the long adoption approval process.

Writing Vows | Marriage: It's Yours To Define | Anthony Jones-Vaillancourt

Exactly two years after our proposals on August 11, 2013, Bryn and I were married. We did everything our own way and never let tradition dictate how our wedding day would be planned. The venue for the ceremony and reception was a marina. We arrived together in our own vehicle. Holding hands, we walked down the aisle together. We had our favourite quotes and literature about love and relationships read during our ceremony. We each wrote our own vows and promised each other that the only ones who would define our marriage and our relationship are us, no one else.

Writing Vows | Marriage: It's Yours To Define | Anthony Jones-Vaillancourt

This is why I absolutely love my marriage, because only we define our marriage. My husband and I have the freedom to rewrite the rules of what a marriage should look like. We don’t have to mold our relationship to what society says it should be. We have given ourselves the freedom to change the rules as we go, as we see fit for our relationship and our family. From household chores, to making important decisions, to the boundaries we apply to our relationship. I believe that a lot of this freedom is possible because of the absence of the traditional gender roles and gender norms normally imposed by society and our personal experiences growing up.

Growing up, I had always viewed marriage as a rigid structure with pre-defined roles with vast amounts of restrictions. Through my experiences as a child, I saw marriage as something that brought a man and a woman together under one house to be parents to their children. The man worked, the woman stayed home. If something around the house needed to be fixed, that was his responsibility. The daily household chores and cooking were her responsibility. She was the emotional one, he was the disciplinarian. I felt this way because that was the kind of marital structure I was exposed to as a child through my own parent’s, through friend’s parents, and through what was portrayed in media. Everywhere I looked, society told me this was how it was with little exception. Looking back on it now, it’s no wonder I was in the closet until I was 23 and close to asking a woman to marry me. That’s what I felt was expected of me.

Being in a relationship with someone who is the same sex means we have little choice but to discuss and talk about everything that comes up in our relationship. There are no default answers to be assumed by either of us. There are no preconceived gender roles for either of us to fill. Because of this, we are able to adapt very quickly when we are faced with challenges or changes. For example, after living together for almost 4 years, we know which household chores we each like doing, and which ones we don’t. We each do the jobs we like, and take turns doing the jobs we both don’t like. Although we have our preferences for certain tasks around the house, neither of us solely own those chores. There is never a time either of us would say to the other “I can’t do that, that’s your job.” When something needs to be done, we are flexible enough to say to each other “I got it” when needed.

I believe the unconditional support we give each other, and the flexibility we give our relationship will result in a long, happy marriage for the both of us. If I had to give someone advice about how to best ensure a relationship remains strong over time, I would offer this:

Marriage: It's Yours To Define | Anthony Jones-Vaillancourt

Writing Vows | Marriage: It's Yours To Define | Anthony Jones-Vaillancourt

Writing Vows

 

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Fight Nice

Guest Post on Mommy Miracles

Writing Vows

I don’t remember what the fight was about.

My husband was working from home, and I was taking a much-needed break from housework, kids’ schedules, and being overwhelmed from a combination of his frequent absences for work and our busy lives. He was home after a stint of being away, and the transition period of coming together afterwards is always hard. I was quietly reading and eating a snack in the kitchen, and he came in and said something.

Or nothing. Sometimes that’s worse.

In a flash, I went from nibbling on cookies to spewing venomous words that, combined with the crumbs, made for a dramatic scene. It all went downhill so fast, neither one of us had time to make sense of the events. I didn’t care. I didn’t care that I looked ridiculous, didn’t care that the taste of tears mingled with the sugar and disgusted me, didn’t care that I must have looked like a big terrible baby throwing a very messy tantrum.

I was mad.

I whipped a cookie across the kitchen so hard that I felt a twinge of pain in my elbow, and watched with fleeting satisfaction as it hit the cupboard and broke into a million pieces, just like my resolve, my patience, and my sanity right then.

I would not clean it up until much later. I left it litter the floor and counter. My feelings were those cookie fragments: destroyed, messing up the house, ruining the mood and the rest of the day.

My parents recall through laughter a fight they had when they were younger and my mother was pregnant as she emptied the dishwasher right onto the floor, breaking all of their dishes. It wasn’t as funny then, probably. I knew ours was a similar, silly fight, one that I hoped I might look on later and laugh about – the ridiculous of it all, me eating cookies, then spitting them, then throwing them against the wall – but right then all I wanted was to run out the front door and never return.

It was all about the theatrics in that moment, and my loud, stubborn arrogance clashed against his quiet, resolute pride in a battle that both of us would lose.

We are products of our respective families. Mine is a yelling family, screaming our feelings, demanding attention. His is not so outspoken. I needed to let it out, cry it out, talk it out, and yell it out so that I could get on with my business – he needed to go away silently and process our conflict. For hours, days, possibly weeks.

That fight was some years ago, and one of that magnitude hasn’t happened again. We each took what we needed to learn from it, and it didn’t ruin our relationship, and we moved on from whatever offense occurred then. Thankfully we haven’t had to revisit the cookie fight, except in the telling of the story. Over the years in our marriage we learned what works for us individually, tweaking our reactions to conflicts to allow compromise, patience, understanding, and where applicable, apology. We still argue, but not quite as memorably, and not nearly as spectacularly.

Writing Vows | Fight Nice | Andrea Mowery

“Fight nice,” parents lovingly admonish children when things get out of hand between siblings and friends. Fighting nice means that nobody gets hurt, that a conflict resolves itself without injury. It’s hard to get to that point – pride and the protection of our own feelings take precedence over seeing another point of view. My feelings have been hurt so badly that at times I considered a slap across the face, the quick-healing sting of physical injury, to be preferable to an emotional pummeling. Further, a relationship suffers in a time of conflict, which is isolating for both parties. Who is this person? Why is he acting like this? He is hurting me. I don’t like him right now. Can we survive this?

Despite the volatility that results from differing opinions, broken feelings, ugly pride, and score-keeping, over the years my husband and I have managed to learn how to fight nice. Sometimes I think that age tempers our tantrums – neither of us has the energy or spark anymore to endure big blow-ups. We are older, wiser, and know each other better – we’ve learned which buttons to tap softly and which to avoid at all costs. We use nicer words and are kinder and gentler with each other. Then again, sometimes I think it’s an individual maturity despite age that precludes the fighting, the arguments, the rash and often harsh reactions. And sometimes, I’m just too tired to argue.

Where does love come in? Shouldn’t love banish all conflict? For us, no. Love is there, enduring the battle, getting tossed by the winds of dissent between us, being battered and bruised yet still existing, panting on the sidelines. It’s what keeps us together, ultimately, but it’s not a cure for our differences. Can I say that our love is stronger because of our fighting past? Maybe, but love can become stronger whether or not two people argue. More often than not I think love is the referee, keeping us honest and mindful of why we are here, whispering in our ears, “Hey, you two. You’ve given this a go. It’s time to wrap things up.”

Fight Nice Quote by Andrea Mowery

My husband and I have learned that it’s okay to back down, back up, and start over. To make allowances for wrongdoing, hurt feelings, and missed apologies. To stop keeping score (my toughest hurdle) and to start giving in (his).

I wish I could say that it’s easy, that there is a perfect formula and that we always act perfectly according to it so that conflict is minimal, forever and ever amen. But that would be a lie. We are human, and we make mistakes, and we do things that we know are wrong every single day. I can only speak for myself when I say that some days I don’t feel like doing my best in our marriage.

But I do trust with some sort of blind faith that just as we will continue to have differences, that as the years pass, we will continue to express them with more generosity than ever before. That we will continue to fight nicer.

Preferably without having to involve innocent cookies.

Writing Vows

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The Secret To Marriage

Guest Post on Mommy Miracles

When Laura asked me to write for her again, I was so flattered. I got my foster license this past fall and haven’t even written for myself in over 6 months. Isn’t funny the things you’ll drop everything for when a friend asks, but that you won’t do for yourself?


Writing Vows

Marriage. It’s a funny concept. When you’re young (for lots of people before their brain is fully developed), society says pick someone to love and commit to loving them every day for the rest of your life. Marriage is supposed to be this sacred part of life where there’s a safety net that says no matter what happens, you’ve got someone to count on.

I don’t see it that way, though. Not only was I raised as a child of divorce, my parents got divorced before I was one and both remarried by the time I was three. In my life, I’ve only ever known 4 parents. And while growing up, I saw divorce at school and on television. Marriage is sacred? No, it’s fallible. It’s as imperfect as anything else in this world.

Some people say, “I don’t believe in divorce” if somehow it were like the tooth fairy. Instead, divorce is like the theory of gravity; it’s real whether you believe in it or not. Unfortunately, the divorce rate is so high because of two reasons: people marry the wrong person or they bail too quickly. Quite often both, in fact. Actually, another issue is that people aren’t focused on their relationship, only what they can get from it. Marriage isn’t give and take. Marriage is give. I give my wife the world and she gives me the same.

The Secret to Marriage | Quote by Michael Lombardi

My wife and I are one of those couples everyone says will go the distance. We’ve been together 12 years, more than 8 of which have been as husband and wife. We don’t fight. We don’t yell. We don’t cuss. (Well, ok, I do cuss. A lot. But not at her.) And oh, don’t get me wrong, she frustrates the hell out of me sometimes. Likewise, I do the same to her. The way we see things and tackle problems is completely different, so we don’t always agree. But there is no nastiness; no name-calling; no intentional hurting.

You see, the secret to marriage is about how you act. You can’t control anything about your spouse, but you can control how you react. If you always treat your spouse with respect and in a way you would want to be treated, things go really well. Maybe someone reading this right now is in a crappy marriage because they married the wrong person. That doesn’t mean the marriage is doomed. What dooms the marriage is when people fight dirty. Fighting destroys marriages. Disagreement doesn’t. A civil discussion between spouses that doesn’t escalate isn’t fighting, it’s communicating. And if there’s one thing you must do in a marriage after respect each other, it’s communicate.

Can you read minds? Neither can I. Until you can read minds, assume your spouse can’t either. So you’re going to need to talk. If you can touch each other’s naughty bits, you can talk to one another. You know what sucks to talk about? Finances. You know what’s easy to talk about? The weather. If you need to talk to your spouse about finances but can’t, start small and work your way up.

There are deal-breakers in my marriage. I will not stand for certain things and divorce is the nuclear option. But the launch code hasn’t been issued and I foresee no need for it. We’re going to go the distance.

It’s amazing what you can accomplish with another person when you work together selflessly. For me, marriage isn’t difficult. It isn’t work. I get to hang out with my best friend all the time. Plus she occasionally lets me touch a boob… If I’m good… On the day of Harvest Moon… In the year of the Winter Olympic trials… If they’re being hosted in a country with a parliament. But bottom line is this:

If you want a good marriage, be a good spouse.

Writing Vows

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