Tintin and I go way back. I first met her online in 2003. We were both newlyweds and into blogging. Random blog visits turned into an 8-year friendship. We’ve seen each other evolve as wives and women for almost a decade now. We’ve learned from each other. I’m very happy to have you, dear readers, take a peek into Tintin’s, a.k.a. Pinayhekmi, own wifely steps. I’m certain you will learn a thing or two from her as well.
When Toni asked me to write about my wifely steps, I wasn’t sure if I was the best person to ask. I’m not really the traditional kind of wife. I don’t cook, I hate doing the laundry and leave piles of washed laundry unfolded for weeks on end…okay one time, as long as a month.
Anyway, I pick up after myself, and I expected my husband to pick up after himself. I don’t do any of the cutesy stuff that I would often hear other wives do. Cook their husband’s favorite dishes, lay out their clothes, make their lunch, and put together a plate for them at parties before putting together their own. Heck, what did I do? I asked myself, contemplating Toni’s request. I couldn’t even bring myself to change my last name. Yes, despite going by Kristene Hekmi all this time, I have never officially changed my name. Legal documents still bear the last name I was born with. I definitely have feminist leanings.
Did I do anything special? I wondered. While I do think I take my mothering duties seriously and with joy, how did my husband feel about my non-traditional “wifely steps”, to borrow Toni’s phrase? So I asked him.
He says that I am a trustworthy, loyal, loving wife. He says whenever he feels pressure at work, all he has to think about is that he made one good decision in marrying me, and that is enough for him to be in peace.
My husband’s work is to be a soldier in Iraq for the time being, so those words…I can’t even tell you how much they mean to me.
I’ve looked over our emails back and forth, our Skype messages, and reflected on our chats. There is no hour so tempting of reflection as the hour when I want him most to be near me, and he isn’t. I’ve thought long and hard about what makes us tick, why we get along so well, and how the distance have made all our previous little fights so utterly silly. And below are the key things I have learned on making a relationship work.
First, be friends. When people ask me who my best friend is, I don’t list a girl friend. I list my husband. He is the one whose company, and humor, I enjoy the most. Once the flames of love’s first passion dies down, the friendship is there to stoke the fire and keep the hearth warm. You don’t have to be best friends, but at least good friends. Someone you enjoy being with, because guess who you’re supposed to be spending the rest of your life with?
Laugh together. When I was younger, my aunt gave me advice on what to look for in a husband. She was a matter-of-fact woman, and her advice was for me to look for the 3 M’s: Mayaman, Matangkad, Magwapo! Translated from Tagalog, it means rich, tall, and handsome.
Our daughter is only four, but once the time comes to give her advice, one of the qualities I would ask her to look for in a future partner is a sense of humor. IT IS A MARRIAGE-SAVER. For those who never have any issues in their life, with no money problems, health problems, unwanted surprises or curveballs thrown their way. Whose life with their partner is a never-ending parade of tra la las and amazing sex, good for you, you lucky ducks, good for you. For the rest, who will have issues, pack some humor to get through most of them. From the small things like the energy-sapping, sleep-sucking first few months of parenthood with a newborn: a good poop joke can infuse some much needed life back into you. To the big things like worrying about ability to pay the bills: a well-timed crack about stripping as a backup plan can pull you from the depths of despair.
The humor keeps you laughing in solidarity. Somehow, when you laugh together, everything snaps back into something manageable. The challenges can’t beat you as a couple, because you have your reliable ammo to smash it into pieces. And when the challenge is each other? The humor is the instant tension-breaker. Plus, you’ve laughed just too damn much with the other person to really believe any problem is bigger than the two of you. It’s an ammo you can pull out for multiple scenarios, and you’re gonna need it.
Remember that love is an action verb. Oh romantic-comedies. How I love you. My first one was Pretty Woman, and I’ve enjoyed many more since. They always have a formula. Boy Meets Girl. There are issues. They seem to get past it, but a breaking point occurs that seems to irreparably damage the love -birds’ chances of being together forever. But somehow, in some magical way, they do finally realize just how much they love/can’t live without each other, and they’re shown living happily ever after. And it ends there.
This is what girls grow up watching and pining for. And what the movies never show, and what they may never realize is that a bunch of other s*it happens after that. A whole lifetime of s*it! And what they may never learn, maybe because there was never anyone to model it for them, no one to tell them, is that love is not just a romantic-comedy. Love is also an action verb that requires work. At one point in your marriage, you may need to re-learn to love your partner. That’s just part of being in a relationship.
You will have to work through finding time to be together when the kids come. Work through communicating. Work through disagreements. You will have to compromise and sacrifice. Work on complimenting each other more, work on yourself to be a better partner. It sounds like mind-numbing work, but it’s not. It just takes a little effort most of the time, and a lot of effort sometimes.
A lot of people feel that they work so hard at everything else, their marriage/relationship should be their sanctuary, and that it should be easy. In the beginning, it should totally be easy to fall in love with each other. But a long-term committed relationship doesn’t coast along on smooth, placid waters. There will be waves, and sometimes a storm will come and try to knock that sanctuary upside-down. You’ve got to work to navigate those waves, and to right yourself again after a storm.
So what do we have so far? We’ve got a sanctuary riding rough waters, with hopefully a warm fire going, and a couple with or without kids laughing inside.
There are other things of course, and they are Love (the noun this time), Respect and Trust. This is a given. This is a must. This is what everyone starts with. But to get from point A. the beginning of your relationship to point B. (cheese alert) eternity, the three tenets I described above is what has kept my husband and I going.
Now excuse me while I ignore a few piles of laundry.