13 surprisingly simple ideas about marriage

“I love being married. It’s so great to find that one special person you want to annoy for the rest of your life.” – Rita Rudner

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I always hated marriage seminars. Those events where an annoyingly happy and perfect couple tells you all the things you are doing wrong and how to fix it so you can become blissful and float along on clouds of happiness like they do.

Ok, I’m a bit cynical. But I always left those things feeling worse about myself, and frustrated because I knew I would never be able to live up to the standard they were presenting. It just wasn’t realistic.

I’ve been married over seventeen years now. I’ve learned some things, all of them pretty much the hard way. So I’ll save you the money and self-esteem hit of a marriage seminar and share with you some of the insights I’ve gleaned from the journey. It’s been a long and often difficult path, mostly because I’m a terribly selfish person a lot of the time. But it’s also been the most fulfilling road I’ve ever walked down. Marriage is an institution where you can be known for all of your ugliness and still get to be a part of something beautiful. No other institution can promise that. Not the workplace, not the education system, and, sadly, not even the church. Everywhere else we hide who we really are. In marriage, you can’t hide. That’s terrifying, but it’s also a key to living freely.

How do you get there? It’s a process, but here are 13 things I know…

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13 lists for 2013

I’m not superstitious, but I am a little stitious.” – Michael Scott, The Office

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Unlike Stevie Wonder, I’m not very superstitious.

I’m am a tad OCD, which can sometimes feel like the same thing.

But one thing I’ve always tried to avoid is the number thirteen. I don’t know why, but if I have the choice I usually stay away from it. Completely irrational and silly, I know. But I never leave the car or TV volume on 13, I make sure I put either twelve or fourteen gallons of gas in my car, and I always stop at a dozen peanut butter cups. I just try to stay away from it.

Then came January 1. And I can’t dodge it anymore. It’s the year 2013. And this past Sunday there were 2 thirteens in the date for the first time in almost 100 years, as will the case be eleven more times this year. It’s inescapable. This is the year of thirteen. Then I started thinking about how really silly it is to feel any number is taboo. My idol growing up was Miami Dolphins QB, Dan Marino. To this day, he’s still my favorite pro athlete of all time. His number? 13. My son plays a lot of basketball. He wears the number of his basketball hero, Steve Nash. I bet you can guess his number. So my two favorite athletes ever wear number thirteen. Maybe it’s time to not only stop avoiding it, but choose it, feature it, embrace it.

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The good night ritual

“And he wants to stay right here, make it last for a hundred more years.” – Francesca Battistelli

Saying good night to my daughter is a process.

A drawn-out, silly, and delightful process.

It begins with reading time.

Sometimes she picks the book, and sometimes I do. When she picks, it’s usually Diary of a Wimpy Kid or Rikki-Tikki-Tavi or Pookie and Tushka. When I pick, it’s usually SkippyJon Jones or Winnie-the-Pooh or The Velveteen Rabbit. We take turns reading, sometimes paragraph by paragraph and sometimes page by page. The words transporting us to other, wonderful worlds, on a yellow, pink, and purple flower-covered comforter that doubles as a magic carpet. Throughout the whole journey her little body remains tucked under my arm.

The next part of the process is “snuggle” time.

And reading time doesn’t count as snuggle time, in case you didn’t know. Don’t be ridiculous. The reason for this is because we’re not laying down, of course. These are the rules and I don’t question them, I just benefit from them. So I settle into my spot laying down next to her. My arm is around her and typically I’m directed to either run my hands through her hair (“I like it when you do that”) or scratch her back. It’s not long before she re-positions herself to face me, her face pressing into my neck. I used to worry that she wouldn’t be able to breathe like that, but the truth is I’m usually the one whose breath is taken away. It’s usually here that she nods off to sleep, right?

Nope.

This is when she starts trying to make me laugh.

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