Wil Wood, contributing writer 

 

 

Lauren and I met in our teen years and somehow she was attracted to me. I’ll play the “opposites attract” card here as she was the lead in the musical, the best ballerina, a 4.0 student, and she always smelled good. I was none of those things. I say this just to demonstrate that we were not a match made in heaven to the outside observer.

Our love blossomed early and easily. While we were dating, we would openly wonder what life would bring for us because we knew we were living in the “good old days.” Even being young and naïve we knew we were right. In ten short years, we went from full-time fully parent-sponsored frolicking to raising kids on a budget and running a business together on a shoestring. Dating was so fun, but now life was hard! The woman of my dreams who would keep me from drowning while I was kayaking and skateboard barefoot with me was now my business partner. What had happened!?

It’s easy to have fun with someone when you’re … well, having fun. It’s difficult to have fun with someone when you’re running a house, taking on debt, wiping butts, and managing tantrums. So what’s the key to love growing over time? For us it came down to open communication and listening without judgment.

My wife has taught this to me over and over again. I tend to entertain irrational thoughts and ideas and Lauren has learned to listen rather than tell me how dumb they are and why they won’t work. Lauren may also have shortcomings, but I can’t think of any right now. Maybe one thing that makes her different from me is that I want to have fun first then work later. Our priorities constantly clash, but somehow we have made it work, and it feels more like a dance than a debate.

Even though I profess to be the “never not have fun” guy, all through my 30’s ambition drove me to work hard professionally. I learned a lot about business, but I also became more cynical and judgmental. I saw my goals and dreams start to shift away from my family.

I have been so angry at myself and my wife before that I just wanted to throw it all into the wind. Upon reflection, I know exactly what that would yield: It would be like cutting down an old but mighty tree that yielded shade and beauty, then planting a new one, and wondering where the shade went. It takes years to grow a strong tree and a vibrant marriage. Years or decades into it things always look different than we thought they would have. Maybe the tree drops a different leaf that clogs your gutters. Maybe your spouse has a mental illness you didn’t know about when you signed up for the party.

Again, open communication and listening without judgment is what’s helped us return to happiness and even have fun through the doldrums of life.

Now, in my 41st year of life and almost 20 years of marriage, I’ve noticed that my cynicism, being judgmental, and ambition for achievement are all softening and I’m noticing a different version of the same feeling I felt as a child; like few things really matter.