I’m moving my blog to Wordpress! I’ll still be around on Tumblr, but I’ll only be updating My Marriage Plot on Wordpress. If you care to read more, you can find me there!
Dear 40-year-old me,
There are a few things I want you to remember about what it’s like to be in your twenties. I’ve met some adults over the past year or two (somehow I still don’t seem to count as an ”adult” myself) who seem to think that life as a 20-something is easy. And compared to the stresses of children and a mortgage, maybe it is. But I never what you to forget how you felt in March 2012.
1. At 24, you felt old.
I got married before my 24th birthday, something I never thought you’d do. While most 24-year-olds are still living with their parents or with other single roommates, I’ve settled into a comfortable, happy married life. I’m also on the verge of stepping off the edge of post-secondary education into the working world. I’ve started thinking about scary things like debt, chronic unemployment or underemployment, never being able to afford a house, never being able to afford kids, never having the time or resources to actually enjoy life. Two years ago, one of my neighbours scoffed at me when I used the phrase “when I was a kid.” I may be young compared to you, but I don’t feel like a kid anymore. Don’t underestimate the worries of a 24-year-old.
2. At 24, you took a few risks.
I don’t mean risks like bungee jumping or taking off to Europe for a year. I have never been a risk-taker in any sense of the word. I tend to dig myself into ruts and stay there for a while. But I know how to take risks when it counts. I’d only been 18 a week when I picked up my life in Winnipeg and moved over 3,000 kilometres to a small town in New Brunswick where I knew nobody. Best decision ever. Before my 22nd birthday, I moved from a town of 5,000 to the biggest city in Canada. I went from a tiny university to a huge one. Master of Arts program? Piece of cake. As a young adult, it seemed so easy. I don’t think it will feel so possible by age 40. Don’t get too stuck in comfortable ruts.
3. At 24, you were idealistic.
Not just in the sense that, despite my cynicism, I want to believe the best of the world in general. But in the sense that there are certain ideals that guide my life. Most of these ideals are inherently optimistic. Like the concept that there’s absolutely no reason for my marriage not to last a lifetime. Or the idea that there’s still an important place for religion in the world and in my life, and it’s worth defending. Or, despite my current fears, that I can find meaningful work that I’ll love. It’s easy to get bogged down in stress, worries and practicalities, but that stuff, while important, can distract you from the best parts of life. Don’t be practical all the time.
Most importantly, always try to remember what’s really important.
A perfect example of stuff you don’t need to know to plan an awesome wedding. There’s only so much space in your brain - why waste it on this stuff?
Guess what’s been happening in my marriage lately?
Well, not exactly nothing. To say “nothing” and leave it there would be doing a disservice to all the little things that make up a marriage. Things like cooking dinner together, doing the dishes, talking about our days and watching TV. At this point, nearly nine months into married life, these are the things that make up our everyday existence. I don’t take them for granted - some days it takes a great deal of effort to coexist as two mature, responsible adults - but most of the time, we make it happen.
Sometimes, something happens to change the dynamic of our collective life. Last week I was on reading week. I was home a lot more, so Andrew and I got to spend a bit more time together. It’s remarkable how much it changed the dynamic of our relationship for that week. Instead of us each arriving home kind of crabby at the end of a long day, we both felt more refreshed and happy. I was more refreshed because I got a week to relax and catch up on schoolwork, and Andrew was more refreshed because I was. We both use our relationship as a way to unwind, but it works even better when we see each other just a little more often.
Of course, sometimes tensions can run high and minor crises can creep up. With both of us counting down the weeks until we’re done school, it’s easy to get mired in our own headspace. And sometimes, when we can’t see past the ends of our own to-do lists, it’s far too easy to snap at each other. It happens. When two people living such intertwined lives are also trying to forge their separate ways through the world, a bit of conflict is inevitable.
Andrew and I don’t fight very often, and when we do, it’s usually about the stupidest things you can think of. But when arguments happen, I never worry about them too much. Ninety-five per cent of the time, we’re perfectly happy. So when stress gets the better of us and we find ourselves fighting, it’s usually pretty easy to shout a bit, let our frustrations out and then get back to where we really want to be. Our relationship is more than strong enough to withstand an occasional spat.
This dynamic in my marriage reminds me of something we’ve talked about in a few of my classes this year. Public relations is about building healthy long-term relationships. Just like a good marriage, this takes time and effort. Strong marriages need constant maintenance and occasional tune-ups. Likewise, organizations can’t assume their relationships with their customers are strong; they needto do something to make them strong.
If a crisis happens, having a strong foundation can make things easier. An organization that already communicates well with its customers may be able to resolve a crisis more quickly and effectively. Better still, customers who are loyal and engaged with an organization may be more supportive and willing to give it the benefit of the doubt, even defending it against criticism. Whatever the crisis, working to build strong relationships can only help.
I’m not saying that everything about public relations is just like marriage. But when PR pros are trying to engage with customers, I think it’s definitely worth remembering that building a healthy relationship, whether it’s between a husband and wife or a customer and organization, will always be worth the time and effort.
"Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance. If the dispositions of the parties are ever so well known to each other or ever so similar beforehand, it does not advance their felicity in the least. They always continue to grow sufficiently unlike afterwards to have their share of vexation; and it is better to know as little as possible of the defects of the person with whom you are to pass your life."
Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice (Charlotte Lucas)