My husband and I celebrated nine years of marriage on Wednesday. My in-laws were here visiting from Ohio, and they let us go away for a night. The two of us. Alone!
We drove up to our favorite little city of Marquette on the shores of Lake Superior. Marquette is the charming-est town. It has sandy, agate-spotted beaches and rugged granite cliffs, trails galore, whimsical gift shops and stunning galleries of art inspired by Michigan’s natural surroundings.
We checked into our hotel downtown, and moseyed toward the lake, debating the most important question of any Marquette trip: Where should we EAT? Marquette offers the widest variety of locally-sourced gourmet dining choices for hundreds of miles (including three great newbies: The Marq, Steinhaus and Sol Azteca). We chose the latter, and enjoyed a moan-inducing lunch of smoky Pollo Margarita on this breezy patio overlooking the Lower Harbor.
If you’re into the craft beer scene, you probably know that Michigan LOVES beer. The state is home to well over a hundred microbreweries, three of which are in the city of Marquette: The Vierling, Black Rocks Brewery, and The Ore Dock Brewing Company.
We popped into the nearby Ore Dock after lunch, passing a cart of board games and a popcorn machine on our way in.
We chatted about IPAs with the bartender, a young guy from San Diego who relocated to Marquette with his wife in pursuit of growing their photography business. We agreed that there’s something magical about the city that keeps folks there through the long, dark winters. I told him about my dad moving from Detroit to Marquette in 1968 when he enrolled in Northern Michigan University and declared Upper Michigan his forever home. When we were kids, we visited Marquette often, listening to Dad’s stories about the college and the people, while falling in love with the town ourselves. Years later, my siblings and I all received our Bachelor’s degrees from NMU (I completed my MA there too) and now have our own Marquette stories to tell.
There are a million more wonderful things I love about Marquette (Black Rocks! The Superior Dome! Thill’s Fish House! Ore boats!), but I am by no means a travel writer, so I’m just going to highlight one more:
We only have THAT OTHER PLACE where I live, so a Target trip is a big, cheap thrill for me. (Okay, maybe it’s not cheap, but it is thrilling, especially when you get to RETURN the last box of diapers you ever purchased because after 6.5 years of diapers, your kids are wearing UNDERWEEEEEAAAAAAR! Sing that last syllable with me, won’t you please?)
Target was our first stop on our way into town, but it was just one of many thrills on the eve of my anniversary, including the time spent in the parking lot ogling and fondling a gorgeous new RED…
CARD. After nine years, he let me get a Red Card. (I wish that sentence ended with CAMARO too, but that belongs to my father. Thanks for the loan, Dad 😉 )
So the nine-years-married mark may not be a biggie milestone for most, but it is for us because we have had a trying year, a year of tragedies and direction-changes and major revisions.
Chad and I have botched some things during our first decade of togetherness, but there are a few things we’ve learned to do right that keep us chugging along day after day, and I’d love to share them with you in honor of our anniversary.
Number one is number one for a reason. It’s the most important and the most neglected.
1) MAKE TIME.
It doesn’t have to be special or extravagant.
It can be playing cards under the string lights on the front porch after the kids go to bed, or skipping the gym once in a while to stay home and drink liters of coffee together. One of our favorite things to do is quiet the kids with special car snacks and drive around looking at dream houses on lakes and rivers. We’ve managed some actual conversations this way, even with three young boys in the car. Figuring out ways to talk to one another is pretty crucial.
If and when you DO arrange a special getaway, don’t overload the schedule. Relax. Enjoy. Want to know what we ACTUALLY did on our romantic getaway to Marquette?
We ate a late dinner (which means after 5:30, for us) at The Portside Inn, and took our time chewing food and sipping drinks. We debated going out somewhere for fun night-life, but we had been up since 5 am with the kiddos and we were fading, so we strolled back to our hotel room, ate KETTLE CHIPS (which we don’t buy) in the JACUZZI TUB (which we don’t have) while watching Alaskan Bush People on CABLE TV (which we don’t watch). Then, for a touch of added romance, we each took a Myers-Briggs Personality Test before bed, and discussed the results. (INFP, if you were wondering. No surprise there.)
You guys, it was freakin’ FABULOUS!!!! We ate, drank, and DID whatever we wanted! The next day, we did it again. We were gone for a total of 24 hours, but came home revived and reconnected.
Friends, lean in for this. You too can eat chips in the bathtub with Alaskan Bush People. But you’ve gotta make time. Clear an hour – clear a day or a week for your honey, and make it happen.
2) FIGHT KINDLY.
My friend Kristen and I were recently discussing relationships, and she caught me off-guard with a compliment: You and Chad interact with so much respect.
We do? My gosh. We do!
Now listen, I am a spunky girl. I am silly, sassy, and sarcastic. But one “rule” we established early on in is that when we argue, pointing out undesirable behaviors is allowed, but CHARACTER JABS are not.
For example, it’s cool for me to say, “I would love if you’d pick up that fork instead of stepping over it,” but it’s not cool to say, “Could you stop being so lazy and grab that fork?”
LAZY is a character jab.
It’s fine for Chad to say, “It would be great if you would be flexible with our vacation schedule,” instead of “Can you quit being so controlling with our time?”
CONTROLLING is a character jab.
Asking someone to improve behavior is a positive thing. Name-calling or generalizing is negative and hurtful. When we ban character jabs from our relationship, we feel supported in improving ourselves and one another.
3) BE HONEST.
The majority of relationship problems I’ve ever had could have been avoided (or quickly resolved) if both parties were honest from the get-go. This one doesn’t need a whole lot of explanation, does it? Speak the truth in a loving way, and then zip it and give your spouse the opportunity to speak his or hers.
Loosen up and laugh together. Endorphins, breathing, smiling, all that — it feels good. We indulge often.
That’s all of them! The four things we are doing right up here in Michigan. When Chad and I married only seven months after meeting (on the INTERNET!), one Negative Nelly said we wouldn’t make it to October. Well, Nelly (I forgive you – let’s do number #4 together now, shall we? 😉 ), we’ve seen nine Octobers, and are booked for a few decades more, so I’m thinking four-things-right may be just enough.
How does the list look for you, my friends? What are your four? What tips will help see us through to NEXT October?
Talk to me!
If you enjoyed this post, read more personal essay here.
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