For those of you who don’t know, I have been blessed to call Ashley my best friend for over 12 years. In fact, up until I got married last summer, we also called ourselves roommates; setting records at 11 years of living together. Yes, you read that correctly. I lived with the same girl, and a few other combinations of friends, for over a decade and we lived to tell about it. And we still like each other!
I’m fairly certain that at various moments throughout the years, those closest to us questioned if we were MORE than just a couple of best friends who liked living together. Maybe it was the 10-year anniversary trip we took to Thailand that raised eyebrows?! And I’m pretty sure that if it hadn’t been for the boyfriends that popped in and out over the years, there would have been a coming-out intervention by one of our families that would have ended in complete and utter awkwardness.
In fact, it was those well-founded fears of being misunderstood that kept us from filing for a common-law marriage, something we could easily have qualified for by year seven. So rather than enjoying shared tax and healthcare benefits, we roughed it for a couple more years in hopes of finding some guys to put up with us. Plus, on top of the mounds of paperwork that the process required, we thought that it would be difficult to explain if and when we found men that we actually wanted to marry…
Probably a valid concern!
Regardless of whether or not we made it “official”, for many years, and in many ways, Ashley and I lived life in a balanced, symbiotic partnership that made it very difficult to justify allowing anyone else (read: men) really into the equation. While we both dated along the way, until we met Dan and Mark (also known as the guys who actually made the cut), everyone else seemed to fall short.
So while it’s still hard to believe we both found permanent life partners that bring the full package (pun intended) to the table, I will always cherish the amazing season of life I shared with one of the best people around. I will say that living life alongside someone so closely taught me a lot about what it means to be a good partner.
So in honor of Ashley making her marriage “official” this past weekend with her new other half and roommate, Mark, I thought I would share a few of the things that our relationship taught me about making the plunge into marriage.
Hopefully, this will help her realize that she’s already got this marriage thing in the bag!
#1 Sharing values is the key to everything!
At the end of the day, it all comes back to what you believe in. Ashley and I always worked because we were raised in families that shared the fundamentals. So when our friendship started, it was easy to grow close because we agreed on all the “big” things; you know the things they tell you never to talk about at dinner parties: family, politics, and religion. And as we grew up, and grew into our faiths as adults, we were lucky that we did so in stride with one another. Our values and faith in Christ helped shape a lot of our decisions: from how to spend our money, who to date, and how to spend our time. And that stuff matters when you’re living together! Thankfully, we have both found partners in marriage that make sharing this value system thing easy too. A marriage without faith would be an uphill battle!
#2 You don’t always have to like each other to love each other well.
Believe me, there have been plenty of seasons over the course of a dozen years when Ashley and I haven’t liked each other, or haven’t liked something that one of us has done. And if my 14 months of marriage has taught me anything, there will be times when you don’t like something about your spouse either! But the thing that Ashley and I never lost was our love for each other. As annoyed as I would get when I found another one of her dried wads of hair on the shower wall, I never let that change how I felt about her as a person. And if anyone would ever make a negative comment about how gross her hygiene was in my presence, you better believe I’d have her back! I’m fairly certain this never happened though since we always cleaned the bathroom before company came over. I’ll let her share her own examples of her gripes about me 🙂
#3 Having different roles in a relationship is a GOOD thing.
Ashley and I are VERY different people. Always have been. She is more introverted, more Type B, more creative, more free-spirited, more disciplined, more funny, and probably more adventurous. I am basically her opposite in all of those things. So it’s only natural that the two of us would fall into obvious life roles when we were roommates. I handled the bills and Ashley handled the Christmas decorations. I made the dinner reservations and she would come up with a great idea for a theme party! We respected each others’ strengths and always let the other person shine where they shone best. And Ashley always took out the trash because she knew of my crippling fear of the rats. City living at its finest….
So now that we are both married, it’s not surprising that both of our spouses are eerily similar to the other. I mean Mark made a PowerPoint presentation to help Ashley decide where they should honeymoon and Dan convinced me to travel through Europe for 4 months. So I think it’s good to have someone balance you out! Being in relationship with people that love and respect your strengths, and humbly counterbalance your weaknesses, is basically the best thing ever.
#4 If you can’t be 100% yourself and 100% accepted, MOVE ON!
Ashley and I both have our quirks. And what I always loved about our friendship was that it was full acceptance from the very beginning. Ashley didn’t bat an eye when I decided to self-pierce a couple of extra holes in my ears after we had gone rollerblading freshman year and I cheered her on when she decided to join the Wittenberg cheerleading squad; albeit in possession of questionable rhythm. And when we were in college, we may have started this fairly regular event we liked to call ‘Brittany Spears Dance Parties’ in our dorm room where we completely personified the stereotypical sorority girls dancing around in our underwear. Fast forward to adulthood, and Ashley and I still encourage each other to be totally and completely ourselves; in whatever form that takes. Be it adult art classes, or a new hobby of CrossFit, or taking on new career challenges; this friendship has always been one where we allow ourselves to be ourselves 100% of the time.
And what has translated into marriage is that I see Mark and Dan doing the same thing with us. Marriage needs to be a safe place to feel loved, respected, and encouraged. My prayer is that both of our marriages will continue to be these safe places.
And for the record, this definitely includes full acceptance in both discussions and experiences of bodily functions. I mean, who wants to have a stomachache for 50 years?! Plus, if there’s one thing this pregnancy has taught me so far is that you BETTER be comfortable with your spouse in the bodily function department….am I right?!
#5 Laughter really is the best medicine!
There is probably not another person on the planet with whom I’ve laughed more with than Ashley. Dan and my family are probably close seconds, but given the sheer amount of time she and I spent together over the years probably merits her the trump card in this department. Plus, noone else has performed Ashley’s version of “Life is a Butterfly” quite like she did. #insidejoke
There are literally countless stories from the past 12 years that cause me to laugh when I think about them. When you really share your life with someone, and you maintain a good sense of humor along the way, it can’t get any better. Life can be really hard. And life can be really beautiful. But laughter definitely makes both of those better.
So Ash, cheers to you and Mark and the beautiful marriage you will make! From personal experience, I know that you are pretty rare find and an amazing partner in crime. Mark is lucky to have you from here on out; after all, you’re already a pro at this!
Love you LOTS!