On October 13th, Susanne and I will celebrate our 5th anniversary, an event that has given me cause to reflect on my marriage and on the nature of partnership. Susanne and I try to be very honest that ours is not a perfect marriage, that we struggle and have conflict, and that we work really damn hard at our relationship. To be honest, we’ve had a couple of really rough years with a lot of hurt feelings, but we both wanted this relationship to work so bad that we put all our efforts into realizing our dreams. Now, I can say that, while not every day is perfect, we are living that dream together. And even on the days when imperfect rears its head, we live into our dream together. All of these times, good and bad, have enlightened me about the nature of partnerships of both the romantic and dance variety. As a tribute to my wife, here is some of the wisdom and insight I have gleaned from my five years with this wonderful woman:
1) See the best in your partner, even when they are at their worst.When I first met Susanne, I was in a very raw place; not exactly at my best. For whatever reason, she saw something worth investing in, saw the best in me. I try to live up to that vision, to be the best self that I find reflected in her eyes. And in return, I offer her my eyes through which to view her best self. Even in our darkest moments, I have never doubted how amazing she is.
2) Lead by example; change yourself and invite your partner to join you. This was one of the hardest lessons for me to learn. It’s always easier to ask someone else to do the work, make the changes, be what you need them to be for you. It’s much harder to step up, do the work you need to do, make the changes you need for your own life, and invite your partner to join you. It’s a simple fact of like that in any relationship, there is only one party that you can change. But when you do make the changes to your own life, it creates a compelling vision for the other person to invest in.
3) You can’t undo the past, but make amends when you can.
Time only goes one way for us. And we all fall short, make mistakes, hurt the person we are supposed to be nurturing. It isn’t the mistakes that matter most, but our responses once we realize we have made them.
4) Partnerships aren’t always equal. Sometimes, you have to carry a heavier load. Sometimes your partner does.
Sometimes, Susanne would get bogged down at work, so I’d try to take on more of the housework load. Sometimes when my schedule has been packed, Susanne has stepped up to make my life easier. Our relationship is almost never 50-50, but it balances out in the end. We each have strengths and weaknesses, and we respect what each other brings to the table. I will never bake the bread, and only clean the fridge under extreme duress. She will never play the piano, and rarely ever has to clean the shower.
5) Always ask to dance.
Its easy to start taking each other for granted, to just expect the other person to be there whenever you need, to be a rock. It is great to have that level of safety and comfort to be able to lean on someone else. Sometimes, though, you have to wake up, recognize the beautiful, amazing partner you are blessed to spend each day with, and ask them to dance again. I frequently ask Susanne if she will marry me, despite being married for five years. I want her to know that I choose her over and over again, and that I want her to be my partner for this dance.
Susanne Randolph Sparks, thank you for five hard, wonderful, beautiful, painful, passionate years. The life we are building holds such promise, and there is no one else I want to share it with. And so, I ask you once more to this dance: Will you marry me?