Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Prefrontal Cortex what?

So today is my and Brent's twenty-fifth anniversary. And the first thing you ask is..."What are you going to do?"  Well...Brent went to work, I took the cat to the vet, then C to an eye appointment, I'm doing some laundry and writing this blog, in a little bit I will pick Brent up and the three of us will grab some dinner.  I know, right?  All year long people have been asking us what we were going to do for our "big anniversary" and all year long we have said some sort of "I don't know" answer. We don't generally celebrate anniversaries. We tell each other happy anniversary and we go to dinner, and for the past 19 years we have gone to dinner as a family.

The next thing people ask is, "Wow..so young! How are you still married?" I try not to take that one personally... anyone who knew us when we got married has every reason to ask. And anyone who can do the math, and anyone who has seen marriage after marriage fail. So I guess this blog is going to be a little bit on how we did it. Keep in mind one of the best pieces of marital advice we got was not to take advice because no matter how helpful Fred and Wilma are trying to be they aren't Brent and Denise and nobody has ever been Brent and Denise so what works for us is unique. So this isn't a "this is how we did it, you can too!" blog, this is just a...well...it worked for us, blog.

Okay, on to the trying not to take it personally when people are shocked that we have been married as long as we have. First off, even our own son said a few years ago that there was "no good reason that your marriage should have worked."  And he was right.  At the time of his insight he was the age Brent and I were when we got engaged. Seventeen. Let that one sink in for a second.  We decided to get married at 17 in February of 86, after dating for 2 1/2 months, we "officially" got engaged (i.e. I started wearing a ring) a few months after that. We graduated high school in June, got married in December and Brent left for boot camp in January of 87 I joined him in March and C was born in October...of 1992.  I figured I would toss that one in there since probably half of the people at our wedding assumed I was pregnant at the time. I mean, why else would two kids get married that young right?

Oh and incidentally, you just read how Brent proposed to me as well.  He told me, "I am joining the Navy.  I will leave for boot camp in January, we can get married before I go and you can join me when I start my first school." Romantic right? And did I mention it was over the phone? I gave him such a hard time about it that a few weeks later he got down on one knee and asked me again. In the parking lot of the Frontier Restaurant. Which I took to mean he was promising to keep me in baked goods and sweets for as long as we both shall live. And considering he took me out for bagels this morning for our anniversary breakfast I would say he is keeping up his end of the bargain. What Brent will point out, is that even if I gave him a hard time about the how, I still said yes.

Our first year was hard. Most marriages have a rough time of it that first year. You are both figuring out what exactly it means to be married. And that can be very different things for both of you. We were also dealing with him being in the Navy and me working full time and there still being a lot of month left at the end of our money. And we were thousands of miles away from home. Which was hard. And probably the best thing that ever happened to us. If we had a fight, or things weren't going well, or we were out of money, or food, or just bored we didn't have anywhere else to go but home. There was no calling up a friend and hanging out at their place, no going to the parent's house for a time out, we just had each other and our little apartment. So we learned how to depend on each other. And we got in the habit of doing almost everything together. Which we still do. Both the depending on each other and the doing everything together parts.

My mother gave me two pieces of advice before I got married. At the time they seemed in conflict but after a few years of marriage they made more sense. First make sure you like the person you are marrying because this passionate love you feel will fade and second make sure you love the person you are marrying because there will be days you don't like them much. Make sure you like them so when you don't love them you will still love them when you don't like them? After a few years being married this makes total sense. The first year of our marriage I found a greeting card that read on the outside, "I love you more today than yesterday" (open) "Because yesterday you really made me mad." And that first year of marriage we really put both of those things to the test. There were plenty of days where it was good we liked each other (we might have only dated for a few months before getting engaged but we had been friends for years) because we weren't being very lovable. And there were times it was good we loved each other because we weren't very likable.  Make sure you like the person you marry because there will be times when they aren't very lovable.  Make sure you love the person you marry because at times you won't like them very much.  That's from Mom.

I had a horrible temper when we first got married and a lot of built up anger, Brent did a very good job those first few years weathering the storms that would come. And really that's where the best advice I have comes from. I have not been the perfect wife. Far from it in fact. So far from it that I don't know what a perfect wife would be. There were times when I was selfish instead of selfless. Times I acted from a position of fear instead of calm. Times where I have spoken up and should have been quiet and times I was quiet that I should have spoken up. Times when I was bold when I should have been thoughtful, times when I was thoughtful when I should have been bold. Times where I made rash decisions and instantly regretted them. Times where I made thoughtful long term plans and still messed it up. I have said and done things that were hurtful to Brent and to our marriage. Basically I have been human all throughout our time together and we still made it through. Incidentally, Brent would say the same things about himself and less about me.  Learn to see the best in your spouse so you can reflect it back on them when they can't see the best in themselves. That's from me.

Brent gives the advice to newlyweds, "Do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?  Because sometimes you can't be both." Sometimes you just need to put aside what you think, what you KNOW is right and understand that if you keep pushing your point you are going to make your partner very unhappy, and that in turn is going to make you very unhappy.  Learn to let it go. That's from Brent.

When choosing a spouse the real key is to find someone whose brand of crazy doesn't make you nuts.  Brent and I both say this one.  Everyone is crazy.  Each of us in our own ways.  And there are so many varieties of crazy. I am a little excitable and Brent is pretty calm.  Think about the couple from Up! When Ellie and Carl first meet in the movie and she talks his ear off then tells him, "You don't talk much, I like you." C leaned over to me and said, "They are you and Dad." Of course, that movie makes me cry every time I watch it because I see it too.  I say that I show Brent the lighter side of life and he keeps me grounded. We are both nuts in our own ways but we don't make each other nuts.  Find someone whose brand of crazy doesn't make you nuts.  That's from both of us.

Now for the title of this blog.  The prefrontal cortex.  What is that you say?

"This brain region gives an individual the capacity to exercise “good judgment” when presented with difficult life situations. Brain research indicating that brain development is not complete until near the age of 25, refers specifically to the development of the prefrontal cortex." Maturation of the Prefrontal Cortex

Basically what this means is that you really shouldn't try to make the big life decisions before you are 25. (There is a whole other blog on the problems with this and our education system) You know...decisions like who to marry (17) joining the military (18) getting married (18) moving away from home (18) deciding to have kids (23) having a kid (24) because there really is no reason why they should work out.  We did all of the big decisions before we had the capacity to reason and show good judgement.  And yet, here we are.  Twenty five years later, still together, still plugging along.  I wish I had a magic formula to pass along to say, "This is how we did it!" but truth be told, I have no idea how we did it.  I am not even sure how it's possible that it's been 25 years. Because let's face it, we look way too young for it to be 25 years...

My Uncle Denny used to say that when he and Carol got married he only signed on for 50 years.  Well, we are halfway there.  It will be interesting to see how the next 25 go.  I can guarantee I will make some mistakes and forgive some as well. And I will be sitting at 50 years wondering where the time went, and how we made it work.  Or at least that is my wish for an anniversary gift.  Finally I've got an answer for everyone.  "What are you going to do for your anniversary?" We are going to keep going.  Baked goods and sweets for everyone!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Denise - congratulations on your making it to 25...I had lots of champagne I recall, but had a good time - not as good as my 50th birthday in the hot tub with a bunch of crazy guests, but great in a different way...

    My grandparents used to say "look at the parents, they'll tell you what your bride will be like". Great advice because after 28 years, I find that's still true - brand of crazy? You bet! It takes crazy to get there from here.

    What's life at 50 years like? Wow - that's a somewhat strange thought - perhaps it'll be "I don't know who that woman in my bed is but she sure is cute, hope she can cook". Ha!

    I've always said that life is in phases - phase one is getting yourself "growed" and getting a job or finding some kind of passion. Phase two is marriage/partnership and raising children (or each other :)) to be self sufficient and confident,,,,phase three? Maybe it's keeping her from smothering me in my sleep with a pillow? Then again, perhaps there is more to come rather than lather rinse repeat...who knows?

    Congrats again from one who knows - enjoy the day, enjoy the next 25 but, beware the pillow...