Anniversary Staycation + Thoughts on Marriage Six Years In
Last weekend Mike and I celebrated our sixth wedding anniversary. You probably picked up on that since I made it into something resembling a birthday week with a big ol' countdown to our anniversary and annual trip to Grove Park Inn to celebrate. I mean OBVIOUSLY our marriage is the real reason we celebrated in such a big way but let's not overlook how excited we were to have two full days to spend together child free. We get that once a year. Two days out of 365. We've got to improve that but season of life and all that.
We spent Friday night doing very ordinary things we don't get to do with a kid in tow. We went to Craft Centric for the first time and then ate dinner at La Carreta. At the bar, without counting our margaritas. It was glorious. I wore this jumpsuit I got at Vici Dolls before The Scout Guide launch party; I think it's sold out now but they always have the BEST, prettiest jumpsuits in a range of styles.
Saturday morning we took it easy and watched Coco while we had our coffee. Um, make sure the Kleenex are nearby when you watch that one! I absolutely loved it but don't think Harlow will be ready for it anytime soon.
We checked in to The Grove Park Inn before lunchtime, dropped off our bags, and went to eat lunch at The Edison before heading to the spa. We get the biggest kick when they ask us "where are you coming in from?" and we get to say "ummm, south Asheville." We began our tradition of celebrating our anniversary at GPI when we still lived in Charleston and found no reason whatsoever to change things once we moved to Asheville. Plus with only 48 hours to spare trying to squeeze in a travel trip would be too much.
My favorite meal at The Edison (and one of my faves in all of Asheville) are the chicken lollipops with the southern Cobb salad. These are probably my fave wings in town and the salad is full of goodies like pickled okra and cornbread croutons.
They're very generous with their celebratory macarons at Grove Park. We got at least two rounds of them during our stay.
We got spa passes both days, Saturday and Sunday, and spent most of our time there. It is pure heaven on earth. Mike and I enjoyed it together but sometimes did our own thing. He loves the hot/cold pools and I love to read my book in the outdoor hot tub while sipping champagne. Call me bougey, I don't care whatsoever, it's the best!
Saturday evening's sunset was a showstopper, especially after the on-and-off rain we had all day. Mike and I enjoyed happy hour, ate dinner at The Edison so we could watch the Cowboys pre-season game, and then listened to the acoustic guitarist in the Great Hall lobby until bedtime.
This year we stayed on the Club Level and it was amaaazing! Our room had a huge bathroom and vaulted ceilings, plus it gave us spa access for both days, free valet parking, and a private lounge area that served free happy hour drinks and hors d'oeuvres in the afternoons and breakfast in the mornings. You can't get spa day passes on the weekends anymore without booking a service or staying on the Club Level. Given that a single facial is $286 (!!!) our Club Level access letting us into the spa for two days was huge.
I recommend calling the hotel itself to see if you can upgrade your room. Our final price was not as high as what was quoted online. Just a little GPI insider hack for ya! (Honestly I have no idea if we got a limited time deal or what but calling the hotel and upgrading the room we booked online to the Club Level was how we got the best deal ever.)
What I've Learned About Marriage Six Years In
I've officially reached that point in my life where I marvel over how fast time flies by in every aspect of my life. With Harlow, number one for sure. Definitely feel like college was yesterday. Didn't I live in New York like two weeks ago? (Try ten years ago!) And somehow Mike and I have now been married six years.
I remember our wedding day like it was yesterday. Due to a winning combination of great friends, a phenomenal wedding coordinator, and a good night's sleep, I remember small things about my wedding day even though it totally went by in the blink of an eye. I remember popping bottles with my girls while getting ready, and the songs on the playlist I made just for the occasion. (Always making playlists over here.) I remember looking out the window of the shuttle taking me to meet Mike for our first look at the Biltmore House, calmly reminding myself that I was going to see my Mike and not to let the nerves get the best of me. I remember my dad's face when he saw me in my wedding dress for the first time....pause while I wipe away some tears...
Being engaged and planning your wedding is such a specific time in your life, one filled with emotions and experiences that will never repeat themselves. And really, would you want them to? The specialness is due, in part, to its fleeting nature. Your wedding day is reserved at or near the top of 'best day in your life' for several reasons, and the immense love you feel during the whole process is an intense thing. It almost feels physical, it's so strong and powerful.
But for all of that, the real truth is you better not be in it for the fun stuff. The parties, or the dress, or the diamond...even though the diamond is really effing great. That all fades, gets put in the back of a closet, or maybe eventually replaced for a bigger rock. You've gotta be up for the REAL stuff, the hard stuff, the sometimes-this-isn't-what-I'd-thought-it'd-be stuff.
Because that's what marriage is. It's pushing through. Staying strong. Stepping up.
You'll hear a lot of people say 'marriage is all about compromise.' It's true, even beyond the 'we'll meet in the middle' idea of what compromise means. Sometimes it means knowing yourself, or your partner, or your relationship well enough to know when to push and when to fall back. It's knowing how to balance the dance of two people sharing a life together. It's knowing when to speak your truth or stay silent.
I'll never forget my dad telling me before our wedding day that often what you don't say to your spouse is just as important as what you do. To be clear, he's not talking about lying by omission. No, no. He's saying that knowing when to stay quiet or bite your tongue is a skill you best hone to keep the peace. I'll admit, sometimes that's been hard for me. I feel very strongly in the present moment, often feeling more with my heart than thinking with my head. Give me a minute and I'll eventually reach even ground but before that I've been known to fire off at the mouth and then immediately regret it. Good grief, Job, how did you learn patience??
Biblical references aside, I've found the REAL trick to navigating the waters of marriage is to know YOURSELF. For better, for worse. Your flaws, your strengths, your tendencies, your personality, what makes you tick, what makes you tock, what drains your batteries and refuels your engines. Strip yourself down (mentally, people, keep your clothes on) and see yourself for who you are. Call yourself out when you go too far. Stand your ground when you're speaking from your soul. Even though marriage is about compromise, we can't compromise who we are at our very core for anybody else. Do that and you'll find trouble once it inevitably backfires.
I'm not saying be selfish, I'm saying be self aware. Know who you are, your strengths and weaknesses, so you know what you can give and what you need. Unfortunately, I think some people fool themselves into thinking marriage glosses over the stuff we struggle with or want to ignore. It's the opposite, in fact. It makes it more intense. And don't even get me started on the idea of babies fixing a marriage. Good grief.
Knowing my weaknesses makes me more aware of how I'm behaving and what I'm giving to my marriage. Sometimes I tell Mike pointe blank "I know I'm needy right now, I'm processing x, y, and z and it's taking a toll on me." Yes, it's taken me some time to get there, so blatantly calling myself out. But I knew before I married Mike I was marrying a man who accepted me for me. Who knew how bright I could shine or how tiny I could shrivel. He knew which car he was driving off the lot. That might be what makes me love him so much, because I know he's in love with ME, not the idea of me.
And I'm in love with him. And I want him to be happy, fulfilled, and balanced. Life is hard, busy, tough, and stressful. Sometimes we get so inwardly focused on how full our own plates are that we lose sight of how heavy other's plates feel to them in their reality. One of my closest friends put it so beautifully, saying we all have our own perspectives, challenges, and needs. It's one thing to say it. It's another to be an exhausted mom barely keeping it together and not feel some resentment towards your partner for wanting to sleep in on the weekends. This sticky situation ensnares many a marriage, mine included. The only way out: to communicate.
Communication is everything. Learning how to communicate is difficult as hell. I know couples who've been married ten years or longer who still struggle to find ways to get their respective messages across without starting something. And trust me, I'm not talking about this like Mike and I are immune to a tiff or a freeze out. But we have learned to speak so frankly about what how we're feeling and how we see things from our perspectives that it's helped eliminate a lot of what gets lost in translation. It's better if I just spell it out rather than clam up or do the "I'm fine" thing. I've learned that if you take out the guesswork and tell it how it is without getting too aggressive that problems are solved a lot more easily. Never forget that it's not just what you're saying but how you say it. And timing is critical, too, but that's another topic for another post.
At the end of the day, I just want this man I love with my whole being to be happy. And that nothing -- NOTHING -- could ever be bigger than my love for and commitment to him. So when we're really "in it," reminding myself of this steadies the troubled waters. Remembering what really matters is a great way of setting temporary flare ups aside.
I wrote the following paragraph for my toast at my best friend's wedding, and I think it's the truest thing I know about marriage:
"Marriage is truly about teamwork. About the giving over of yourself to become one half of a whole. Stronger, better with the other. There will be times when one of you is laid low by life -– that is when your partner will be there to lift you back up. By gestures big and small, by listening, by saying what the other needs to hear and sometimes by not saying anything at all. And then there will be times when you’re both worn down and you feel like you don’t have enough within you to help the other back up. This is when God’s footprints appear, when the strokes He paints in our lives become clearer, even if we see them in hindsight. When you look back, so often these are the times when you see the true strength you share together as husband and wife."
Marriages and our feelings on what makes them successful are likely as varied as the relationships themselves. This is what I know, what I've learned, and what's worked for us. I feel stronger and better at being Mike's wife six years in. Knowing we're committed to sharing our lives together, I look forward to learning and growing even more over the years.
And to celebrating each one sipping champagne at the spa at the Grove Park Inn.