Among our friends, my husband and I are known as “the least clingy couple in the history of the universe.” That’s because we realized early that we have to let each other have interests outside the other person.
We also aren’t the most romantic sort: we celebrated our first wedding anniversary by hanging out with our two best friends, our second by hosting a slew of family and friends for a touristy weekend in Chicago, and our third by hiking in Red Rocks Park near Denver, where my sister lives. The children of Soviet-bred parents, both of us are entirely too practical to be romantic.
That’s why it makes sense for us to have personal friends and “couple” friends. My husband can easily take off for a skiing trip with his friends – he’s into downhill, while I’m a cross-country person. And I’ll go dancing with my friends, while he’s at home tinkering with the latest digital gadget. We trust each other enough to give the other person space to live the life he or she wants – even if the other person doesn’t share in the enthusiasm for a certain hobby.
Meanwhile, we also make a point to go out together and do things we enjoy: regular trips to the Art Institute to contemplate the Impressionists, running along the lake, cooking together, camping, and myriad little things that make up our life.
When we realized we wanted to spend our lives together – and knowing our rational streaks – we set out to build our partnership on three specific pillars: the building of personal traditions, communication, and the knowledge that we can depend on each other in the toughest situations.
Together, we began celebrating Shabbat every Friday night, inviting friends to join us at least once a month. While we don’t consider ourselves religious Jews, we enjoy exploring Jewish tradition and figuring out ways we can celebrate it in our own way. Next week, for example, we are hosting a Tu B’Shevat seder, for which we wrote a haggadah. We compiled it from various sources and included readings and songs that spoke to our personal commitment to the environment.
Because we dated long-distance for four years – we studied at different universities about 150 miles apart – we know that communication is key. That’s the advice given to many newlyweds, but we found that out long before we made plans for a chuppah. Left-over from those four years are regular catch-up sessions. Since getting married, we’ve also used this time to review our finances together, which is especially important in a tough economy like now.
Of course, we aren’t perfect. Like any other two people stuck together in 854 square feet, we butt heads occasionally. But the beauty of having a life partner is also having a conversation partner, someone who will listen even if he or she disagrees.