Marriage changes you.
And, it's not the kind of change that happens overnight, like the last name or the new apartment.
The kind of change I'm thinking of is deeper, reaching back into the recesses of your soul and then extending forward through your personality.
It's the vocabulary changes-- "four-ish" no longer means "sometime during the hour of four o'clock." It now refers to the exact window of "3:50-4:10." It's the dietary changes-- coming to learn that you love cheesy grits with bacon, that you never really liked alfalfa sprouts, and that your mom-in-law's mac-n-cheese really does taste better.
There are political changes--the liberal Californian has learned what constitutes constructive conversation with the in-laws and what is simply downright offensive to discuss. And there are recreation changes--football is no longer just for napping, but represents an entire culture I've recently come to appreciate.
I used to fear that change for me in marriage meant losing myself.
When I thought about change, I didn't fear losing my love for hummus or NPR; I feared losing my independent spirit, my individual identity and the spunk to hold one's ground, even to a guy whose IQ ranks much higher than hers.
Seven-ish years later, my husband has not allowed any of those real fears to be realized. When we were only married for 11 months, it was he who encouraged me to take off to Mexico to teach an English class to Mayans...for 5 weeks. He's the one who's researched opportunities for my to explore my dreams, who's bought me books on topics only I could care about, and who asks questions-- those probing kinds of questions that stick with you for weeks and push you to self-truths you wouldn't discover alone.
As a result, I've settled a bit. I don't feel so defensive over my identity anymore, realizing that the person I'm becoming is better than the person I'd be on my own. I don't always need to be understood and I don't always need to be right. In the security of my husband's love, I've traded the posture of independence for a mutual partnership and it's so much more gratifying.
All this to say, it's night number 6 that Neal's been away
and I miss him.