This month makes it our 11th wedding anniversary! Wow! 11 years! I remember the day so well and can’t believe we are well into our second decade together. I love the life we have made together, our little family, our little world but there is a whole lot more to a marriage than the happy-giddy moments (although we are fortunate to have plenty of those). How it all started: Ours is a biracial marriage: my husband is a Caucasian and I am an Indian (although my History Professor friends will correct me on this- North Indians are also Caucasians in terms of anthropology classification but let’s say non-white). I moved from India to the USA as an exchange graduate student to work in a US laboratory for one year, went back to defend my PhD thesis, and returned to the US as a postdoctoral scientist. That’s when I met my husband. He was a senior graduate student in the same lab where I joined as a postdoc. It was a small lab- we were 5 people in the lab and all became good friends. I had been recently divorced and dating was not anywhere close to my mind. Our friendship blossomed, we celebrated our achievements together. I introduced my friends to Indian festivals and Hindi slangs, and in return, they introduced me to the American culture (they will sit at a bar with me on Halloween night and explain every costume to me). It was fun living in a college town! Then it was time for him to graduate and move to another state to start his postdoc career. We all were very happy for him and then he said- ‘I don’t want to move, I’d rather stay here to be close to you M. I like spending time with you.’ That was the beginning. Our friends already knew that he had a crush on me, I was blissfully unaware. Our advisor had just received a new grant and offered my husband a postdoc position and he stayed in the same lab as a postdoc. We married 1.5 years later and welcomed our son after another 2 years. The marriage: I love being with him. He understands me so well- my passion for my career, my crazy travel ideas, my love for baking. I couldn’t have asked for a better person. We moved to a different state. We started new careers: I as a faculty, he as a research scientist at the same university. During this time, we welcomed our daughter. When it comes to my career, I have always been very ambitious. I grew up on a farm in rural Haryana and made it to IIT and then Johns Hopkins for PhD that probably shows my ambition and perseverance. Things didn’t change for me in that regard. I live by Maya Angelou’s quote, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” This is my mantra. I love taking on new challenges and working hard to make my niche in the scientific community. My husband, on the other hand, loves doing what he knows best and does it very well. He is a perfectionist, I am a risk-taker. He likes stability, I love adventure. He is happy with what he has, I want to touch the stars (metaphorically speaking). He is a saver, I am a spender. He enjoys a day at home- cooking, reading, playing with the kids, I crave for excitement. I am the one making travel plans, movie/dinner plans. You see- we are two very different people. But he knows it and he understands my desire to excel. It’s me who took a long time to understand his desire to have a relaxed, content life. It’s not that I am not content, maybe I am an active content. I don’t desire physical stuff (we have everything we need or want) but I am a thrill seeker/globetrotter. I like to learn about finances, plan our investments, he is fine as long as we have savings (and money just sitting in a savings account). He might not agree with me all the time but he knows me well. When our son was little, we were talking about finances and how it doesn’t make sense for both of us to work because one of our salaries pretty much goes to the daycare and I suggested to stay at home. My husband immediately said, “I don’t think you will enjoy staying at home, you will miss working”. Those were very wise words! Just like any marriage, we had our ups and downs. The hardest patch was right after my daughter’s birth. We had interviewed for new positions. We both got offers from the same university, we bought a new house in the new place. We both quit our jobs and spent time with our newborn and toddler before starting a new career. We had enough savings to survive for 8 months without working. On the surface, it seemed wonderful, but it wasn’t. I was dealing with postpartum. I missed my family back in India. It was hard sitting at home with a baby and trying to set up a lab remotely. We both were excited for the opportunity but were also stressed about the move, finding good daycares, making new friends etc. We argued a lot, things were said that we both regretted. I couldn’t understand why my husband wanted to sit at home for 6 months. I wanted him to be more active in making plans, hiring movers etc and all he wanted to do was relax and procrastinate. Since I am a go-getter, I ended up making our travel plans to the west coast where we were moving and had bought a house. I hired the movers, car transporters, arranged flights. He wasted (in my opinion) five months instead of working on a grant proposal that he was required to submit for his start-up package. I was angry. The Low: First year in our new jobs went like this- he will procrastinate until the last minute, then get stressed about it, and then I will make special arrangements for him to get his stuff done (taking a weekend off with the kids so he can be at home by himself and get things done). We barely talked to each other outside the kids/work conversation. It felt like we were strangers living in the same house. We finally had a big fight and my husband told me that he doesn’t want to start a conversation with me because ‘I don’t ever want to see his POV. I am always angry with me.’ That statement which he made when we were both arguing, made me stop in my tracks. I noticed a pattern. He was right. I was stressed, I was overwhelmed and so was he. Our kids were little, they needed us all the time. My daughter was still breastfeeding and waking up multiple times at night, we were sleep-deprived. We didn’t have a good system of emergency care. The daycare would usually call me if kids needed to be picked up and I took it as my responsibility instead of asking my husband if he was available. I took up too many responsibilities at work and was overburdened. We didn't have a reliable nanny to watch the kids if needed. After this argument/fight/god-send conversation, I called my physician. I talked to her about how stressful everything was and how it was hurting my marriage. She listened to me patiently. She encouraged me to join yoga at the fitness center on campus and asked me to make a list and prioritize things. After I went back to my office, the first thing I did was- I stepped down from the committees that I didn’t need to be on. I made a to-do list and kept time for myself (to have a cup of coffee with a friend, go for a run/walk, etc) at least once a week. I joined a CrossFit class and made sure to go at least twice a week. The Change: That one year and that one big argument helped me look at my marriage from a different angle. We tried hiring a babysitter once a month and go for a date night. We didn’t continue it for too long because we both missed being with our kids. Instead, now we do something fun as a family almost every weekend- camping, hiking, trying a new restaurant, finding a new bookstore/library- anything that helps me break the routine. We have so much to explore where we live and we are exploring new things almost every week. I learned to say no at work instead of just taking a new responsibility when asked for. I learned that my husband and I are different people with different priorities. He likes having a relaxed life, I like life in the fast lane. We still keep our professional lives the way we want without expecting the other to do the same. We consult with each-other for work-related travel. We both travel quite a bit and try to make it a family trip whenever possible. We have met wonderful friends. My husband loves cooking and hosting and we host our friends often. It also helps kids to play with their friends (our friends have the same age kids) because we don't have any family here. We enjoy travelling- I am a planner so I plan the trips and my husband is good at fine details so he plans the activities at the place we are going to. I like to start my day early, he likes to take it easy. If I am up early on the weekends, I go for a walk or play with the kids if they are up without bothering my husband. If there is an Indian movie playing, my husband would plan something with the kids so I can go and enjoy a Hindi movie. It's been three years since that fight. I am more relaxed in general which could very well be because kids are 7 and 4 now and sleep all night in their own room. My husband and I are back to the way we used to be: talking, joking, and watching a comedy show together. We have a good arrangement for kids’ pick up/drop off and if something comes up we step in for each other. We have wonderful friends and neighbors we can count on in an emergency. In short, we have found a rhythm to our life. I am hoping that the hardest phase has passed and now we can be the companions for rest of the life. Here’s to another 11 years and counting!