Marriage

WARNING: This post includes feelings. And complaining. Mostly, complaining about my feelings. I hope you'll proceed with the non-judgiest of caution.

Marriage is all about compromise.

That's one of the many pieces of marital advice I've collected over the years. It's one of the keys to a successful marriage, I've been told, and I do believe it to be true (though I'm certain marriage is about a lot of other, more positively-associated, things too). But as accurate as the adage may be, that doesn't make it easy.

Aaron and I have now been living with my mom* for a month.

Compromise is the reason we moved away from our home in the first place. There are benefits to both Aaron and me, no doubt - we both have the opportunity to save money, for instance. And my mom is a loving, giving, and fun roomie! But at the same time, I now have a 4+ hour commute to work every day, while Aaron's commute to his new job (which we knew was a significant distance from our home when he took it) has been cut in half.

And it's tough. Spending at least nine hours at work and another four hours in my car every day is seriously wearing on me - even after only a month. I knew it was going to be tough, but I didn't realize quite how draining it would be.

There have been nights where I've called Aaron in tears as I sat in what could very accurately be described as a parking lot at 9 o'clock at night, trying desperately to get home with enough time to check my Facebook and cuddle my dog before I passed out. Only to wake up 5 hours later and do it all over again.

I know I'm not the only person with an awful commute (especially in Los Angeles!) or one-half of the only young couple that's moved back in with mom and dad, but the potential camraderie of this shared experience is one I'd sooner do without.

It's a strain on my energy. It's a strain on my sanity. And, most importantly, it's proven to be a strain on our young marriage. We spend hardly any time together and when we do one or both of us is tired (usually both of us) and cranky (mostly me). More often than I'd like to admit, I consider Aaron and his new job to be the catalyst for our move and I am bitter that his life has been made better by our compromise, while mine has gotten worse.

I'm not truly worried about the state of our marriage. I know we love each other fiercely and this is one small, short experience at the beginning of a lifetime together. I also know that, however much I am struggling in this moment, we are both benefitting greatly in the long-term by the choices and changes we're making in the short-term. And finally, I know that we could have - and probably will have some day - far worse struggles to overcome.

Nonetheless, I am struggling - whether it be with good reason or not - with this first big, real compromise and test of our commitment to each other and our future. I want to find a way to make it easier, not just for me, but for both of us, while also quickly building toward our next step. I don't know what the solution is - undoubtedly, it will involve more compromise, but I know the rest of our lives will. It's just a matter of finding a good balance in that compromise. That delicate evenness where both parties are sacrificing a little and gaining a little, but both in the pursuit of a shared, strongly-desired goal.

We haven't found that balance yet, but we'll work toward it together. And I'm thankful that I have this current experience to guide us and prove that, however hard it may be, we can do it.

*I feel it's necessary to note that my mom is wonderful to live with. She has done laundry for us, cooked meals and made leftovers for us, and watched our sweet puppy girl during those many hours we spend at work and sitting on the freeways. She also always has wine waiting for me. She's a joy; the feeling that we have to rely on her to get where we want to be, is not.

My mom always used to say: "You better learn to watch what you eat. One day you won't be able to eat like you do now."

The "now" she was referring to was sometime in high school. Back then I was playing volleyball everyday and eating whatever the hell I wanted. When I wasn't playing, I would go to the gym. Chicks liked that sort of thing, right? When I wasn't playing or going to the gym, I was probably eating. During my growth spurts in early high school, I could eat 5 meals a day. No joke. My parents deserve sainthood just for being able to keep the refrigerator full back then.

Now I'm close to 30, and I can feel my metabolism slowing down. These days I'm not a huge fan of the gym so I have to find other ways to keep active, and somehow maintain a demanding work schedule at the same time. I still play hockey, but only once a week (if I'm lucky) and that isn't nearly enough. So, to exercise, I'll take the dog for a walk or go running a few times a week.

But even running once or twice a week seems daunting. I'm out of the house by 7am, drive an hour+ to and from work and by the time I'm home, it's 7pm and I haven't even changed out of my slacks yet. It seems my only reasonable choices are to go running or cook dinner. Often, the latter wins just because eating at 9 or 10pm, though very European, doesn't exactly work on a regular basis.

My point is that exercise is a priority that's not often high on a lot of people's to-do list (or doesn't seem to fit into their schedule), especially for Jenna and I. Which means my mom was right all those years ago: Now, more than ever, I am going to have to watch what I eat.

Heart disease actually runs in my family, but I also love all that is holy in this world in edible form: burritos, pizza, pasta, burgers, beer, cheese, beer, wine and beer. I know I can't live a long and fruitful life and also have a steady diet of all the above so it's time to make some changes.

I'm the cook at home and I'm always looking for new and exciting things to eat that also won't kill you when you take a bite. Cooking to me is relaxing, so while I like to cook the comfort food, I've been trying to cook on the healthier side for some time now. I don't have specific goals, like losing weight. My goal is just to not die or have a heart attack in the next 30 years.

Jenna is a goals-oriented person, which means she needs action steps and follow through like whoa, but she also struggles with eating healthily. So she put me in charge of the "eating healthy and exercising more" program at the Arak household. This week I've made a variety of healthy meals without bread or carbs, and made enough portions to include leftovers in lunches the following day. It helps knowing that my wife's not eating mac and cheese for lunch every day (because she will), but it also helps the wallet because eating out every day is expensive as shit.

I've also gotten plenty of veggies and fresh herbs to cook with. It's really amazing how much better food tastes when it's fresh and not from a can or jar. In addition to cooking with fresh veggies, snack time has taken on a whole new meaning recently. I've made "snack packs" for each of us whenever we get hungry throughout the work day and it's not quite a meal time yet. A snack pack is made up of cucumbers, bell peppers, and baby carrots all mixed together in a sandwich bag that's packed as tight as a sardine can. Put a snack pack together with some leftover healthy dinner from the night before and you've got yourself a healthy, pretty cheap set of food for the day.

Snack Packs

That's the easy part.

The hard part is actually doing it. The harder part is making a schedule and sticking to it. And the hardest part is eating what's good for you and not that Domino's Pizza that can be at your door in 30 mins because you're exhausted. I'll be the first to admit, sometimes I just don't feel like cooking or doing something active. The trick is to try and not have that happen too often.

I'd like to run at least 3 times per week, but that's a pretty aggressive goal so I'd settle for two or even once a week right now. But fitness isn't just for me, it's for Jenna as well, and especially for both of us to do together. Jenna hates running. I'm fairly certain she'll never enjoy it as much as I do. So running together isn't an option because, when we do, I'm always going to be faster than her, so we really aren't doing it together. Enter Teigen Jane Arak. This adorable puppy has tons of energy and happens to love walks. So we'll walk her together after work. Since she's only five pounds, she gets tired pretty quickly so we have a cool little shoulder harness we can put her in so we can keep walking.

The goal is to walk for 30 minutes, at a minimum. This gives us a couple things: 1) Exercise 2) Quality time 3) Quality conversation. Some of the best conversations we've had as a couple have been taking walks and just unplugging for a few minutes after work.

In a perfect world, healthy eating and exercise are easy. But in the real world, we have beer, burritos, and cheese, so it's easier said than done. If you know of any delicious, healthy recipes, please feel free to share!

Until then, if someone could come up with the "Beer & Burrito Diet" that would make our lives a whole hell of a lot easier.

Aaron and I were married exactly one month ago today.

It. Is. Surreal.

I know everyone says this about everything important, ever - but it feels, simultaneously, like our wedding was just yesterday and like we've been married forever. It has been the best month of my life and yes, I do say that mostly because two weeks of it were spent traveling through France, Spain, and Greece. I am under no illusion that the rest of my life will be as incredible.

I kid. Kind of.

Though I've long felt that we were family - that Aaron was a perfect extension of me; a missing limb - we are officially family now, and this is the place where we will share our thoughts, our adventures, our news (BABIES!), and whatever else we feel like sharing.

We hope you'll follow along :)

I said this past month has been the best month of my life, and it has - not just because of my incredible, perfect wedding day or the adventures and comfort of my honeymoon - but because I've been lucky enough to find my perfect partner in life, who encourages my whims, supports me as I falter, and makes me laugh so hard you'd think I'd have a six-pack. (Update: I don't.) I hope I have been and will continue to be that sort of partner to him.

Here's to one month and many more months to go!