By: Shannon Ralph
We’ve changed one another.
In ways small and large, Ruanita and I have changed since our union first began fifteen years ago. In some ways, we changed on our own. We evolved as we grew older and have become more comfortable in our own skin. Not to sound too Oprah-esque, but we have become more of our “true selves.” More the people we were meant to be.
In other ways, however, we definitely had a hand in changing one another. We have grown in ways that I am certain would never have happened had we not met. Had we not decided to spend our lives together. We have evolved into different people than the two searching and unfulfilled souls who became pen pals fifteen years ago.
Some of these changes were fairly insignificant. Way back then, Ruanita did not like Chinese food. Now she cannot get enough of it, due in no small part to my love of all Asian foods. I never liked to cook. Now, by default, I am the family cook. And I am slowly developing an appreciation for it. Ruanita hated country music. Somehow along the way, I converted her. She now enjoys a twangy ballad about dogs and beer and cheating wives as much as I do. Ruanita turned me into a hotel snob. Before she came along, I considered the Motel 6 a perfectly fine establishment for a night away. Now I do not do “motels” at all. And I will not stay in a hotel that does not include a minibar and complimentary champagne and plush bath robes as part of the package. These were minor changes, but changes nonetheless.
In other ways, we intensely changed the course of one another’s lives. Fifteen years ago, Ruanita thought she would live out her entire life in Owensboro, Kentucky. She had no reason to leave. She had no desire to leave. Today she is 750 miles away in Minneapolis—a place she had to look up on a map when she first met me—because she followed me home one day. She left everything she ever knew and loved because I lived in Minneapolis and refused to move back to Kentucky. Fifteen years ago, Ruanita wasn’t entirely sure she wanted children. And if she did, she only wanted one. Today, she is the proud parent of three crazy kids. And she is loving every minute of it. Those three children have become her entire world. I made her a Minnesotan. And I made her a mom. Two things she never saw coming, but two things that have worked out pretty damn well.
Ruanita changed me in ways less logistical and more profound. If I had not met Ruanita, I am not entirely sure that I would have had the strength to come out as a lesbian and live my truth. I was always sort of timid. A little shy. I did not want to be different. I was not at all a boat-rocker. I followed the rules. I was a good little Catholic girl. Ruanita, on the other hand, was always completely and unapologetically true to who she was. That brashness made me feel strong by association. Simply being near her made me feel like I could take on the world. That I could stand up for what was right and true because I knew she had my back. I have known for fifteen years that I have her unconditional support. Whatever I want to do. Whatever I want to be. She supports me completely. She is my strength. In many ways, she made me the person I am today. And there is no way that I can ever properly express my gratitude for the beautiful changes she has brought into my life.
We’ve both changed for the better as a result of binding our lives together. We’ve grown and evolved as a result of our marriage. We’ve become better people together than we ever could have been alone.
This is one more way that my marriage is just like your marriage.