I've always been a bit of a loud dresser. I've been mixing and matching patterns and prints for decades, never wear matching socks and have been known to paint all over my shoes with garish neon acrylics just to mix it up a little. I started dying my hair fire engine red when I was 15 and kept up the color (with various shades and henna mixes) until the beginning of this year.
My husband, on the other hand, is markedly more sedate in style. He did go through a punk phase in high school that involved goggles, blue hair, and plaid, but for the past few years he'd been mostly rocking black tees, assorted vests, and brown pants with the OCCASSIONAL foray into skinny jeans.
When we first met, our mismatching was all part of our “thing” -– I was so LOUD! And BRIGHT! And look at all those COLORS! He dipped into a crazy pattern or two occasionally, but his closet at the time was filled with remnants of his metro-sexual, working-at-Abercrombie-and-Express years. Nice stuff! Good stuff! And so on.
Mine was filled with remnants of, well, remnants of thrifted clothing, really. As we've gotten older (we met at 22 and 21, and we are now 27 and 26), we've both really hit our stride: I've added stuff like a sequiny skirt that I like to wear with an equally shiny top, or yellow-and-black striped tights that will look rad with this bright pink sweater dress I've been eyeing. He's managed to add more black T-shirts than I knew one person could own, along with a few blue, gray, or red shirts.
Don't let my language fool you: I love his style. He picks cuts and colors that look amaaaaazing on him, and he is happy and comfortable.
But here's the thing: We spent the last year in a state of flux in our marriage. Basically, we were coming off of 2.5 years of not-very-planned-out parenthood. We decided to stop trying NOT to have a baby and I was pregnant two weeks later. (We tend to make our big life decisions pretty quickly, y'all.) So we've been through a lot of capital-L Learning recently. We've questioned ourselves, our relationship, our communication skills, been to couples counseling, sought out help from trusted family and friends, and ultimately realized that the best thing we can do together is to communicate openly and honestly all the time.
We're in a really fantastic, trusting, beautiful place right now, but, dudes, we put a lot of effort in it to get there.
During that year, we each experienced a lot of emotions and doubts. Should we really be together if we can't even make it 10 minutes into the morning without disagreeing about something? Are we damaging ourselves? Our kid? And so on.
These questions didn't surprise me; it makes sense that if you're examining your relationship, those kinds of questions will come up. Got it. But what DID surprise me is that I also became overly concerned about how we looked as a couple to other people. And I don't mean our body language or our interactions, I mean how we physically look.
I'm not one that's prone to a lot of insecurity -– I don't mean this in a conceited way, but I've always had a solid bit of confidence in myself and never second-guessed what I was wearing, for example.
To find myself all of the sudden so INCREDIBLY insecure about everything about my appearance was overwhelming. If the two of us (or the three, with our son) went out somewhere together, I'd ask Sean what he was going to wear a million times. Considering the reply was usually, “This black shirt and my Don Draper pants,” I'm not sure why I felt like I had to do this.
I would then obsess about what I was planning to wear –- was the orange in that dress too bright? Should I wear a black shirt also? etc. Sometimes I would intentionally over-match Sean, and other times I would rebel (against my own mind, apparently) and wear something opposite of what he was wearing. I didn't feel like I was spiting him by doing so -– I felt like I was spiting all of the people I just knew were judging us because we didn't “look” like we belonged together.
On our first day of marriage counseling I noticed we were wearing what I perceived to be pretty dissimilar outfits -– I had on this thrifted bright Hawaiian-themed shirt and teal sandals with flowered sunglasses and he was wearing a brown-and-black plaid shirt with gray pants. I posted the photo to Instagram under the guise of “Haha, we're so silly! Look how we don't match!”
When the first comment from a friend said, “Nope, I think you look like you belong together.” it hit me. “Holy shit. People actually AREN'T judging whether or not our marriage was working based on what we were wearing!”
Actually, most people -- strangers and friends alike –- don't actually care about what's going on in other people's relationships. The people who did know what was up with us knew all of the discussions and debates we'd had, and people who were nosy but didn't know the details were probably going to make up their own stories anyway. And most likely those stories didn't involve my flowered fishnets and Sean's black socks.
It's funny, because prior to posting the photo I was in a weird place about marriage counseling –- essentially, I wasn't sure if I wanted to be there. But one comment from someone I like but don't know that well changed my mood and perspective in a positive way, and I decided to be open. Several months later Sean and I are much stronger, and I am way, way less concerned about how we appear to other people and way MORE concerned about making sure I'm keeping up my end of a happy relationship.
Surprise, surprise: Our daily ensembles say nothing about how well we “match."