Sunday, July 31, 2016

     I am fascinated by the tenure of marriage. How do people stay married for 50+ years? How do they not want to strangle each other, walk away, move into separate bedrooms or just agree to live as room mates? We were out with a lovely couple the other night who just celebrated 35 years together. He said, “We never fight.” My reaction to that statement is a combination of, “Yeah, right.” and “Then one of you doesn’t talk.” I have no reason not to believe this man,who is gentle, kind and seemingly very loving toward his spouse, but “never” is a very large word—one which I almost never use. Why am I discussing this topic? Because in two weeks, Mr. Wonderful and I will celebrate 23 years. We fight. We laugh. We love. We forgive. We are human. 

     I never fought with husband number one. That is why he is no longer my husband. You can’t fight alone. If one person refuses to engage, the other has a choice of going nuts, giving in or leaving. I tried all three and finally chose the latter. During that marriage, I observed other married couples for years. I couldn’t figure out why my relationship was different and so unhappy. Watching other people is a joke. People behave when others are watching. What goes on behind closed doors is fodder for true crime novels and feature articles in Psychology Today.

     A few years ago, I was writing for a local magazine. I interviewed a beautiful couple who had, at that time, been married for 60 years. I was curious as to how these two had lasted so long. During the interview, the wife answered every question. The husband never said a word. The answer was clear.

     My own parents bickered constantly. My mother screamed and hollered, and my father pouted. I always thought to myself, “I am never going to bicker like that.” Unless you have the admirable power of letting things go before they fester, by not bickering you may possibly be building resentment, and that will ultimately cause the pot to boil over. Letting go is the answer. I still have trouble with this at times.

     After my mother died, my father was lucky enough to find another woman with whom he spent 20 years. They too bickered, but they also had much fun together. My father was controlling, and she fought back. Apparently, this worked for them, as they always espoused great love for one another. 

     I watch couples at restaurants eat an entire meal without talking. I remember thinking when I was married to husband number one that I would start taking my novel to the restaurants so I would have something to do. After I was divorced, I enjoyed reading novels by myself at restaurants, enjoying the literary date with my glass of Cold Duck.

     Mr. Wonderful and I are best friends. We are both human-neither of us perfect. We get along beautifully most of the time, but we are human. Occasionally, we piss each other off. Sometimes I think to myself, “How did I ever get so lucky?” Other times, I think to myself, “How did he get so lucky?” We work at our marriage, as we both have endured divorce, and divorce is devastating no matter how you cut it. I have learned the best way to have a good marriage is to learn to love yourself, enjoy your own company and expect that there will be ebbs and flows, highs and lows, “You’re right”s and “I’m sorry”s.  

     The most comforting and validating words I have ever heard about marriage were spoken by our minister over 20 years ago. He said, “My wife and I have had certain issues since day one. We continue to work on them, chipping away at them every year. They may never get resolved, but we don’t stop working on them.” Their marriage was not perfect, but they didn’t expect perfection; they expected to have to work and let go. Just like with anything worth its value, the cobwebs need to be cleaned out occasionally and sometimes even a sabbatical may be in order. What matters is what works for you—not anyone else. We all have our definitions of “the perfect relationship.” My perfect may be different from yours, but no matter. If yours works, lucky you. 

     On the eve of 23 years, I am grateful for a man who is honest, trustworthy, generous, loving, funny, fun, and who doesn’t get mad when I write about him in my blogs. He is my best friend and my soul mate. He is not perfect. Neither am I.