I recently celebrated my wedding anniversary. My man and I eloped 22 years ago after a four-and-a-half-year “whirlwind” romance (his words, not mine).
In that time, I have been astounded by what I’ve learned and experienced.
No one really prepared me for being married. Sure, I saw my parents interact on a daily basis, but what you often see is the outside stuff, not the real deal, plus I had a natural ignorance innate to childhood.
With the divorce rate still hovering around 50 percent for first-time marriages (worse for second and third attempts) and knowing how challenging the “institution” can be, I wonder if we might all benefit from some marriage education, perhaps Are You Ready for Wedlock 101, Successful Marriage 102, and How to Stay Married 103.
Although my husband and I dated long enough to know each other well (this is important, many skip this step), marriage brought us together fully, and forced us to rethink our interaction and roles. We went from a relatively carefree lifestyle of dating to juggling work and parenting, with a respectable crew living together under one roof.
My small, manageable apartment turned into a sizable house with a never-ending to do list. One mouth to feed turned into many, with the daunting chore of being inventive, flexible, and healthy. One load of laundry became seven.
Presiding over this newly formed corporation was exhausting, and considering my own needs became almost obsolete. I often felt it was happening to me, as if I had no control over the roller coaster we were hanging onto for dear life. It was tough, and I couldn’t help but feel a bit blindsided and hopelessly unprepared.
What I had going for me was my husband. He is 100 percent all in when it comes to loving. He loves in a huge manner, bigger than anyone I’ve ever known.
This is actually more impressive than it sounds because I wasn’t exactly his first rodeo, and his heart had been shattered a couple of years before we met. I was also a card-carrying member of The Walking Wounded, so I find it amazing we came together at all.
What I know now is we healed each other’s brokenness, we were the salve we each needed to move on, and up, and into something much bigger than ourselves.
My husband loved me until I could love myself. That may sound cliché, but it’s true. There is no greater gift he could have bestowed upon me. To experience unconditional love from another human being (not just our dogs, even though they are pretty great) makes miracles happen.
People often joke with me about how I ended up with my guy. To the rest of the world, he can be gruff, opinionated, sarcastic, and intimidating (but also funny, engaging, and helpful). He swears he only has enough “niceness” in him for me. As a result, he is largely misunderstood — certainly no one realizes he is extraordinary.
Conversely, he would tell you I’ve been his miracle. He loves to say how happy he is to wake up and find me still there every morning, as if I might run off in the night realizing he is something beneath me. Rubbish, of course.
We made a commitment that began almost 27 years ago to work things out when life got hard. No matter what.
We decided shared values such as honesty, integrity, loyalty and respect were our foundation.
We made a pact never to go to bed angry. Even when we are really angry.
We say I love you to one another seven days a week, usually several times. I lose count of the number of ways he compliments every day. When he greets me or just sees me passing by, he typically forgoes my given name in exchange for “hey beautiful” or “hey gorgeous.”
We endeavor to love one another unconditionally despite our sometimes glaring faults.
We’ve tried to figure out the other marriage stuff. He fixes the cars and house; I manage the homestead. I watch his dumb shows and he watches mine. I make his appointments; he shows up.
We may get some stuff wrong, but we know what really matters is loving each other.
I’m not saying it’s always easy. It hasn’t been. Especially when you throw three sons into the mix. My life, marriage, and mothering have tested me many times, but I believe with all my heart I’ve been better for it.
I am humbled at where our love has taken us, and what it’s achieved. I could never have predicted it all those years ago. And so for what its worth, I encourage everyone to give it their best shot and remember love is still the answer. Always.
Originally printed in The Journal on Sunday, May 10, 2015.
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