So I have this weird thing I do. (many weird things but I’m only sharing this one today) Sometimes I think about people who have died when I catch myself watching a sunrise or staring at a beautiful tree or looking at a bird in the yard and I think…How can they have missed this? They should see this bird, this incredible bird. If they had just lasted 7 more years, they could be staring at this yellow bird right now. How did they not see this particular sunrise? I know they saw sunrises…but not this one. They didn’t make it long enough to see that tree! Two more years and they could have stood right beneath the canopy of this tree. And how lucky am I to see this tree? Why am I the lucky one?
And I feel such gratitude for such luck. (stay with me…)
I’m 21 years into my marriage today. To the same human. How? 21!? But I’m only 30 years old! Time has just tumbled forward snowballing faster and faster. I’ve been told it goes by even more quickly with every passing year. I was 23 when I got married. Were my daughter to follow in our footsteps, she would make a lifelong commitment to someone just 9 years from now.
But.I.won’t.let.THAT.happen. ha ha ha. Seriously, though she isn’t allowed.
There are many articles, studies, books all devoted to what makes for a lasting marriage. Statistics have been compiled. Algorithms laid out. Theories have been developed. Therapies have been formed. I believed in all that as a newly married person. I could easily cite why we were married, why it made sense and why it would all work for the long haul. If you ask people what the ‘secret’ is they have many simple explanations. People often say God brought them together,they have similar values, they are opposites and opposites attract, they “grew up together” (a case for marrying early), they “knew who they were” before they got married (a case for marrying later), they work hard at their marriage, they put their relationship first, they are just the perfect compliment to one another, and on and on and on.
I wanted to believe it was simple and formulaic but I don’t believe that at all.
- God brought us together. God likely only gets partial credit for some things and is harshly criticized for others and people make it pretty convenient to involve God in the argument if it suits them. If you meet someone at an Atheist Convention in Vegas and you are 9 cocktails in and end up getting married that night, God planned that out just for you? Mmm-I’m not so sure. Seems like the bright lights and adrenaline and Johnnie Walker Black may have set that up for you. And if God brings all these people together does he bring over 50% apart? God makes the matches but then it’s all free will when people split up? Nah. Plus, I don’t believe in the one person for one person myth. There are probably other men I could have contentedly married and we could have lasted 21 years. There are also probably several nice, docile, pleasant, lovely women out there who enjoy bass fishing, Cheetos, tank tops and sub-zero house temps that my husband could be happily married to right now. Stay away from him you bombshell fishing floozies-we’ve already put in 21 years renovating each other.
- Similar values or opposites attract. Yeah. Sounds good. Until a city mouse wants to be a country mouse. Or the person who always wanted children suddenly feels it at the very core of their being that they do not. The frugal saver spends lavishly on a whim for the first time in their life. What if one with the ever stable job walks away to ‘find themselves’? What if the opposite thing that was so alluring is now the very thing that you can’t tolerate? People do change. Similar values in 1995 may not mean similar values in 2005. In our case, some of our most sweeping changes were the very scaffolding to hold us together.
- Timing. The exact right age to get married. Once, in college, my friend Erika’s dad told us this at dinner-(I’m paraphrasing) ‘There are no soul mates. You don’t find the right person and marry them. You get to an age where you are ready to marry and end up with whomever is in front of you at the time’ Needless to say-we were disturbed and insisted he was wrong. He wasn’t wrong. Wise words from George. If you ‘grow up together’ you have the challenges of getting on the same maturity trajectory. If you already ‘know who you are’ you have challenges compromising because you have your own ways of dealing with life independently.
- Working hard at marriage. Sheesh. Is there any other way? Two humans that live together? It’s a lot of work to just get up every day and be yourself. To consider another person and their needs/wants/dreams/hopes on an ongoing basis is…is…is.. A LOT. And I like him and love him and it’s still a lot. Rewarding. Joyful. Instructive. Humbling. I think people who stay together work at it and I still think people who end their marriages worked at it too. Regular date night is not a guarantee of anything except a decent meal-usually.
- The appearance of happy. We look happy a lot of the time. We are generally happy. We have loved each other truly, madly, deeply over 21 years. HOWEVER, it is not a stretch to say that at one point or another (I’ll just speak for both of us here) we have fantasized, albeit briefly, about the other person falling into a well. Not a huge well. Not a super far fall. Nothing life threatening…but a fall into a well nonetheless. We were at many weddings where we watched in awe what an ‘ideal’ match was about to take place. Oh-some of those couples just made it look effortless. I would have bet a kidney they would be together until death doth them part. Alternately, we were at a few weddings where I clenched my teeth and waited in vain for someone, anyone (please) to stand up and OBJECT when the opportunity arose. I would have bet a kidney those marriages would last a year, if that. I’ve been to a lot of weddings and had I placed bets…I would be out two kidneys right now.
I have my own theory on marriage. I think we have made it to this Thursday due to gritty determination and luck. We have been very determined but mostly so, so, so lucky.
I’m grateful to see this, specific Thursday view of this lovely lake and I’m glad we made it these 21 years so I can be here with him. ❤️