Maybe I was lucky. Maybe I had no idea what I was doing. Maybe it just happened. Maybe we worked at it hard enough or not enough to mess things up. In any case, I am…..happily married. As a child of divorce of the most searing kind, a family with enough dysfunction to fill up every closet in the state of Texas (or perhaps Alaska), and hailing from New Jersey, where we tend not to expect too much (state motto: Oy!, state song lyrics: “it’s a death trap/ it’s a suicide rap” from Springsteen’s “Born to Run”), being happily married was not what I expected.
But life is not about our expectations. I met Ken in ’82, we turned into a couple in ’83, and married in ’85. By the time we met, I felt far more older than I do now (although now I’m twice as old as I was then) . We were each other’s rebound relations, so it wasn’t supposed to work, and that may be what took enough of the pressure off that it did work. For months, years actually, into the relationship, I expected him to up and leave one day because what we had seemed too good to last. But that was just my past, low-esteem and confusion talking. 25 years, three kids, about 17 different cars, two houses, several home improvement projects that turned into a reality show’s kind of survivorship, several health crises, the loss of our three dads, my cancer, a big car accident, and a few dozen political campaigns and organizational crises later, here we are.
Why? I don’t really know aside from several things I learn and have to keep learning — much of it advice people gave me over the years that proved all too true.
* Marriage is when you commit to be with another person no matter how old and demented they become. I don’t know why I find this comforting, but I do.
* Date nights! Especially when life is so impossible due to work, kids, family, etc. that having time together to simply split some fajitas seems an outrageous luxury.
* Therapy when necessary without doubt or shame, and particularly when big changes roll through.
* Forget everything you ever heard, saw, read or dreamed about romance. Yeah, rose petals on the bed might be nice, but sometimes just having someone leave you some cold coffee in the morning is enough.
* Fight, but fight fair.
* If one of you isn’t into thoughtful gift-giving and the other is, that other should go out and buy her own thoughtful gifts.
* Another person can do wonders for one’s sanity. Ken has talked me off the walls and ceiling hundreds of times and visa versa.
* Don’t forget to refill the bird feeders in winter.
* Nothing is better than sinking between flannel sheets piled high with quilts and fleece with your beloved on a cold night (although if you’re both wearing flannel too, there is the static factor).
* Few things are as much fun as sharing a common passion, such as fighting the highway department, burning a prairie each spring, watching Leonard Cohen in concert, or watching the cat’s circus tricks with a hair tie.
* It’s impossible and silly to change another person but that doesn’t mean we don’t keep trying. At least we can be aware that what we’re trying to do is impossible and silly.
*In the end, the middle and beginning too, kindness trumps all.
Please feel free to add your advice from your own life.
Pictures of us over the years, from the top, when I was 7 month’s pregnant with Daniel, our house we designed and helped build without driving each other too crazy, us at Passover a few years ago, and there we are back in the early 80s.