Today is our wedding anniversary. Of the 16 1/2 years we’ve been together, Pat and I have now been married for 5. Yeah, I know, we were slow to decide to go mainstream.
We were married on the winter solstice in 2006. I wish I had a great story to tell as to why we got married on the winter solstice, but, it was a complete accident. It turned out to be a happy accident because had we gotten married on a day that didn’t have an event marked on most calendars, we would completely forget our anniversary. Unfortunately, it took us a while to figure out the winter solstice doesn’t always fall on the 21st–there’s a good chance we celebrated our 1st anniversary on the wrong day.
Weathering the bad and the good together has been a remarkable experience. When I think about the expectations I had in my twenties compared to the reality of a 16 1/2 year relationship, I sometimes laugh. Our culture fills our heads with ridiculous expectations about head-over-heels romance–and simultaneously ignores how love shifts and grows, becoming more powerful over time.
Someone once pointed out to me that fairy tales–both traditional and the modern version (romantic movies)–end when the couple gets together. All we are told is they “live happily ever after.” I’m here to tell you that if “ever after” is supposed to mean they lived happily all of the time from that point forward, it ain’t happening.
People are not one dimensional. We get cranky and scared and irritable and depressed and rude and angry in turn. There’s no such thing as “a nice person” who isn’t also sometimes annoying, difficult, needy, bossy, or whatever. And how we see the other person has as much to do with us as it does with them, which is also inconstant.
I often ask myself what makes a relationship work. When I was young, I wanted fireworks and sweep-me-off-my-feet excitement. Then I figured out fireworks fizzle and I prefer to walk, but a guy who will help with the laundry and cooking makes every day better.
I can’t say I’ve really decided what makes a relationship work, but I’m honing in on it gradually. Here’s my list so far:
1) Mutual respect and admiration. It’s hard to put up with someone’s foibles if you don’t respect and admire them as they are. The parts you respect and admire keep you sane when the parts you want to kill surface. 🙂
2) Laughter. It’s OK if you don’t always get each other’s jokes, but you’ve got to get most of them.
3) Adventure. Life can get pretty darn repetitive. Having some form of adventure together helps keep it interesting.
4) Patience. Not the kind of patience you have to have for children, but patience with yourself, your life, your spouse. The patience that allows you to wait and see when you start to get afraid or angry. The patience that allows you to love each other for who you are in all of your dimensions.