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.
I agree with your insightful summary of reality vs. fairytale in regards to a long term relationship. Your list “so far”, of what makes a relationship work is very accurate in my opinion. I enjoyed your article. I found it while searching for Winter Solstice Weddings. I also can relate to your being together/married timeline, my husband and I have been together 18 years and married for 10 years. Happy Winter Solstice!
Thanks for the comment–I’m hoping to figure out the rest of the list soon. 🙂 Happy Winter Solstice to you, too!
I am writing a book called “So…How Did You Meet Anyway?” It is a collection of all types of people’s “how we met” stories.
I have posted the stories which have been sent in on;
So…How Did You Meet Anyway?
I am always shopping for stories and I would like to add yours. Please check out the site, and if you would like to contribute your “how we met” story contact me at;
And if you would like any more information about the blog or the upcoming book, here is a link to a television interview I did recently.
Take care and…congratulations!
I think cards are a dying tradition. I find that the people who I offend by not sending a card and who retaliate by taking me off their list are usually around mid-70s and older. That generation wrote cards and letters and the paper medium meant something important, and I get that. Last year I didn’t send cards because my mother was dying in the hospital. If I was taken off of a card list as a result, that is totally fine with me. This year I just don’t have time.There are fewer cards arriving now. Perhaps my neglect of proper etiquette has helped save a sapling! 🙂
“Etiquette for a Fragile Planet”–I like it!