Deb: As I am writing this today, Friday, September 10th, Barbara and her husband, Phil, are celebrating their 22nd wedding anniversary. So I thought this might be a good time to give props to that oft-maligned institution––marriage.
Having witnessed Barb and Phil’s marriage up close, I can tell you this. They are very much in love. And love is grand as we all know. They love one another and they are in love, which is a necessary combination if a good marriage is going to age well with time.
But, as experts and marrieds alike will tell you, love is not enough. Not nearly enough. Marriage––and I don’t think anyone who has been married or divorced will find this shocking––is hard work. It takes teamwork, which requires a solid, loving, respectful, silly, giving, and attentive team.
Barb and Phil are just such a team. Their marriage works because they function as a team in every way. Yes, they also thrive as individuals with varied interests but always as cheerleaders for the other’s pursuits. I have seen them celebrate––champagne corks to the rafters––when they are winning, and I’ve seen them rally with support and understanding when they are in a slump.
This bride and groom understood from the very beginning the value of romance. I do not claim to be privy to this firsthand of course, but if you refer back to the last blog-post, you will see just who discovered the lump in the breast. But canoodling aside, they date. Often.
Heaven knows, you can never recreate that first kiss that poets wax on about. But you can find in that millionth kiss an unexpected thrill. A thrill that combines sexual chemistry long since honed with the easy touch of security and stability. It is the kiss that replaces longing with satisfaction and hope with gratitude, and it cannot be underestimated.
I understand this because I am happy to say that I have just such a marriage.
But this post is about Barbara and Phil’s 22-year marriage. May they continue to grow in love until they look into each other’s ancient eyes, still a team for better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health.
Barbara: Thank you, Deb! This is as beautiful an anniversary card as I’ve ever received. And I’m so glad you wrote about this because I do think successful long-term relationships bear celebrating––and also examining.
Not only have Phil and I been married for 22 years, but we’ve been together since I was 16 and he 18, making a grand total of 31 years. Deb and Colin might not have been together as long, but they’ve been married as long. So between us, we have some ideas on how and why a strong relationship works.
To echo Deb’s beautiful and heartfelt words, I definitely think the most important element by far is a sense of partnership. For which you obviously need two equally committed partners. If you think Phil and I or Deb and Colin have sailed on Aladdin’s magic carpet into the sunset for all these years, hate to break the movie ending, but there is no “happily ever after” in the real world. There is, as Deb reminded, hard work as you face your own demons, your partner’s demons, your children’s, relatives’, and close friends’ demons, never mind those of the world itself.
I think there’s also a part of us that expects our partners to follow some kind of life-script that we have in our heads, and when they don’t say their lines as they should, or if they play another scene entirely, we stumble around disoriented instead of improvising until we’re back on track. Or, conversely, one partner is fully committed to taking on any and all challenges only to find themselves the solitary cheerleader while their significant other stumbles around, not hearing (or caring enough to notice) that some lovable one is urging them back from the edge.
And I think to make a partnership truly successful, you need to SPEAK TRULY and TRULY LISTEN.
I think you need to find a fruitful life outside your relationship, outside your home, and build your own happiness, then offer it up to your mate as the delicacy it is. And when offered a glimpse of your partner’s happiness, you should always celebrate it and never grimace, no matter how not to your taste it might be (um, provided it’s lawful and all).
I think you need to commit to waking up each day and looking at your beloved and realizing you do still love this person, would rather be snuggling with him or her than any other, and therefore will forgive transgressions, accept foibles, overlook annoyances, see beauty, celebrate strengths, and decide irrefutably: today, I choose again to choose you.
Happy anniversary, my love. As you well know, my choice is clear.