Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Love and Marriage

On June 20, tomorrow as I write this, David and I will be married 28 years. Add to that the six years we were together before that, and you have two aging people who have spent most of our lives together. I always feel amazed when I add up the years. It doesn't feel like 34 years. But that's really just this crazy thing time does as you get older--it speeds up and warps your memory.

Honestly though, I feel honored and humbled to be married to a really great guy. I won't laud him overmuch here, as I have several other blog posts declaring his wonderfulness. I guess part of the reason I feel so abundantly blessed is that many people I know have been recently divorced. Every time I find out that someone is divorcing, I am extra thankful that it's not me. I'm not saying I'm any better than them, or that my marriage is somehow more right. I realize that some marriages just don't last, and I'm not judging. Just saying how thankful I am that it's not me. (David and I have a morbid joke that if we ever did get to the point where we thought we should get divorced, it would never happen because of our own inertia and procrastination.)

I really shouldn't be amazed that we are still married, though. Because we both look at marriage and love the same way. (And no, they are not the same thing.) For us, marriage isn't necessarily about being in love. Notice that phrase--"being in love." To me, that is the initial bloom of love, before it's been tested and tried and yanked around a whole bunch. It's easy to "be in love" because nothing has happened yet. You see only the best in each other and ignore the worst. This is often where many people decide to get married. That might be a reason for the divorce rate. Because "being in love" is not real, hard love. A lot of people break up when this initial bloom wears off, because they aren't "in love" anymore. If the relationship makes it past being in love, it has a chance to grow into real love.

Real love, as I see it, is not necessarily about feelings. It is about honoring and respecting every single last irritating thing about that other person, and still finding those loving feelings in the bottom of the bucket. It's about partnering together in all things. No longer seeing things as yours and mine. No longer keeping separate scores--how many times did he wash the dishes or change the diapers? It's about wanting the best for that other person so much that you are willing to support him or her in whatever way you need to. Sometimes that might mean making sacrifices of your own time, career goals, or personal desires. And one assumes that kind of support will be reciprocated. Real love understands that you might not always feel lovey in a given moment, but that the love is so deep, one moment is not a true accounting of the measure of love. And, cliche as it is to say, real love is completely unconditional.

I remember my oldest brother, Mike's, wedding to his wonderful wife Laura. (It was a hippy wedding in 1976--and by the way, they are still married.) The minister asked them if they would still love each other when they were old, fat, gray, and so on. That is unconditional. It means love doesn't depend on looks, money, success, talent, or any other outward situation. It is there no matter what

Being in a relationship with this kind of love is very freeing and empowering, You know that you will screw up, but the other person will still love you. You know that he or she will screw up and you will have to rise to the occasion and keep loving them.

Now, marriage is a whole other level to that love. Marriage requires not just unconditional love, but the willingness to forge through a whole host of problems and issues that have nothing to do with love. Marriage is about partnership. More than that, it is about understanding that sometimes you are going to feel not in love, but that you will still be married. That maybe sounds like I'm advocating staying in a loveless marriage, but I'm not. I'm just saying that sometimes, marriage is really, really hard. And sometimes that means you might--for a temporary moment--not feel so loving. Marriage is not always romantic, as most of you know. Sometimes it is incredibly romantic, however you might define that. But a lot of the time, it isn't. So if you are hoping to get married and live every day in wedded bliss--uh, talk to me in 30 years and let me know how that goes.

Of course, I guess the term "wedded bliss" could be interpreted many ways. I mean, most of my youthful dreams have not been realized in the way I expected. We are not rich, although we are comfortably well off. We don't live in a dream house, unless your dream consists of constant repairs and breakdowns. We don't drive nice cars, but at least we have cars. We don't have perfect lives in any way. But we are happy, content. We like our life together. So I guess that might qualify as wedded bliss. But that doesn't mean we spend every moment together looking lovingly into each other's eyes. We would probably break out into hysterical laughter if we tried that.

I think, to quote James Taylor, the "secret of life is enjoying the passage of time." And I have certainly enjoyed my 34 years with David. I hope to enjoy at least that many more. We like each other, which I think is probably more important than love, in the big picture. If I weren't married to David, I would be his friend anyway, because he is my very best friend. He is funny and fun to be with. He is smart and---oops I said I wouldn't laud him, didn't I? You get the picture. He's the kind of person I would choose for a friend because of all his many good qualities. One of them being that he likes me too! And he loves me.

With 28 years of marital experience under our belts, we are both looking forward to what life brings us in the coming decades. We have dreams of traveling the country in a VW camper. Drinking wine and seeing movies to our hearts' content. Hiking every trail in the foothills and beyond. Fixing that fence in the back yard. Getting to see how our kids' lives pan out. Maybe one day holding grandchildren. (No rush.) And spending many hours just hanging out together. Watching TV on the couch. Sitting by a warm fire. Reading aloud together.

Happy Anniversary to the Best Husband in the World. You make every day something. Sometimes a funny something. Sometimes frustrating. Sometimes exhausting. But I would never trade all our something for someone else's everything.