Today marks the 25th anniversary of my marriage. I can’t seem to bring myself to write an “I love you, love-of-my-life” social media post to mark this occasion–not because it is not true, but because it doesn’t adequately honor or capture the nuance, complication, work and beauty of 25 years married to the same person. So I am writing a blogpost to acknowledge and honor more of what this day means to me.
When CC (my husband and I) jumped off a cliff in Montana into the waters of Flathead Lake the night before we were married at our rehearsal dinner, we didn’t know what we were jumping into. We sure thought we did and I was indeed playing off the significance of jumping into something big and new (and wonderful) when I suggested the cliff jump.
But now I look back on the arrogance and assuredness of my youthful 23 year-old-self with a bit of bemusement and disbelief. I was convinced I knew how to do this thing of marriage and that while others may have struggles and conflicts, CC and I were going to have our own struggles sure, but they would be fleeting and we’d quickly work them through. We’d build this great thing–this grand marriage–that would just get better and better with age and time together. We’d be better together and each year we’d be able to exclaim with delight and glee that the best is yet to be.
This conception worked for the most part for the first years through the bubble wrap of fantasy, wishful thinking and determination and then we had kids and careers and they consumed the primary energy of the next decade plus. What each of us as individuals and as a couple wanted and needed took second place to what the family wanted and needed. Nonetheless, along the way we had many wonderful moments and times together. He made me laugh and I made him shake his head and smile ruefully at what he had married. We had good times. We also had shitty times. There were weeks where we couldn’t work or talk things through, where he found it easier to fall asleep on the couch and I found it easier to let him. Somehow, we’d get to a place of compromise and this sucks so let’s move on, and we would. Overall, it worked because, for the most part, we do life pretty well together. If I do say so myself, I’m pretty easy to get along and live with, and so is he (which actually may or may not indicate health in a marriage, but you’ll have to read the marriage book I’m working on if you want more on that). CC takes care of things. He gets things done. He makes sure the kids have their physicals and wellness appointments, that the cars have at least a half tank of gas, that the bills get paid. He’s the First Responder and the kids and I know if something, anything, arises, start with CC. I keep people fed, the laundry mostly done, and add the nice little caring and homey and chaotic touches to our life. I fill our life with people and dishes and, if you will indulge the artist, beauty. And for the most part, you can get a lot of years out of this with only minor skirmishes.
But we are in our middle years and the middle of our marriage now, and these years have surfaced the places we glossed over or didn’t have time for early on. The things we patched together to make things work earlier are no longer sufficient because we both want more. At some point, and I think this happens in most marriages if we are honest, you realize that the marriage you have is not the one you anticipated or even wanted. Don’t freak out on me here–I am not saying I don’t want my marriage or CC. I’m just saying that usually, the expectations most of us had for what our marriage would look like aren’t what it ends up looking like when we catch our breath in the middle years and take a good hard look at it all. Now there are exceptions to this, to be sure, but let’s be honest here. Every marriage I know a decent shake about hasn’t been all sweetness, intimacy, connection and light. It’s not been all we hoped it would be, at least not without tears and damn hard effort and work.
Thankfully, in CC’s and my story, in our middle years we have re-upped our commitment to each other, the marriage, and, importantly, ourselves as individuals. The last years have been full of getting ourselves in reality about ourselves, where what we brought into the marriage (expectations, wounds, etc.) served us well or really didn’t, how we have played off each other (for good and bad) and how what we have created has its good points and its bad ones. We have been doing hard, fruitful work on ourselves and this thing we created when we stood in front of a bunch of our friends and family and pledged “I do and I will.” We are investing heavily these days in ourselves and our marriage. The truth is, it is hard many, many days. There are days we have no idea how to do what we are trying to do. We’ve been blessed with an amazingly remarkable therapist (there are therapists and there are the gifted ones) who has seemed to be able to significantly help us with whatever we walk in with.
But here’s the thing. It has indeed been work BUT it is proving worth it. CC and I are the best we have ever been. Our kiddos are getting the benefit of all this damn hard work. We are able to see ourselves and our marriage much more clearly and we can be honest with each and ourselves in new ways. We can laugh and play and savor and love and cherish in ways we didn’t know were actually possible earlier on. We’re still working and investing, giving ourselves the space, freedom and gift of truly engaging what is and what we want to be.
So, dear husband, I am a different girl from the one who jumped off the cliff 25 years ago and you are a different boy. We have hurt each other over the years, yes, but we have also done something pretty amazing. We’ve made it through some hard times and we are truly creating and forging the marriage we both wanted even though we couldn’t have truly articulated it or understood what it was we wanted when we were our younger selves. I actually do believe the best is yet to come but I am also enjoying what is. I am proud of us. I agree with B that we are doing some brilliant work. I do love you. Very. Much. I chose you then and and I choose you now. Thank you for going on this journey with me. I am excited to see where the rest of it will take us. XOXO
P.S. As noted above, I am actually working on a book about marriage in its middle years–addressing the challenges and invitations marriages encounter in their midlife. If you would like to share your thoughts or experience with me or have questions or things you are pondering in your own relationship, I’d love to hear them as I continue to shape this book.