Milestones prompt reflection and I hit a big one this week: 20 years of marriage. I realized that, counting our courtship, I have been with this man longer than I have been without him. Yes. That means I’m old. (shrug – so what?!?) So, when I say to him, “Grow old with me,” it has new meaning because gravity’s pull on body parts is stronger, laughlines are deeper and hair is “shiny-er” (this is how my husband describes the strands on his head that are no longer black).
All in all, we have a pretty great marriage. We’ve had some good years, some bad years and some thank-God-this-year-is-over years. There are things about my man that bother me, annoy me, make me angry and I’m starting to accept that those are the things are not going to change! Try as I might to communicate them to him, he is who he is and I’m not going to make him perfect. Who knew? But on the flipside, I’m not perfect either. I am sure there are days he’d rather run far, far away rather than live with me. In fact, there have been times when in my apologies I’ve said, “I’m sorry you are stuck with me.”
But stuck he is. And stuck I am. Because we are not giving up on this.
While some of the years of our marriage have been particularly mired in the mud of life, this past year was probably the hardest on our marriage itself. It wasn’t necessarily the extreme circumstances of life that made it hard – we’ve had those other years. This year was full of Real Life: things that happen along the journey that are a part of everyone’s life. The problem was that this year was too full of Real Life. It squeezed us like a vice and created intense feelings (on my part anyway) of loneliness, disconnection, resentment, but ultimately acceptance. Would I do the year over again differently? No. Most of the Real Life was not under my control. My responses are the only thing I could control and in general, I’m proud to give myself a B+ on those.
The biggest thing I’ve learned this year is how selfish I still am. I thought I had conquered so much of that in earlier years, but it still has its ugly root deep in my heart. I’ve spent the year digging at that root trying to get it out. I’ve been elbow deep in mud with broken nails and raw hands… digging… digging… digging. It’s still there.
My husband and I agree that Hollywood has it all wrong. The movies are all about the struggle to end up together. I’d like to see more movies that are about the struggle once you are together. That is where Real Life lies. That is where the struggle really is: in the day to day. Dishes, laundry, bills, deadlines: that’s what life is made of. How do we balance finding joy and purpose in the everyday with the mundaneness of it all? How do we accomplish our dreams while on the same token laying down our lives for each other? Because that is what marriage is: laying down our lives, our desires, our selfishness.
I am honestly blessed: my husband in my favorite person on the face of the earth. He truly is. I would rather spend time with him than anyone else. Anyone. He sees my ugly and loves me anyway. He looks for the good in me. He knows my ins and outs and accepts them. He encourages me when I am down, he rejoices with me when I’m excited and he challenges me to do the right thing even when I don’t want to. He is my best friend… and that, my friends, is what marriage is all about: friendship, acceptance and forgiveness. Sometimes with an extra dose of forgiveness.