Thirty Five and Counting

In Edith Wharton’s Tales of Men and Ghosts (1910) Lizzie West discovers her husband has lied to her and resolves to leave. Then she imagines life without him. “She understood now that she had gradually adjusted herself to the new image of her husband as he was, as he would always be. He was not the hero of her dreams, but he was the man she loved and who had loved her. For she saw now, in this last wide flash of pity and initiation, that, as a comely marble may be made out of worthless scraps of mortar, glass and pebbles, so out of mean mixed substances may be fashioned a love that will bear the stress of life.”

I wish I could say the thirty five in this title refers to my age.  But no, it’s the number of years I’ve been married.  To the same person.  Long pause while we all digest that information.  It does seem to have become a love that will bear the stresses of life.  There have been some rough times.  Once when our daughter was a teenager she asked me why I didn’t just DIVORCE the s.o.b.   I told her I did not invest all this time and effort into a relationship just to chuck it out the window when things got rocky.  I still believe that it’s all been worth it, and I truly cannot imagine my life without him.  Or, maybe we’ve both just dug ourselves into a rut so deep it’s impossible to imagine climbing out of it.  Whatever the reasons, we seem to be in it for the long haul.

A married couple in their late 50’s was celebrating their 35th wedding anniversary in a quiet, romantic little restaurant. Suddenly, a tiny yet beautiful fairy appeared on their table and said, “For being such an exemplary married couple and for being loving to each other for all this time, I will grant you each a wish.”

“Oh, I want to travel around the world with my darling husband.” The fairy waved her magic wand and – poof! – two tickets for the Queen Mary II appeared in her hands. The husband thought for a moment:

“Well, this is all very romantic, but an opportunity like this will never come again. I’m sorry my love, but my wish is to have a wife 30 years younger than me.”

The wife, and the fairy, were deeply disappointed, but a wish is a wish.

So the fairy waved her magic wand and – poof! – the husband became 88 years old. The moral of this story: Men who are ungrateful bastards should remember fairies are female.

I used to look at wedding anniversary pictures of couples who had been together for an incredible length of time and think, wow.  They must really love eachother.  Now I know there’s WAY more to it.  Here are the reasons we’ve been together for so long (in random order).

1.  We accept eachother as different people.  We each have our own thoughts, opinions, prejudices, quirks, habits and needs.  We both try to love and respect what they are, not what each of us thinks they should be for the other.  Does that make sense?  I gave up a long time ago trying to change either one of us at a basic level – we are who we are.  We’ve learned to live with eachother’s idiosyncracies.  Perfection would be too boring for words, wouldn’t it?  I guess we’ll never know for sure.

2. We both take pleasure in the small things. The grand, sweeping, romantic gestures can only be sustained for a very short time.   Before you know it, real life takes over and the small things are mostly all you’ve got on a day to day basis.  I dearly love and appreciate the little things he does for me.  I love that he asks for my opinion,  even if he doesn’t always agree with it.  I love that when I fold his laundry or cook his favourite meal he doesn’t act like an ungrateful bastard. 

3.  We don’t let resentments fester.  We’ve both learned to let things go.  In the grand scheme of things,  how much do they matter?  We try to harbor no lists of past crimes – not easy, since we both have so many.  But if you bring up the things that bug you without being irrational and insisting one person is right and one is wrong and deal with them before they get huge, you’ll both be happier.

4.  We try to be nice to eachother.  I’m better at it than he is, but that’s just the way things are.  He is my lover AND my best friend.  I think it’s impossible to live together without being both of those things.  I love to complain, and all I want him to do is listen, but men always need to solve problems.  I appreciate that he wants to help, even when his advice is useless.

See?  Advice like this will not bring your fish back to life, but you have to appreciate that someone is trying to make you feel better.  That’s what friends are for.

And what’s love got to do with it?  Everything, I guess.  Even when it’s burried really deep down, it’s there.  It’s the number one reason people get married in the first place.  Eventually you realize you should have placed more importance on a sense of humor and intelligence, but by then it’s too late.   We’re getting pretty good at this growing old together thing.  I don’t know if I can stand another 35 years of it, but I’m willing to give it a shot.