Marriage. I had given up on the idea when I met the man that is now my husband. The few men I had dated before were not marriage material. Men who lived with their mothers in a complicated love/hate relationship were attracted to me like iron to a magnet. I dated them for a little while because it seemed the “normal” thing to do. It wasn’t long and I ended up really disliking them and myself for perpetuating the illusion that we were or could ever be a couple.
The first time I talked with my husband, I had just gotten home from a date with a clown. Not a jokester but a genuine clown. Clowns have always frightened me. This clown was no exception. He made me balloon animals and talked about his two clown persona’s: Buffy and Biff. He preferred Buffy and spoke of her at length. He lost himself completely when he talked about the clothes Buffy wears and the makeup and high heels.
At this point, I began desperately plotting my escape. He insisted on taking me home in his “clown” mobile. He’d recently purchased a mustard yellow nightmare of a box truck that he was going to convert or decorate into some bizarre clown conveyance. The prototype seem to exist only in his mind and once again he checked out of reality and waltzed down fantasy lane as he spoke about the future of that blasted box truck. I declined a ride and took the most convoluted route home that was humanly possible in case he was following me. I think Stephen King may have met this guy before writing IT.
Once I finally get to the safety of my apartment, I draw the blinds and double-check the locks. There is one new message on my machine. I’m afraid that it’s another crazy blind date. I’d gotten a free personal ad at a recent waterfront concert and was now regretting it but I needed a distraction from my recent terror. I call up the man that has left the latest message and tell him that “I don’t think I was interested in meeting any more strange men after tonight’s date.”
I was dumbfounded and charmed when he replied, “Oh, tell me what happened.”
None of the dates I had been on had ever started with such a question or any genuine interest in me. One guy, who seemed to have no social censor looked at me and said, “I didn’t expect you to be fat.” The man on the other end of the line wasn’t like all the others. I was hooked. I had to meet this man. When I did, I broke all my safety rules. I let him give me a ride and I let him know where I lived. He felt safe in a way that none of the others ever had. I knew I would be alright. I knew that this man was a gentleman. Most of all I was certain he wasn’t another clown who lived in his mother’s basement.
While I can’t say it was love at first call, I did want to know the guy on the end of the phone better. If nothing else, I was sure that he would be a good friend to have. We met. He was polite. He held open doors for me. He didn’t live with mom and spoke well of his extended family. He had a full-time job. He smiled and laughed easily. He couldn’t compare with any of my previous dates because he wasn’t like any of them. I liked him in a way I had never liked any of the others. I had suffered through dates with people I would never have wanted as friends until this night. On July 30th, 1993, in the now demolished Rose’s restaurant on NW 23rd Ave., I met a man who was the type of man I had been hoping to find.
Fast forward to our 16th wedding anniversary: We have discovered each other’s weaknesses. We’ve seen each other at our best and at our worst. We often struggle to feel and to maintain a satisfying connection. Years of being single made it harder to merge our lives. We were used to thinking only of ourselves. Old habits die slowly. Neither of us had past spouses or children from other marriages and while that made less obvious baggage, we still drug a luggage cart behind us. You don’t stay single as long as each of us did without some issues, some reasons that marriage or long-term relationships didn’t fill our separate pasts.
After nine years of plenty, in which our lives are blessed with two beautiful children, a decent income, nice vacations, we undergo seven years of loss. Most couples don’t survive the losses we have experienced. Job loss, financial ruin, health issues, a special needs child. The losses of the last seven years have brought us to our knees. Often, we kneel alone. Numbness and denial are the tools that get us through another day but still we endure.
“For richer, for poorer.
In sickness and in health.”
There are often days when we want to run. The Canadian border is often tempting to me. The need for a passport now dampens the fantasy of easy escape. My husband longs for the climate of his youth. Southern California is his siren song.
“To have and to hold, from this day forward.”
We struggle to hold on. We have little time or energy left to hold each other and yet we do. Often it doesn’t feel enough. It fails to satisfy us. We mourn for our separate and collective losses. We long for the feeling of unity and of purpose. We are easily trapped in the prison of the self. And, yet. . .
In spite of it all, this latest anniversary made me realize something I desperately needed to know: I would marry him again. Knowing what I know now, I would marry him again.
I still believe in my husband’s innate goodness, despite any “evidence” to the contrary.
I still believe in love and that love still connects us.
I still believe that despite all our differences in parenting styles, he really loves his children.
I still believe that bad times and all the losses have a purpose. They make us better people and better partners. We just need to make up our minds that this is so.
I can not speak for others’ relationships or marriages. There are many good reasons for people to break their union, their connection. There are also a lot of bad reasons. Marriage is not easy. It’s one of the hardest things to do well. There are circumstances when dissolving bans is the best thing to do.
Marriage can not be done alone. One partner can not do all the work. The other must be able and willing to meet the other part way. One partner can not do the work for the other. Much of the work that marriage requires is work within. Each of us must change, adapt, compromise and comes to terms with all those things in the privacy of our own heart. Neither of us can control the other. Each of us must learn to let go, must learn which battles are really worth fighting and which compromises have a greater purpose.
We love the idea of romance, the happy ending, the happily ever after. We avoid hard work. We deny the unpleasant. When marriage is hard we often want to give up, to run, to fold, to sit down on the freeway of life and let the traffic flatten us. We have not.
I’ve seen the tenuous nature of life, of marriage. Nothing stays the same. Things could unravel completely tomorrow, next month, next year. Nothing lasts forever, however, today is all we really have. Today, we are together. We are grateful for each other. This gratitude is based more on the struggle. It is a gratitude born of trouble and trial. It’s a gratitude that rests of weakness and feeble attempts at strength. It’s a gratitude based on blind faith, on desparate hope and on imperfect love.
For our 16th anniversary and for the two days following that has been enough. I am grateful for my wildly imperfect husband and for this difficult union called marriage. I would marry you again and trust you when you say the same. I raise a glass to us and offer a toast for better tomorrow. I am committed.