I was trying to fall asleep last night and had a few thoughts about what sustains a marriage. I mean, marriage is tougher than Sally Hanson's Hard as Nails. Really it is.
In marriage, we attempt to take two, usually polar opposites, and make them fit together like a square peg in a round hole. It can be very frustrating learning how to set one's super ego and id aside as dos become uno.
I know a lot of divorced people who say they will never marry again but honestly, I don't have any desire to go through life alone. I like having an instant playmate and a read-made date at my whim. Now I suppose if I were an armchair football widow each fall we would have probably had to visit the judge, but then again I would not fall for one of those types anyway. We are well suited when it comes to hobbies and interests.
I am stymied at how many people comment on how long 21 years is, but to me it seems as though it was yesterday. We were both skinny little things. I was 27 and he was 26 and after numerous discussions about marital expectations we were ready to take the plunge. The proposal was not really any surprise. It was just a natural progression in our relationship. So he proposed, and proposed, and well, proposed. In fact, he says I made him propose to me about 4 different times before it took.
There was the first time at what we call the water place, the Trammell Crow sculpture garden in downtown Dallas.
Then there was the restaurant Il Sorento on Turtle Creek.
To be honest, I don't recall the other times but he swears they total four. Sure it sounds funny, but we were excited and swept up by the jumbly-stomach, swirling-heart, dizzy-head romance of it all. I think we were so excited we found each other that we just wanted to relive it over again.
If you think numerous proposals are funny, you might think multiple marriages are hilarious. I married him twice. Actually, we had a civil ceremony downtown Las Colinas near one of the bridges as well as a church ceremony at St. Elizabeth Seton's Catholic Church in Plano a couple years later once my first marriage was annulled and we were free to marry in the church. I know it is strange for those who are not Catholic, but to be honest the annulment process was very cathartic for me and I found it useful in forgiving my ex and moving on.
Marriage is tough, but it can also be wonderful. Well that is if we learn to communicate, overcome our childish tendencies, and accept that our spouse is not an extension of us. That's right. The word 'we' does not mean 'me and everything I damn well please' as we browbeat the other into submission. It means that we take our two points of view and bounce them off each other and come up with the best of both.
Not all marriages are ideal. When our local Target was built, I recall shopping there that first week and feeling truly sorry for this dude that picked up the wrong chunk of cheese only to be chastised publicly, by his overbearing wife as she called him 'stupid'. He glanced around looking so dejected and embarrassed as she gave her ugliness not another thought.
Perhaps their marriage started off just as fulfilling as ours, but it is critical to avoid the me, me, me pitfalls that can come with laziness. Believe me, he was not happy in that marriage and she was too self-centered to even realize what was clearly coming her way.
Marriage can be rewarding as well. I read stories and sweet tales on Facebook by Virdie Montgomery, the principal of Wylie High School who is clearly in love with his wife and he takes every opportunity to verbalize how much he cherishes not only her, but also their marriage. His musings are a living testament to his student 'friends' who get to read what healthy marital expectations and having a sense of humor in marriage should look like.
Through his shared thoughts, the students get to see how he not only is able to be a stellar principal and do his job, but how he includes his wife, and that it is possible to be incredibly happy having both a healthy marriage and a successful career, which so many young people are led to believe is nearly impossible.
My parents have been married 53 years and they claim what is most important is that they are best friends. I believe that is indeed the key to marriage, not sex, not romance, not any of that. Just being best friends and treating our significant other how we would like to be treated is crucial. And while I am at it, it is also important to understand that our better half is not any more perfect than we are and so it is equally as important to forgive and move on. That is the reason so many get divorced, not because they fell out of love, it's because they did not learn to forgive.
So as I look at the old grey-haired stallion laying sideways in the black and white armchair, sound asleep in what has got to be an epically painful sleeping pose, I am reminded of all the reasons why biting my tongue is more important than belting out stupid stuff in the moment just because I am feeling crappy. I am reminded that selflessly ironing his stack of shirts because he has even less free time than I do with a long commute each day is a way to gain more of his free time just for me. As I watch his eyes slowly close and he 'assumes the position' as I call it, adjusting himself in the chair. He does so just so he can be with me a little while longer as I watch late night TV. The crick in the neck from a snooze in the chair and sore feet from standing at the ironing board are small prices to pay just to grab a little free time to be bffs.
It is the little things that make marriage worthwhile, so don't forget to not only look for them but to also see them.