Yesterday was my 27th wedding anniversary. I almost feel hypocritical. It seems as though one of the qualifying criteria for being a divorce attorney should be having gone through a couple really nasty divorces. But, here I am married to the same man for twenty seven years—in a row. I make that last comment only because some people marry, divorce, and then marry the first guy all over again.
My marriage to Cecil started out with the usual star struck romance. Those early days gave way to life's routines, which brought us depth and complexity that wove our lives together more deeply. Years passed and we matured and felt nicely settled. Then we got side-swiped and everything kind of went into the crapper. The flush lever loomed ominously, but we resisted. So now, another ten years down the road, I’m taking stock.
What I see is a couple that has spent ten years trying to survive. Trying to survive is different than living, and it is a far cry from actively loving someone. You try to avoid the life in prison thing at all costs, and it’s no picnic fighting off cancer. Financial devastation has a way of making life unpleasant and a stem cell transplant just lays itself all over everything.
Then the storm comes and knocks out the power for a week and tumbles huge trees across the yard. It never fails that, right on the heels of all that, you’ll spring a steam leak that ruins the paint job in the living room. To top it all off, the fish in your pond start dying for no apparent reason. And, it goes without saying that, if you happen to be a writer facing deadlines of any sort, they are always there to nag at you.
Where’s the time to tend to niceties?
So, I woke up yesterday, said Happy Anniversary to Cecil, and started in on my To-Do list. I hadn’t even gotten him a card. Maybe we’d go out to dinner later, but that didn’t happen because we got busy with the day. He showed me up with a card and flowers, but he picked them up at the grocery store that afternoon when he was there shopping. Later we argued a little because we don’t seem to appreciate each other anymore. I think it’s him and he thinks it’s me. Of course, it’s both of us.
I thought about our talk and realized how hard it is to make a marriage something you are happy to be in. For me, it’s a long-term commitment that rests on family and partnership. It’s easy, though, to slip into the business of raising a family and partnering through life. The thing that makes a marriage unique is the love and companionship and mutual support that flood in early on and so often dissipate over time.
When events and circumstances threaten to overwhelm, I fall into ‘getting the job done’ mode. Even as I write this now, I am feeling anxious because it’s already Sunday and I have so much left to do before I go back to work tomorrow. I have to confess that I succumb to stress occasionally and indulge myself in the tiniest bit of bitchiness. A little of that goes a long way.
The delicate layers of a relationship need nurturing. We all know this, but often refuse ourselves the temptation to take care of this most important part of being with someone. When we let it slide too much for too long, we wake up one day and there isn’t enough left to sustain the marriage.
As I closed up the house last night, the air was cool and crisp. Just like that, fall had snuck through the woods and slipped in around us. The season has changed. I take it as a reminder that life does not remain constant; it evolves from one moment to the next. This is a gift to each of us that we can make of what we will.
So, today, I am going out to get Cecil an anniversary card. I will tell him how much I appreciate him, how grateful I am to have shared my life with him, and how much I love him. Better a day late than not at all.