The other day a woman mentioned to me in passing that it was her anniversary. "Congratulations!" I replied. "How many years?" "Twenty," she answered. "Well, that's something," I told her, "it's a heck of a lot easier to get married than it is to stay married. Good for you!"
A week later I ran into her again and she asked me how things were going. "Fine. You?"
"Well," she began hesitantly, "the other day you said something and I feel funny bringing it up. You said something about marriage being hard. Are things going okay?"
I laughed. "Things are great. I was only observing the hard truth about being married. Sticking it out takes a lot of effort. Way more effort than planning a big party and choosing a dress. When you stay married, it's work. Mr. D and I have had our share of rough patches. Too many people bail when it gets difficult. I think the folks who make marriages work for decades should get some sort of award."
You see, reader, it's a gross misconception that we fall in love. We choose to love, and while some people are easier to love than others, love's an active kind of behavior. True love has little to do with candlelight dinners or hot air balloon rides. Those early feelings of mad attraction fade, how can they last forever? It would be exhausting. As we become intimate with someone, we see more of them--eventually the unattractive bits peek out--they have gas, they use antacids, they wake up with foul breath, they get angry and say cruel things. Sometimes the unattractive bits provide fair warning, and it's legit to jump ship. But most of the time, us old married couples hunker down and weather storms together, passing the Tums across the bed in the middle of the night, kindly reminding our mate to "don't say that word."
Mr. D's on his last day of vacation--poor man is golfing in Arizona with some buddies. I've had time to be alone here without him, commandeer the TV remote, tend to the children as I see fit. I've also had time to appreciate him. We've reached an easy patch in life, but we still find opportunities to compromise. It's easy to be honest with someone who's been around as long as Mr. D--I can say little to shock him. I know he's not packing his bags and leaving me over something petty. There's great comfort in the little things, you don't get those habits gluing you together when you're in brand new relationships. When you've been sharing space with someone for so long, you get that different kind of intimacy, a really relaxed kind, where you know how they'll sit on the couch (always reclined with their feet up), how you're done impressing each other, how that person becomes your sanctuary. Mr. D doesn't send me flowers or play me love songs, but I know he'll make coffee on Saturday morning and bring me a cup.
It's kind of incredible that we can still sit and talk over coffee a few mornings a week and not run out of things to say. We don't share opinions on all things, but that makes things interesting. He really listens to my perspective and values my opinion. He thinks I'm smarter than the average bear (and trust me, if you want to appeal to my vanity, that's how to do it). He makes the coffee really strong (the way I like it) and waters his cup down so he can drink it. He cannot bear raw egg yolks, but if he's making scrambled eggs for the gang on a Sunday morning, he'll make a couple eggs over-easy for me. Mr. D appreciates my sense of humor, my need to keep moving, my ridiculous organization and my affection for Jane Austen.
I am thankful to be in a relationship where we both have plenty of space and security. I do karate and write, he does baseball and sells. We can go days with barely any conversation because we're headed in different directions, but we can spend a whole week together in the OBX and still talk to each other on the drive home. I love that when I say, "Hey! You're taking me for granted!" Mr. D will step up. Mr. D provides exceptionally well for our family. He backs me up with parenting stuff, and he knows I've got his back in turn. I can ask him anything and he won't make fun of my questions, he'll explain things again and again (like investments and those goofy end-zone rules in football). He gets my insecurities, forgives my incessant knuckle-cracking, endures my ranting over political issues.
We push each other, but we also pull each other along. We ebb and flow. I don't wake up every morning in love, but I wake up and see what there is to love with Mr. D.
We're not a mushy couple--there won't be cards exchanged or a late Valentine's dinner. Heck, I won't even see him until tomorrow. In spite of these things, Mr. D, I love you. I choose you. On this day and all the other days of the year.