Tuesday, February 14, 2012

my choice

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.


  1. The perfect post on marriage. You sum it up so well :-)

  2. I love and agree everything you say here, but I have one question. When does the "mad attraction" part end? My husband and I are almost 11 years into our relationship and we're 5 years into our marriage and it's still there. I guess, maybe, that if the attraction part sticks around, it just makes the rest a tiny bit easier.

  3. This is what makes a marriage last.

    I feel bad when I hear younger women spout off their checklist of what their "perfect" future husband will be like. They are headed for disappointment.
    I wish they could see 30 years into the future and find out what's more important that someone who will do EXACTLY 50% of the household chores.

  4. Watching Middle Child's Valentine's prep has granted me great appreciation for the ease of mine and the mister's eighteenth Valentine's Day together. We're not exchanging cards either, but there's not a card written that could say, "I love you!" as clearly as my mister brewing the coffee every morning.

  5. ahhh, so sweet.
    Marriage really is a lot of work and I never did have the patience for it. However, I should think the payoff would be great for those who stick with it through Tums and all.
    Happy Valentine's Day!

  6. This is a great description of how lust morphs into love. It's hard to describe to people who haven't been there yet, how you can be horribly annoyed with someone at times, and yet they're your rock and you wouldn't trade their presence in your life for anything. I consider myself so lucky to have found the right guy.

  7. congratulations, amen to your post. have a really great Valentines time with Mr D when ever it happens.

  8. This is the best post on marriage I've ever seen. Fabulous.

  9. So true. Happy Valentine's Day!

  10. While I agree that love can be work, I don't agree that we choose it.

    I fell madly in love and I know my husband would say the same thing. Both of us tried to continue with our plan at the time and realized that without the other in our life, we didn't want to.

    I am still madly in love with that man, and he me. And everyone we know will attest to it. Just recently, as we were out on a date night, we had a couple walk up and introduce themselves to us and tell us how freaking cute and in love we were. They thought it was adorable we'd been together as long as we had. Both of them thought we were still in what they called 'new love'. No, this love is close to 20 years old.

    We had those feelings of intimacy you talk about almost immediately. But then, both of us knew, almost immediately, that this was IT. We have learned over the years that not everyone is lucky enough to have that lightening bolt moment, like we did. We treasure it, and our relationship. We believe in love at first sight, because we've lived it. We also have dinner by candlelight every night. Just because.

  11. Excellent! I want to print this out and save it for my daughters to read. I have the added "work" of trying this long-distance (we joke that of the 16 years married we've only lived 8 together!). We may not talk everyday but we are never far from each other. Again, just excellent!

  12. This is all so true--and so well said.

    I have said to Mrs. G. before that I think that several of us have in us a book of essays on how to make marriage last. Seriously.

  13. Great post. I like how you said we "choose" to love, not "fall" in love. So true, and you have to keep on choosing.

    My marriage has been really rocky at times, especially this past fall, but we stuck it out and things are starting to get better.

  14. This is the quote I love: "Marriage takes falling in love over and over again. And always with the same person." Mignon McLaughlin

  15. Great thoughts! Hey you wouldn't want to be a premarital counselor would you? :) Actually, our premarital mentors told us the other day that they carved out a little lull before dinner during which they sit & enjoy a glass of wine. Chill time if you will. Reminds me of you two with your coffee.

  16. I wish, culturally, we made a bigger deal out of marriages that stay together. There are many out there full of wisdom to share. It could be a segment on the news show. Instead of Willard Scott sharing 100 birthdays let an old married couple share their secrets.

  17. Beautiful. I'm all teary. You're so right about love being an active behavior and a choice. I couldn't agree more.


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