Happy Anniversary to ME! I've been married for as many years as...well, as I've been alive. Though my marriage has been wonderfully vivifying, that is not a testament as much to its liveliness as to the fact that I can scarcely believe that I am more than 22 years old. That time can zip in such a blink has been lamented by just about everyone, including my--what? 14-year-old son (!?) who recalls the births of children for whom he now babysits. Well, I recall HIS birth as if it were the proverbial yesterday, and I recall each of my three children as if they are, oh, 7, 5 and 2, even as I talk to them on their cellphones trying to pry out some crumb of what goes on in their lives.
Twenty two years of marriage. Sometimes I get frustrated with my husband, and then he turns around and gives me "that look" and I melt. I don't get frustrated much or for long; he brings me flowers on his way home from work, whether that's at 4 pm or 10. The checkers at the supermarket know him because he's always zipping in to buy a little bunch of flowers, and when she comes through the door with them outstretched in their plastic Albertson's bag, I am always surprised. He chose them; he always tells me why he chose those particular flowers. "I thought those yellow ones looked particularly perky." "I haven't brought you irises in awhile." "I know you love peonies" Well, that one is true but I really don't get many peonies. They don't appeal to his male eye because they usually come, when they do for two weeks in May, as little balls stuck on stems, awaiting their new home before unfurling.
So, you ask, aside from graciously receiving flowers, to what do you attribute twenty-two years of happy marriage? Here are the rules that come to mind:
1. Take it easy. That means go with the flow; don't let things bug you, just be easy. Not much is worth anybody getting upset. Let it go. Just do it, even if you think he ought to. Just forget it. A friend of mine wrote a book a long time ago. You don't need the book, but the title was essential: Winning by Letting Go.
2. Be his/her biggest fan. I just came across a study from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (no, I don't subscribe; it was covered in a New York Times article) from about a year ago. It said that the way couples respond to good news determines the quality of the relationship far more than the reaction to bad news. The part I highlighted in pink said that "in most relationships, positive events outnumber negative ones by at least four to one." That means you have four chances to cement the relationship for every "poor baby" opportunity. One thing that I think of is that there are lots of people--ladies--out there who would jump up excitedly to know that my husband was going to be coming through their door. So, every time my husband DOES come through my door, I jump up excitedly. His coming home is good news. And when he gets some CDs (ie classical music) in the mail, that's good news; I get happy for him. If he writes something, just about constantly, I praise him for doing it. After all, he IS doing it; he IS accomplishing. I'm much better at procrastinating. This is not a strategy on my part. Long ago I decided that we are a team, one unit, and if he succeeds, I succeed.
I don't always love everything he writes. But I always love something about everything he writes. I don't always agree with everything he wants. But if I disagree, I try to put it in a way so that he knows I'm on his team, and not trying to undermine him by feeling differently. And I try to explain why what I want is better. He's reasonable. One of his many strong suits.
3. Clothes don't make the man. Speaking of strong suits, he doesn't have any, sartorially speaking. He's a walking fashion disaster. While being religious, he's also holey. Usually at the elbows. You know the old one about having ties older than you are? Yep.
Truth is, looks don't make the man, or the woman, either. As I get older, I hate it. But while denial isn't just a river in Egypt, and denial is my specialty when it comes to aging, sometimes you can't avoid looking in a mirror and at your spouse. I think a happy marriage is about doing what you can outwardly and latching onto that so-called "wisdom" that comes with age--which is just another way of saying that as you get older, you realize that intangibles are more valuable than tangibles, and that the connection with your other half is not about what you see but who you are.
I hear my other half calling, saying it's time to get to bed...he's got another early work call, and, after all it IS our anniversary. Maybe I'll think of more items to add to my list later. In the meantime, it's fun being 22.