The quality of a marriage is proven by its ability to tolerate an occasional "exception."-- Friedrich NietzscheLESSATTRIBUTION DETAIL »
Getting married is a total crapshoot. There’s just no telling at the outset which marriages are going to work, and which ones will circle the drain awhile and go down finally, sucked up by the muck and mire of incompatibility and irreconcilable differences, mid-life crises and communication breakdowns. I think we all start out with the best intentions and a feeling of optimism about the future.
I’ve often wondered if it’s true that we all have one soul mate, and that if you find him or her you’re guaranteed to have a happy marriage. Hmmm…I’m not in the mood for that much philosophical thought. Besides, I prefer to wonder about more interesting things, like if you keep pushing the elevator button, does it really arrive faster?
Ken and I celebrated our thirtieth anniversary this year. Do you know how long thirty years is? It’s a freaking long time. Ken likes to tell people we were babies when we got married. Age-wise we really weren’t babies, but in terms of life experience, I’d have to agree. We were in love and had excellent chemistry, so one sweltering summer day in his attic apartment, when he told me he wanted to marry me, after spending the afternoon in his ridiculously small twin bed, I said yes. We had been dating for a whopping four months.
I figured he must really, truly love me; for one thing, I was dating another guy for some of that whopping four months. I still can’t believe he put up with that situation for as long as he did. Also, the day I brought him around to meet my parents, my then thirteen-year-old brother Michael made the mistake of being a smart-aleck at the dinner table. In response, my very strict father growled menacingly and smacked Michael in the head. Right in front of my new boyfriend. If I recall correctly, Michael sat right next to Ken that night. Naturally I was horrified and mortified, and the aftermath of finishing our meal in silence was beyond awkward. But it didn’t scare him away. Go figure.
We got all dressed up one day in the month of May, invited a couple hundred people, and said our vows. When we returned from our Bermuda honeymoon, people would snicker because neither of us was tan. They joked that we probably never left the room. I wish. As it turns out, Bermuda isn’t tropical, something we didn’t know, and it rained the ENTIRE time we were there. You could say that was the first test of our married life. We spent a lot of money just so we could ride around for a week on mopeds in raingear.
But the true tests of marriage vows are inevitable, and we are no different than anyone else in that regard. There was the reality of raising a child with a disability, a long and difficult bout with infertility, the credit card bills that I racked up, Max and Olivia’s teenage years. He even stuck with me through my hideous assymetrical hair style in 1991, which didn’t grow completely out until at least the end of 1992.
We’ve taken only one vacation alone since Cliff was born. It was an entire weekend near Cape Cod, when we celebrated our 25th anniversary. People are always surprised when I reveal this fact. It isn’t because we can’t afford it.If you really want to know, I'm afraid to leave Cliff. It’s just something I have a hard time with. Ken has grown accustomed to my anxieties by now, and doesn’t force the issue. Would he like to like to sit at a Paris bistro with me eating a mille-feuille? Sure! Have a picnic of bread and Chianti on a blanket under the Tuscan sun? Sip a Grey Goose martini poolside in Aruba? Gaze out of our tree house on the African savannah? Oh yeah. So would I. Someday. It’s a concession he’s made, one of many concessions and compromises, matched only by the ones I have made as well. That’s how marriage works. Luckily, according to Redbook Magazine, the first rule of marriage is to not spend all your time together. “Constant togetherness is unhealthy for any relationship,” says one expert from the Redbook Marriage Institute. How far away could we get from each other on the African savannah?
After thirty years, we still love each other. The chemistry is still wicked good too. Once, a long time ago, when I asked Ken why he thought we had a good marriage, he said, “Mutual respect”. I’d have to agree. Love, chemistry, respect. And knowing when to tell the truth and when to just shut up. It was years before I knew how much he really hated that haircut.
I highly recommend marriage, if you really want to know. I mean, what is life after all, if not one enormous gamble? It’s a beautiful thing. If you have doubts, just remember that the nice thing about a crapshoot is sometimes you do get lucky.