Marriage is hard work

I call this the warts and all column. 

My wife and I have been together for more than 28 years. When we tell people that we’ve been together that long, they ooh and aww, but I never feel like I’m properly explaining what it means. They’re thinking long carefree walks in the park, full of long kisses and hugs; beautiful sunrises and majestic sunsets; Cinderella and Prince Charming living happily ever after, and I’m thinking soulmates, with wrinkles and scars, but overcoming everything that life has thrown at them.

Marriage is hard work. Some of the toughest work you’ll ever find. I don’t care if you’ve been married two years or 62 years, it takes two special people to make it work. The Peace Corps used to have a recruiting poster in 1962 that claimed volunteering was the “toughest job you’ll ever love.” Peace Corps volunteers are tough men and women, there’s no question on that, but they stole this line from married couples. 

When I stood before the priest, family and friends, and ultimately God and promised to have and to hold my wife, “from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part” I was so young and naive. Getting by in this world is hard enough on your own, doing it in stride with another person, takes willingness to put aside your own wants and needs.

When I think about marriage, here’s what I think about:

  • We’ve had health scares and hurdles to overcome.
  • We’ve had to overcome each of our own little idiosyncrasies and vice versa. For instance, my wife snores; leaves her clothes next to the bed; talks incessantly about her school kids (for any other teachers reading this, no she doesn’t use last names, she keeps everything confidential) and regularly runs late coming home from work. For the record, I have mine too: I snore even louder than her, have been known to leave a cupboard or two open; can be more than a little fanatical about keeping my car clean and cook and clean as much as Steve Bezos likes handing over tax money.
  • I think back on how we hated the long distance that separated us and couldn’t wait for the weeks to pass to be together again.

But let me take a deeper look at some of those challenges: 

  • Yes, sure we’ve had challenges, but I can’t think of anyone else that I would want to face those hurdles with than my wife.
  • Those little idiosyncrasies that sometimes drive me crazy, I now find endearing I love that she loves her job, I love hearing about the difference she’s making in her student’s lives. And yes, my wife leaves her clothes on the floor, because she’s so busy taking care of my sorry ass. 
  • I remember the distance and am so grateful that it taught us how to communicate. Did we or did we not want kids? What did we care about most, family or money? What frustrated us? How do we deal with financial worries? What made us happy? What made us sad? We met before FaceTime or even texting for that matter had come along, we had to rely on long calls in the middle of the night and, yes, I feel ancient even writing it, long letters and cards. We learned early that a grunt or a groan might pass as communications when we were out with friends, but to make a relationship work, we needed to open up, be vulnerable, and be willing to express our deepest most worries and fears. And for that, we’ve been eternally grateful.

A wonderful work in progress

The past 28 years have flown by. There have been more than a few challenges, but I can’t imagine spending them with anyone else and it shows when we’re together. I hope the same for my wife.

I know for me: I’m happiest when we’re together.

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