What Makes a Long Marriage? (No, really. I’m asking.) – My Messy Beautiful
Marriage, partnership, coupledom- whatever you want to call it, it's been on my mind a lot lately. This post will probably give you a glimpse of me that you haven't seen before. (Oh, and there's a giveaway at the end for those who make it through.)
I got married for the first time at 22. I was still in college and probably had no business making such a big decision. At the time I wasn’t even sure about my choice of majors. But we married and had some good times and some not so good times.
At 28 I decided it probably wasn’t going to work for the long haul and not-so-elegantly jumped ship. Being divorced is not something I like to think about, and nearly a decade later I still carry a lot of guilt.
My grandparents stayed together their whole lives- more than 60 years of marriage. And while my first marriage lasted longer than most celebrity weddings (probably combined), it was less than a tenth of my grandparents time together.
At 31 I married for a second time. My husband Jeff and I embraced our impulsive tendencies and exchanged vows in Rome. We were touring Italy for two weeks as a sort of combination elopement and honeymoon before returning home to a small ceremony and reception with family and friends (where we embraced our procrastinator tendencies by not signing a caterer until the day before our flight out).
Prior to our trip we had arranged (via email) an officiant and a date. That’s it. No place. No photographer. Nothing. Jeff and I are the kind of people that trust that things will work out. (I’m not endorsing that philosophy, just saying that’s how we roll.)
While driving from Sorrento to Rome the day before our scheduled ceremony, we called the officiant and asked, “Can we do this tonight instead?” Because why not get this show on the road already?
He said yes, so we turned to a couple in our tour van (Mike and Jordanne) and asked if they would be our witnesses and photographer and videographer. They got all excited and said yes.
When I came down to the lobby of our hotel, Mike and Jordanne surprised me with Gerber daisies. Little did they know that was my favorite flower. They just thought I should carry some flowers and they went in search of a corner stand to make it happen. Did we choose the right people or what?
The officiant and his coordinator came to pick us up and we began discussing location. The beautiful Borghese Gardens were nearby (well, I didn’t know they were beautiful until we arrived because we hadn’t been there yet) and we wandered until we found a spot Jeff and I liked, then we exchanged vows in tragic Italian. Why Italian? When in Rome…
Who knows what we even agreed to really. To this day we joke with each other: “Oh, you don’t remember that? It was in the Italian vows.”
It was a beautiful, peaceful ceremony and somehow so perfectly imperfect that it suited us, well, perfectly. It turns out Jordanne had studied photography for a while and was super excited to try out my camera. Her photos were amazing. See? Things work out.
Now here we are with a teenager (my full-time stepson) and a toddler, and we're coming up on our six year anniversary- just the time when things reached their breaking point for me last time.
There are certainly days where we like each other and days where we don’t like each other very much. Days when we say things to each other that we wouldn’t say to people we don’t like. It’s hard. There are days when I think maybe I’m bad at marriage.
Then there are days where I think marriage must suck in general because there are so many couples who bicker with each other or make offhanded remarks to each other or spend excessive amounts of time outside of the home just to avoid each other.
Where are the happily married couples? Or at least the not unhappily married couples? Where are the people who get through the tough days knowing that there are enough good days to make it all worthwhile? Because the good days are so good.
There are days Jeff and I just click. Days when we make other people sick with our sweetness toward one another. Days where we put on music and dance around the kitchen while cooking together (and man, do I wish there were more of those days!). There are days where we giggle and smile and hold hands and make googly eyes.
Somehow we keep showing up. We keep coming together. And maybe that’s what they mean when they ask you to be together for better or for worse (if they even said that in Italy- who knows). I guess there will be good days and bad days.
Maybe the key is to keep the balance tipped in favor of more good days. Jeff and I call it the credit/debit system. He has freely admitted there will be days when he will screw up and his goal is to build up enough credit to outweigh the debits. I definitely strive to do the same.
Maybe it’s the practice of coming back together day after day, racking up credit and acknowledging that there will be debit, that gets people to 60 years together.
For now, I’ll keep taking it one day at a time and fiercely celebrate our soon-to-be six years.
Oh, and for the record, we returned to Italy with Mike and Jordanne in 2012 when they exchanged vows. I was their photographer and Jeff was their officiant.
See? Things have a way of working out.
Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project: This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — Learn more or join in at Momastery.com. Also, be sure to check out Glennon Doyle Melton’s Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback.