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Mara Shapiro Headshot

How I Survived 21 Years of Marriage and Still Want More

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Ever wonder how they do it? I mean the older couples you see in the park, at the store, holding hands in the mall? What makes it last? How do they get there, how do they survive each other?

Soon, my marriage turns 21. It will be able to order a beer anywhere in the world.

But what I want to know is whether this milestone mean we've made it. I mean, we've passed through the rough bits: seven-year itch, the toddler years, the teens, the hard times and the good ones too. We've gone the distance, and so far haven't hit the wall (too often).

It seems we're set. But we're not. We could still fail. I hope we don't. I believe we can go the distance.

Our marriage is persistent; It's hard-working; It's tempestuous; It's also joyful, predictable, and not at all what you'd expect.

I was watching a movie with another couple over the weekend, and in one scene, a handsome young man and pretty, sweet thing were falling in love. As they gazed into each other's eyes they moved towards each other, clasping hands for a slow and sensuous dance. My friend leaned over to me and whispered, Remember when it was like that?

And I looked over at my husband and nodded. Yes. I do.

I didn't want to say it out loud in case it wasn't so for her, but I could say yes because it still is. On occasion. The fire is still there. The reason: Sometimes when he kisses me it's like the first time all over again.

We fight too much. We disagree. We say hurtful things. We have a history of bad communication. Sometimes we want different things. Often we think that we don't actually have any thing in common, that we like to spend our lives separately together. We've become parallel. We sink deep into our well of real life -- arguing and closed ears and needing to be right and frustration and stress. We wonder if it's worth it.

But then once in a while, we feel it. There's a glimmer of the old magic.

It pops in with a random touch as we pass. When we hear the song that was on rotation the first six months we were dating. When he brings me a coffee in bed or I do the same for him. When he doesn't get mad when I break something or smash up the car or forget everything.

When he cleans off my car, or sets up my backyard oasis, or records himself snoring so he can figure out how often he does it and how he can find a way to stop.

When I bring him tea when he's sick, or send him a dirty text to brighten up his difficult day. When he sits for hours giving me ideas for my novel, and challenges me to make the story better, even when he suspects the main character is based on him (it's not).

When he gives me his pillow because it's more comfortable, or I catch him peeking at me in the shower, a look of appreciation on his face.

When he hunts down the right size in that sweater he knows I covet, or when I buy his favourite treats. When he smiles to himself and takes my hand in the movies or while he's driving. When I crawl into his lap while we're watching TV.

When he puts the music on and walks into the kitchen while I'm loading the dishwasher and just like in the movies, pulls me into a slow dance. And he whispers into my ear, I love you. Sometimes I hate you, and sometimes I want to kill you, but most of the time I love you.

And when I respond, There are times if you say one more word I feel like I might punch you in the face. And there was that day when PMS made me want to stab you in the heart. But most of the time I love you too.

That's when we know that while it may not be perfect, it's ours. We're doing the marriage thing our way which may not be everyone's way or Hollywood's way, or Harlequin's way, but it works for us. And no we don't always have a lot in common, and yes, we probably bicker too much, and sure, we are getting older, and more boring, and flabbier, and more grey, and most certainly mutually annoying. But it wouldn't be nearly as much fun to irritate anyone else. He's my one itch that I love to scratch, and I'm his.

Twenty-one years is far from long enough to exhaust our patience for each other. We're up to the challenge and we aim for consistency and perseverance. So we're going to work on driving each other nuts for 21 more. And maybe a good 10 and a half after that.

And by then, when we're too deaf to hear the music, when he pulls me into his arms for a dance, we'll just sway to the rhythm of our hearts. Which will not be beating in synchronicity. Because off the beat is our marital jam. And we wouldn't have it any other way.

Previously published on BeNiceorLeaveThanks.com

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