On the 18th of August, my husband and I will have been married 22 years. I could tell you that all 22 years have been magical, and that every day has been a dream come true -- but I won't. Not only would that be nauseating, it would be far from the truth! However I can honestly say that the good times have been worth the hard times, and that having a steady companion on our parallel journeys has been a comfort well worth the effort.
Though we know some couples who do everything together (chores, work, play, and parenting), David and I have managed quite well with the divide-and-conquer method. Occasionally accused of being Mary Poppins' long-lost sister, I handle anything that requires unconditional love, saintly patience, cleansers, and spontaneous bursts of song. My worldly husband, free from all household duties, fights off dragons like bills, taxes and insurance claims.
For years, a typical date-night conversation might sound something like this:
"Caitlin drew the cutest picture for art class!"
"Mmm hmm. Did I tell you Client X might have a buyer?"
"No. That's great! The picture had all of her friends holding hands."
"I read about a fascinating development in nanotechnology...."
Toddlers frightened him more than taxes frightened me, and often during the early years, we complained simultaneously about lack of support and understanding. The discussions always ended with, "I'd never want to switch places with you." That simple truth helped us through moving, career changes, financial decisions, and an embarrassing landfill of disposable diapers.
As the years passed, we learned to support each other's needs and interests. I studied meditation and wrote a book; he put up with my exuberance and late-night fits of inspiration. He needed some extra help in the office; I became his part-time office manager. I needed some extra help around the house; he suggested the kids were old enough to have chores. (It's okay to laugh.)
This year David surprised me with an extravagant anniversary gift: a new refrigerator. We had been left with an over-sized white elephant by the previous owner of our condo. It had a big scratch in the front and barely fit in the room, but it kept the food cold and therefore did not need replacing. I'm a practical gal, and would probably have left the beast there until it died a natural death.
When the delivery men arrived this morning, I was shocked to see that they did not wheel the fridge down the long hallway between the elevator and my door. Instead they carried it between them, each with a strap around his body that went under the fridge. Their bodies carried the weight, and their hands pushed towards each other to keep it steady. The coordination and strength of these men impressed me, though they insisted that it's easy once you get the hang of it.
The old fridge was so huge, it had to be dismantled in order to fit out of the kitchen door. When at last the new, stainless steel, counter-depth fridge was in place, the entire kitchen looked roomier and more attractive. Once again, David had made a great decision, and I happily told him so.
It struck me that our marriage has functioned a lot like the arrival of the new fridge. Like the delivery men, David and I have managed heavy burdens by sharing the load, reaching out towards each other, and moving carefully in the same direction. A cracked fridge doesn't even hit the radar. We have dealt with a troubled child, a sewer-pipe flood, financial crises, and loss of loved ones. Stress that could have driven us apart somehow drew us closer together, as we realized that the best way to lift the load is to rely on the person who always understands which way you are going.
That's the great thing about sticking it out. We are not the same people we were 22 years ago, thank goodness, but our love is nurtured by shared values that have never changed. We've made it through so many hard times, we're certain to survive whatever life has in store. Sure, he drives me nuts sometimes, but I'm not always a dream to live with, either. (Just almost always.)
In terms of having a good marriage after 22 years, like the delivery men said, "it's easy once you get the hang of it."