I never tied my mother’s sheer curtains under my chin and paraded down the stairs playing “bride.” I didn’t plan Barbie’s wedding to Ken. I was too busy rearranging the furniture in Barbie’s Dream House to fish Ken out from the nest of dust bunnies he’d been exiled to under the bed.
I never once saved even a scrap of page from Bride magazine. Growing up I knew I wanted to be a wife and mother but, with my usual aversion to anything resembling solid planning, I preferred not to bog down in the petty details.
I was never much of a dater. I had one boyfriend for half of high school, another for five years after, and then met the man I would eventually marry. If that is qualified as sowing my wild oats I would like the record to reflect they were less “wild” and more “carefully cultivated oats.”
Let me stress that this is not due to any superiority on my part. I’m probably less “picky,” and more “anti-social.”
Even in my 20s there was just so much superficial chit-chat and time wasting in the form of “seeing if we hit it off” I could take. My answer to most of these scenarios was “we can’t.” This is not because I am too special for mere mortal men. It’s that, even as I wasn’t consciously thinking marriage, I was thinking it wise not to accidentally end up spending the rest of your life with someone you can’t stand to watch chew.
When Mr. Wonderful, of the sparkling green eyes and winsome grin, first asked me to dance 21 years ago, I clearly wasn’t thinking this was the man I was going to marry. I said “no.”
For the record, it wasn’t because he’s not cuter than Christmas (he is). It was because I never was — and still am not — a good dancer.
Despite of — or perhaps because of — my unwillingness to fall immediately for him, he did come back and ask again. This is not because he had no other offers, but precisely because he did. Mr. Wonderful was what you would call “a catch.” When I first noticed him, he could be found in the midst of a bevy of women, all eager to catch his eye.
Early in our getting-to-know-you phase we were clearly involved in a conversation, when a bold young woman sidled up, smiled at him, smirked at me, and slid her telephone number into his front shirt pocket. He smiled at her, smiled at me, removed the number from his pocket, and dropped it neatly into the trash.
That is how one separates the person from the “player.” Yes I would like to have coffee with you — for the rest of your life.
I have heard it said you should marry not the person you realize you can most live with — but the person you find you cannot live without. This is, I think, only partially true.
I am all for fireworks and red hearts and the crushes and lust that sometimes lead to lasting love. I do not, however, think these are the only criteria for picking someone with whom you plan to spend the next 80 years — God willing. It’s more the criteria for picking who you could stand over the course of a two-week vacation, at best.
So what does work? I am only 17 years in to the journey we call marriage and my answer? I don’t know. I believe that to wax rhapsodic about what we have done right is to risk the anger of the fates. I don’t want to jinx myself.
I will say that being a member of this particular team means I have known every single moment of every single day for the last 17 (actually 21) years that Mr. Wonderful has my back. I have his. We are a team. We share successes and make mistakes. We don’t place blame. We just say “oops” and move on. We look back and laugh — a lot.
Although I am a work in progress and still too often fail in this, I do make every effort to expend the same, if not more, effort to show kindness to my spouse as I would to a friend.
A friend of ours, married to his wife since about 15 minutes after they graduated high school, posted this simple wish to us today. “Happy anniversary! Keep going!”
Honestly, I think that’s just about the best advice you could give someone asking how to make it in marriage: Smile more. Laugh often. Be kind. Always listen, and above all else, keep going.