I jokingly sent out an invite to a few friends to join me in celebrating my husband’s and my 14th wedding anniversary. In the text I tongue-in-cheek described us as one of “a dying breed of couples who actually stay married.”
As I head to my niece’s wedding this week, I realize how un-funny my joke really is. I know plenty of people in the throws of a failed marriage and let me tell you it’s the mosIt painful thing I’ve ever seen.
Keeping two people loving, committed, and focused on the same goal post of life in the 21st century seems to be nothing short of miraculous. Why I do not know –and I sure as hell am not going to try to figure it out here.
Hell, I’m not even sure what the definition of a happy home is these days–healthy kids? Paying the mortgage? Liking your partner? Or liking yourself with your partner?
I haven’t a clue–I just know that after 14 years, 2 children, 5 jobs and metastatic breast cancer, my husband and I still have a happy marriage. I am holding onto that fact with clutched fists and a grateful heart. I feel so lucky I could cry.
But what about my niece? What can I tell her? What secrets-of-the-still-married can I give her to save her from the stomach-turning ride that is marriage, even at its best?
What can I tell her about a journey that I began when she was merely 16 and only just stepping onto her own romantic path of life. Nobody has the GPS to Happily-Ever-After. At some point you just have to get in the car, grab the map, and hit the gas–together.
I guess it’s the ‘together’ part that I focus on in that last sentence: stay together. Don’t let the children get in your way. Don’t let the job get in your way. Don’t let the bills, the tears, the anger, the way-we-did-it-when-I-grew-ups, the strains–all that bad stuff that sneaks its way in when you’re changing and growing as you age–don’t let it pull you away from each other. And it will try, and it will keep trying–it’s the way it goes. That’s life. Nobody means for it to happen.
In defense of marriage let me just say that when it’s good–when you’ve enjoyed the sunny days and weathered the storms and found your way to still holding hands on your 14th wedding anniversary, there is nothing–and I mean NOTHING–better than a good marriage.
But marriages change those of us in them–that’s not news. I am not the same woman I was 14 years ago and I won’t be in 14 years–if I make it that long. Fighting metastatic breast cancer curbs my confidence in that kind of thing. But I plan to be here. I plan to make it through cancer.
Maybe it’s the same with marriage. Plan to make it. I know nobody plans to not make it. (Do you take this woman to be your lawfully wedded wife? To un-love, horror, disappoint, anger, upset and otherwise piss off as long as you both stay married?) I realize that. And if you’re someone going through or having had a divorce please know I am on your side. I am so sorry you’re going through this. And I am one lucky S-O-B who for some bizarre, ass-backward-into-clover reason isn’t facing your same fate.
But for those of you–my niece and her fiance included–who are about to embark on the wild, wonderful but uncertain marriage journey, here’s my happy-marriage advice: plan to make it through. As obvious (and lame) as it sounds, that’s it.
And while you’re doing that, I’ll be over here beating breast cancer’s butt.
That way, if both of our plans come together, and I know they will, then I’ll have a long and healthy life …
and you’ll have a long and happy marriage.