I wrote this ten years ago. It’s been printed a few places, but never here. I’m posting it today because it’s Duane’s and my 40th anniversary and it’s a happy one. I loved him so much all that time ago when we were young and slim and all of life was ahead of us. I love him more now.
What’s it like, you ask, being married to the same person for over 30 years? How do you do it? Well, it’s like this.
You know every word of his body language, can identify every freckle that dances across his shoulders when he walks into the sun, can buy him a year’s wardrobe in 15 minutes flat counting the time you spend writing the check and asking the store clerk how her kids are doing. You know better than to cook tuna casserole even if you like it, that a sure way to get him to talk to you is to start reading a book, that if you’re not feeling well, he’s most certainly feeling worse. You’ve learned by now that there’s no possible way you can be in love every day. Sometimes, let’s come right out and say it, he’s just a jerk. Sometimes, since we’re not holding back, you’re a pain in the neck. On those days, you look at each other with glazed eyes and wonder which lawyer to call. Then you go to bed, mumble “I love you” with doubtful sincerity, and lie in the dark and mentally parcel out the furniture, the dishes, and the retirement accounts until sleep overtakes you.
There are days, indeed, when Peggy Lee’s voice echoes in your mind, Is that all there is? In the time when you had a flat stomach and naturally glowing skin and hair that was …well, a different color than it is now, this isn’t what you counted on, was it? Once you got the kids raised, you were going to travel, wear expensive clothes, dance the night away. You were going to have fun.
Okay, you say, if it’s that bad, why do you stay married?
Well, because, that’s why.
Because he can tell by the set of your chin if you’ve had a bad day, because he’ll bring home takeout food just when you’re positive you can’t cook one more meal in this lifetime, because he tells you he thinks you’re really cute and means it even if you’re not wearing any makeup and you haven’t sucked your stomach in.
He still takes the street side on sidewalks because that’s the way he was taught, tells your daughter she’s almost as pretty as you are, and never reminds you you’re getting more like your mother every day. He knows the words to the same songs you do and he doesn’t mind that you can’t carry a tune in a bushel basket. He doesn’t laugh when you can’t finish singing Puff, the Magic Dragon because you are in tears you can’t explain. He just tucks his arm around you and hands you a tissue and kisses the top of your head where the roots are starting to show a bit.
Well, fine, you say, but isn’t it boring?
Oh, I suppose, once in a while.
But a long marriage is like the sun. It’s there every day and night, sometimes hidden by dense and sulky cloud covers, sometimes blazing red and vital and exciting. During cold spaces in your life—and life offers a lot of those—marriage wraps itself around you and keeps you warm. The other side of that is that long marriages are uncomfortable now and then, like when you and your spouse disagree on matters of fundamental importance, such as values, religion, politics, money, and thermostat settings. And you do disagree about these things even though you think you never will. This is when you look at him and think, Why am I still married to this person who is so wrong about everything?
Maybe because, when you get right down to it, the marriage isn’t boring, but a definition of fun you never imagined. And then there’s the irrefutable fact that when the world is out to get you, it has to go through him first. Or, trite as it sounds, perhaps it’s glued by those promises you made when he was just safely home from Vietnam and you were a size five, the ones about loving and cherishing and sickness and health...you know the ones I mean.
Or maybe because, like the sun, marriage is different most every day. Those differences are what have landscape painters and photographers lying in wait for sunrise and sunset. Some days they go inside in disappointment because the cloud cover hangs low and dismal over the show, but on other mornings and evenings they sit spellbound and work as fast as they can, holding onto the light for every precious second.
And there you go. There’s the answer to the questions, What’s it like, being married to the same person for over 30 years? How do you do it?
You just hold onto the light.
Happy Anniversary, Duane. You're the love of my life.
This August, it will be 28 years and sometimes it feels like forever; somtimes it feels like a few days.
Marriage is work, but not even a spot of the trouble being single and alone is. # posted by D'Ann : May 29, 2011 at 9:43 AM
Calvin and I have been married for 8 years. Senior citizens that we are, we met on match dot com. Your post about married life and the security of knowing one another is right on. We enrich each other's life...to be without him would be like taking the color out of my word. Lovely post!! # posted by Vonnie Davis : May 29, 2011 at 9:54 AM
EXCELLENT post, Liz. I've never heard such a perfect explanation of married life. You touched on so many of the exact feelings I've had, still have, and will have in the future but you put a twist on it that made me feel that it's OKAY that I feel this way. Thank you so very much for making my day. Oh, and congratulations on 40 years! WOW! # posted by Patricia : May 29, 2011 at 9:59 AM
That is truly delightful. We didn't make it, but it's nice to know that so many of my peers have hung in there for the long haul.
Happy Anniversary to you and your husband ... that was a beautiful post :) # posted by fOIS In The City : May 29, 2011 at 11:28 AM
Beautiful post. You guys have a happy anniversary :) # posted by Leigh D'Ansey : May 29, 2011 at 12:14 PM
Just beautiful ! # posted by Addison James : May 29, 2011 at 1:57 PM
Thanks for this. It's really cheered me up - some days I need reminding why I'm still married after 37 years. The way I've got through the hard times is by saying 'Tomorrow will be better' and it always is! And having someone who knows you so well is very comforting, I agree. It's about being understood, and understanding the other, as well. When you know someone so well you can forgive them... again... and again, and they you. Ah, bless! # posted by Cherie Le Clare : May 29, 2011 at 3:35 PM
wonderful post, Liz!! congrats to you and your hubby, sounds like you're perfectly matched! We just hit 12 years and I'm looking forward to 40 more. :) # posted by Kristina Knight : May 29, 2011 at 5:46 PM
Well, I hope you're proud of yourself for making me get verklempt! Though I am old enough to be married 40 years, I am celebrating my 29th anniversary this year. So much of what you said is true for me and my sweet William. Can't tell you how many times I've mentally divided the property! Then I realize how lucky I am to have him in my life. Happy 40th anniversary. God bless. # posted by Lynne Marshall : May 29, 2011 at 8:19 PM
37 years here. Both too long and too short. It was a lovely blog post and I thank you for sharing.
My husband still can't remember - even after all these years - certain things I don't like to eat or don't like to do - but he also counts our anniversary from the day we met and he never forgets that - and that counts for a lot. # posted by Grace Greene : May 30, 2011 at 5:01 AM
Congratulations Liz. Hank and I celebrate our 51st today. I can attest to everything you said. A good marriage, my new sister-in-law told me years ago, is like an good, old pair of shoes. They are the ones you want to wear. No matter what. # posted by Allison Knight : May 30, 2011 at 6:15 AM
Happy anniversary, Liz! What a beautiful post!
I just passed my 30th anniversary and we celebrated by going to a Phillies game! LOL. I knew it was something he and I could enjoy together and also something we don't ordinarily do because of tight finances.
I think you just grow into being with a person and, and for me, the initial reason I married him all those years ago, is still there. But it does get stronger as the years go by. # posted by Susan Macatee : May 30, 2011 at 8:49 AM
I am thrilled and overwhelmed by your responses, and happy to know so many of you share how I feel.
Like you, D'Ann, even though I'm sure I could go the life route alone, I'm happy not to.
Good for you and Calvin, Vonnie, and I agree with you about the color. Duane's the brightness in my color wheel, too!
Thanks, Patricia, Leigh, Addison, and all of you. You've helped make our 40th special. # posted by Liz Flaherty : May 30, 2011 at 9:31 AM
I'm late to the party, but great post, Liz. And happy day after anniversary ;)
I've been married 27 years. The best advice I ever read about maintaining a long marriage was in Readers Digest.
At the fiftieth anniversary party, someone asked "Grandma, what's your secret?"
"Well," she said, "I decided when I got married to write a list of ten things that your grandfather did that bugged me. And I would let them go."
"What were the things?"
"Well, I actually never got around to making the list so every time he did something that bugged me, I'd think--good things its on the list."
I love that. I think sometimes it's the small, irritating things we focus on and if we let them, they can eat away at all the good things. # posted by Margie : May 30, 2011 at 11:15 AM
I think you're right, Margie. It's like you're automatically united on the big things (at least until the shouting's over), but the small ones will come up and bite you in the butt every time. # posted by Liz Flaherty : May 30, 2011 at 11:51 AM
Congratulations on your anniveraary! I, too, have been married a long time to the same guy and cannot imagine my life without him. We balance one another. # posted by Caroline Clemmons : May 31, 2011 at 7:24 AM
Congrats to you and hubby, Liz! Perfect deifinition of marriage. Just beautiful! # posted by Shawn : June 1, 2011 at 5:27 AM
Hi Liz, first time at your blog and I love the anniversary post. I had my man for 45 years. He passed away in 2009. I miss him every day. A long marriage has ups and downs, but a committed couple will hash out those downs and remember the good things. I can tell you what I miss the most. Knowing someone always had my back. Feeling his protection of me in all things. Having unconditional love. His support of me and my writing. His love for my family, his love of animals, his patience when I was coming apart over something he didn't understand. A good man is hard to find, they say, and when you do find him, hold on to him with all your might. # posted by Glenda Council Beall : June 30, 2011 at 9:34 PM
This brought tears to my eyes. Congratulations! # posted by Shawna Thomas : October 14, 2011 at 4:43 PM
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