Husband and Wife

Our wedding vows, written 20 years ago.

The Impressive Clergyman: Mawwiage. Mawwiage is wat bwings us togeder today. Mawwiage, that bwessed awwangement, that dweam wifin a dream…
And wuv, twue wuv, will fowwow you foweva…
So tweasure your wuv—
Prince Humperdinck: Skip to the end!

Mawwiage is indeed what brings me to the page this morning, for today I’m celebrating 20 years of bwessed awwangement, a dweam wifin a dream…

Last night, my husband and I went out to dinner to celebrate, and he gave me a beautiful poem that he’d written. This is one of the things that hooked me from the beginning—his love letters are worth saving and I’ve kept them all these years. He’s the poet and I’m the writer. I wish I could repay him with the words of a bard, but instead, he gets a blog dedicated to what he does best…husbanding.

Sometimes I wonder if we should get a medal. After all, being faithful to the same person for over 20 years of your life seems to be so old fashioned these days. Yet it appears that many of us Gen X’ers and Millennials are doing just that—staying together. As a matter of fact, a new report by University of Maryland professor Philip Cohen found that from 2008 to 2016, the U.S. divorce rate dropped by 18 percent. He writes, “Since the 1990s, the prevalence of divorce for people under age 45 appears to level off, whereas it continues to rise for people over age 45.” Thus add divorce to the list of things millennials get credit for killing off.

My husband and I are older than 45, don’t we get any credit for killing divorce as well?

Jokes aside, I love being married to my husband and in this age of personal identity, committing to a 23-year monogamous relationship (I began dating him when I was 24) may seem too traditional for some. There are good reasons to doubt the idea of “till death do us part,” particularly from a technological standpoint—he and I could both live to be 100!!!! But marriage has been good for me, for both of us really, and while we no longer believe in the “diamonds are forever” motto of the ever-corrupt De Beers corporation, I would still say yes if he asked me to marry him today.

Living with someone for decades isn’t easy, and it’s not for everyone, but I haven’t found it to be the challenge that so many make it out to be. To be honest, if you were to ask either of us what we thought about the sacrifice of marriage we’d probably tell you it’s actually the path of least resistance. Neither of us are great at dating, we’re pretty shy, as well as independent, so the constant hooking up-texting-ghosting-hooking up cycle terrifies us equally. The time and effort it would take to get to know another man in such an honest way in today’s world of Tinder is not for me. Sex without love is nothing, especially after decades of loving sex, so why even consider playing? Of course, we’re both engineers and logic will prevail before emotions, even desirous ones, any day.

It boils down to this: I love being a wife because my husband is a good man. He’s kind, attentive, he can cook, and is quite handy. He’s a great parenting partner and a good friend. He’s also quite romantic, as is evident in the poetry he writes for me that will always make my heart flutter.

There aren’t any magic formulas for a great marriage, but Walt and I have held three things sacred all these years that I think have made this ride so much easier. I offer them today in his honor, for in the end it is my relationship with him that has defined half my life and made me the woman I’ve become.

Have Sex Regularly

This idea was mine. Shortly after we had our first child, I was driving to work and heard an interview on the radio with author Laura Corn. She’d just released her book, “101 Nights of Great Sex” and I lost myself in her interview. She was fun, excited and presented excellent data on why sex was not only important for relationships, but also for our wellbeing. Intimate touch and orgasm are good for us on many levels. Since then, Ms. Corn has published many books to encourage couples to add a little romance to their lives in fun, adventurous ways. It’s not always possible to have sex twice a week (that’s the premise of all her work, that twice a week you come together to be intimate) but making sure some time is spent in one another’s embrace takes commitment, especially in marriage, because work, kids and social schedules always encroach on a couple’s time. Planning in the way Ms. Corn suggests is one way to ensure the attraction that brought you together remains, even after decades.

Speak To One Another With Integrity

This is my husband’s mantra. Early in our relationship, he mentioned that some couples tended to talk to one another in derogatory ways, creating a biting, sometimes mean banter. It might start off as sarcastic, or even dark humor, but we do sometimes irritate the other and we’re not perfect. When our “sins” become reasons to poke fun of the other, the dialogue can eventually erode to cruelty. Add in children who hear Dad swear at Mom or call her lazy, or Mom treating Dad like another child she needs to take care of, and sometimes the family can gang up on one another. Nothing ruins desire more than a put down by your lover. From the beginning my husband vowed to refrain from speaking to me that way and I’ve tried very hard to do the same. As I said, no one is perfect, but when I speak about my husband, to his face, to my children, and even to my friends, I make the effort not to sugarcoat things, but to speak with integrity and without mocking him. There really doesn’t have to be a battle of the sexes.

Don’t Take Anything Personally

This bit of advice comes from my husband’s Grandma Audrey. At her 100th Birthday celebration I asked her for the secret to living so long. She told me to not take anything personally. Everyone has something going on, and they’re most likely not even thinking about you, so don’t take it personally. She’s 100% correct and this is excellent advice for all relationships, especially marriage. We’re going to let the other person down, but if everything is turned into an offense, then life becomes a crisis. When life is a crisis, it’s hard to speak to one another with integrity, and it’s damn near impossible to be intimate. Yes, my husband has let me down, but was it because of some malicious intent against me, or was he distracted? We change as we grow, and sometimes during those life changes, we don’t see eye-to-eye. If I take it personally, then it’s no longer about him and his growth, it’s about me, and that can only lead to either him staying the same to appease me, or me growing anxious because something is different, and it can only be because I’ve done something wrong. My husband jokes that I’ve reset my life at least five times since we’ve been together. Thank goodness he hasn’t taken any of those changes, shifts, and new interests as signs that I’m not happy with him. I change because I’m growing up, don’t we all?

Mawwiage…a dweam wifin a dweam

Perhaps the best advice I ever received was to marry well. As I look back on the first twenty years of my own blessed union, the most impressive thing to me is how fast the time has passed. We've raised two young men, moved three times, once across the nation, changed jobs, gone to school and pursued a variety of interests. It literally feels like a dream, not because it’s perfect, but because time itself seems suspended. Where did those years go? And what will the next twenty bring?

I love you Walter. I’m glad we’re husband and wife.