Friday, September 9, 2011

A letter to my wife on our 20th anniversary

Twenty years.

It's a long damn time.

Especially when you consider that all of my previous relationships topped out at three months. In college, when the three-month mark rolled around, I'd wonder who was going to end it, me or her. But twenty years is something. Twenty years is an accomplishment.

It has been quite a ride. The beginning was exciting and new, like all relationships. Playing hooky from work together, or driving cross-country in the old Torino. But even though it had the excitement of a new thing, it immediately seemed...well, old. Not old and wrinkled and hard of hearing, but more like an old soul. Something that was timeless. Something that would last.

We knew almost instantly that we had to be together. Saying the magic words after only a week, moving in together after a month. Even though it was new, it was right. It had to be. It could not be stopped. We fit.

And yet. Twenty years. Many marriages don't last half that. Things go wrong. People bolt. You can't blame them, really. It's easy to leave when the going gets rough; to take your ball and go home. Try to find another game on another day. I suppose sometimes that's actually the right decision to make, for some. To get out of a bad situation before it becomes worse. It sure happens often enough. About half of all marriages end in divorce, and many of those are within the first 8 years, according to one study.

But not us. We've lasted. We've survived. Has it been easy? Hell, no. Marriage is hard. Kids are hard. Hell, kids are REAL hard. As wonderful, as fulfilling, as amazing as our kids are, they are the biggest source of stress in a marriage. Well, second to money, and we know how that's been going. Kids. Money. No money. Crappy jobs. Crappy towns. Crappy cars.

Yet, we persevere.

Why? Because it's worth it. Because for all the stress and trouble, there have been good times. We agree on all the important stuff. Politics. Religion. Child-raising. "How the world should be." We share humor. LOTS of humor. Without humor, I fear we would have gone much crazier by now. We share a world view. We see things in very much the same way.

And yes, you don't really "get" all the board games, and I don't really "get" the rabid interest in the Packers. But we, for the most part, "get" each other.

Lots of people assume that romance goes by the wayside when you've been married for a long time. Well, sure. It's not going to be like it was in the beginning. But that's because love grows and evolves over time. It deepens.

Movies tell us that love is all Valentine's and rainbows. It isn't. Love is being there. Love is knowing someone will be home when you get there. Love is dropping everything to go get McDonald's at midnight so you can watch Parking Wars together. Love is asking someone to look at something on your body that wasn't there last week. Love is having your youngest sleep between you on your one night off in weeks because she watched too scary a movie. Love is, indeed, having to say your sorry because you said something completely shitty during a fight last night because you knew the other person would still be there in the morning. Love is having the courage to admit that sometimes it's hard to see where the love is, exactly.

Marriage is a war sometimes. But usually, with the best of them, it's a war against the world, side by side with the only partner you can ever truly count on.

So we have survived. We have persevered. We have lasted. We have loved. And we will do so for another twenty years and beyond. Because we've got each other.

I love you.