They really shouldn’t let you get married until you’ve been married to one another for ten years. You read that right – when you pledge your vows on the day of your wedding, even the wisest of us doesn’t know what lies beyond the next bend.
When I married my husband, Alex, we were young, aesthetically pleasing, full of passion and hope for the future. We had promising careers and plans, plans, plans.
A lot happened over the first ten years of our marriage: we traveled the world, owned our first homes together, brought two beautiful children into the world, and saw old dreams disintegrate and new dreams take root. We lost a parent, helped parents through poor health and strife, weathered bad jobs and bosses, said goodbye to friends, made new friends, and sheltered together in a global pandemic. There were bad years. Yes, I’ll say it: entire years of struggle and heartbreak. A chronically ill infant daughter who needed our care and attention more than our marriage. Career disappointments and unforeseen financial hardships that trashed our careful planning. We had thought we would be exceptional, and there were times when I felt we’d only cultivated a plain ol’ garden variety life.
It was at the end of one of these challenging times near the ten-year mark that I really “got” marriage. We were in it together. We said our vows and stepped into the future with faith in each other, in ourselves. Through all this, I’ve never had to doubt Alex was on my side. His love is loyal, biased in the way of a person who makes a promise and keeps it.
For the next ten years, I didn’t naively wish for us only good times and adventures, or even that we resolved conflicts with grace, but that we continued to withstand challenges hand in hand, that our children would witness us all as a package deal, one that loves without asking for love, that gives without expecting to receive. It is what our vows have asked of us when we promised “two become one,” a vow that ironically few can understand before the first ten years of marriage.
One evening, it was Father’s Day, and he fell asleep well ahead of me. For better or worse, we let our kids be the master of ceremonies, and they had put him through a rigorous Father’s Day program of picnicking and swimming. In the pool, he launched them up into the air dozens of times, over and over. I looked down at the stubble on his face and the wrinkles above his brow. I wanted both to let him rest, and I wanted to kiss him. So I did both with the lightest of lips. I was truly happy he was there, alive with me. Thank you, I thought. Thank you so much for growing with me in this garden variety life.