On Being Married 21 Years

Jan 14 2016

Today, Greg and I have been married 21 years.

TWENTY ONE YEARS, friends, which, as we say around here, is a lot of years not to smother someone with a pillow.

Twenty one years, which means our marriage is old enough to drink and doesn’t have to keep having its older friends buy it booze.

TWENTY ONE YEARS, which is ALL GROWN UP by, like, EVERY measure, you know? Our marriage can drink and it’s been able to vote and die for its country for years. I mean, our marriage can’t rent a car yet, but still, it can make questionable choices in evening wear and pick guys up at the local bar. It’s mostly grown up, is what I’m saying.

I’ve written eloquently about marriage in years past. Or eloquently-ish which is the best I can do most days.

I’ve been married long enough, I think, that I’ve lost the trite answers to the “how do you do it” questions. I’ve stopped giving the magic bullet responses like “marriage takes hard work” or “we’re still together by the grace of God” or “marriage isn’t 50/50, it’s 100/100.”

Honestly, those answers suck. Hard. 

Now, of course marriage takes hard work.

And I do believe in a gracious God.

And it’s important to go beyond our fair share in any partnership.

But to say that our marriage is intact by virtue of our work or God’s grace feels too close to implying others have failed for lack of hard work or that God has somehow withheld a measure of grace, and, well, I just don’t buy either implication. Some of the toughest divorces I’ve witnessed have come on the heels of a whole lot of hard work. And God, I believe, gives grace extravagantly, especially when it’s all falling apart.

The truth is, Greg and I work hard on our marriage. That’s a fact. Except when we’re apathetic and worn out and don’t work on our marriage at all.

And Greg and I are consistently tenacious and determined to make our marriage better. Except when we’re exhausted and just kind of done.

And Greg and I are committed to always being available for each other. Except when we’re myopic and selfish and can’t move past our own needs.

Honestly, Greg and I aren’t in a 50/50 marriage very often. Oh, we strive for equality. And we try to bear one another’s burdens. Sometimes we even hold up our ends of the marriage bargain. Sometimes, we rise above the difficulties and each give 100%, which is when the toilets get cleaned and the children are bathed and we don’t forget parent/teacher conferences. But sometimes we fall down on the job, friends. Sometimes, I give 5%, and Greg gives 5%, and we’re grumpy and petty, and we both wonder where the hell the other 90% went.

The real problem with marriage is the fact that we let humans do it. It’s the same problem with parenting, really. And with the church. And with schools. And with government. And with family. As humans, we’re fallible, glorious, well-intentioned, messy creatures who create fallible, glorious, well-intentioned, messy systems and relationships.

Yep. I wrote those things when we were married 18 years, and it’s all still true 3 years later; it’s just that, this year, I don’t have any eloquence — or partial-eloquence — available, so I won’t be waxing poetic on marriage today.

Instead, I’ll just share a few snippets of life around these parts, and what a 21st Anniversary looks like from this perspective.

a) I texted Greg this morning a heartfelt “Happy Anniversary!” sandwiched between our chat about our broken dishwasher that tried to burn the house down last night and an even more awesome conversation about our son with special needs who’s been telling female peer helpers at school that he can’t get his school work done unless he keeps his hand on their arms or foot on their foot. By comparison? That Happy Anniversary text was VERY romantic.

b) I confessed to one of my besties last night that I still fantasize some days about running away to Mexico, only to have Greg pipe up and say, “That’s OK; sometimes we fantasize about you doing that, too.” I think a Normal Woman would’ve been offended, but I was kind of relieved, and I LOL’ed, guys. I LOL’ed for reals, and I still CUMB (Chuckle Under My Breath) every time I think about it.

c) I found my undies on the floor in our entry way. I’m pretty sure they’ve been decorating the entry way for days now, while our neighbors and friends come and go. I’d like to tell you I’ve fixed that particularly hospitable gesture, but I think they’re still there.

The View of the Front Door:

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The View From the Front Door:

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In conclusion, later tonight Greg and I will high-five each other on 21 years. We didn’t buy cards. We didn’t buy flowers. We didn’t go out to eat. There are panties in the entry way that no one’s going to pick up anytime soon, and sometimes we all fantasize about Mommy skipping town. But you know what? We dream about abandoning each other TOGETHER. Our hearts and minds ARE ONE.

And even later tonight, 4 minutes after we fall asleep, which will be 6 minutes after we didn’t manage to stay awake for sex again, a 9 year old will have a nightmare and will crawl into bed with us. We’ll grunt and moan, roll over and reluctantly make room, and when that kid whispers, “I’m scared,” we’ll say, “I know you are — the dark is HARD — but you’re safe here. Snuggle up, baby,” and it’ll be enough. We’ll be content, and it’ll be enough.

Happy Anniversary, Greg! We’re another year older and another year wiser, minus the part about being wiser, because we have no freaking idea how we’re still pulling this off. We’re scared some of the time; a lot of the time, if we’re honest. But we’re safe here because we made it safe. Good job, us. And snuggle up, baby.

Here’s to not smothering each other with a pillow for 21 more! (After that, all bets are off.)

With love,

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