Willem and I rounded the 10-year mark a ways back, and I consider this remarkable only for one reason: in that time, neither of us has ever, no matter how nasty the fight, how dry the spell in the bedroom, how irritating his – and, OK, my – mother could be, not once threatened divorce. The only time the word is even said, in our house, is when another of our kids’ friends brings up the concept on the bus, or perhaps when gossiping about our circle of friends and wondering who’ll be next, or maybe in a completely facetious manner when the other person leaves the seat up or doesn’t get to the dishes in a reasonable timeframe (read: ever, and I really am sorry).
We can consider the length of our marriage interesting, in and of itself, when we roll past the average life expectancy for most third world countries, or at least surpass whatever would pass as “a long marriage” in Hollywood. Until then, we’re still just barely at the start, and that’s just fine by me. The longer we stay married, the more the good times will feel like the norm and the awkward/bad/weird/hard early years will feel like a drop in the bucket.
The whole concept of legal marriage is a weird one to me, anyway. On the one hand, I really do think marriage is often just a vehicle to legitimize whatever quirks and perversions we’ve carted around since childhood… gay or straight, Elvis elvin or Catholic, it’s really just a chance for us to create a built-in partner in crime, someone who cannot be compelled to testify against us after the fact. And on my less cynical other hand, I know that, regardless of the why’s or wherefore’s, our sex life (sorry, Grandma, but after three kids you knew we had one, at least once every five years, right?) was of a certain caliber before we got married, and of a certain, higher caliber immediately and ongoing afterward. There have been long, dry spells, astonishingly enough corresponding directly with the most stressful and not-on-the-same-page chapters of our relationship, but the general trend has increased.
But other than that uptick in the overall quality – which I attribute directly to the legality of it all, the simple fact that the very worst argument we could possibly get in could still not easily dissolve our union, the fact that we would have to go to a judge to work it all out (and *gasp* spend money!), not to mention the sure knowledge that one of us would be stuck primarily with all three kids, ready or not… the simple hardness of ending a marriage in comparison to ending an engagement – I tend to be a tiny bit cynical about the whole death-do-us-part thing.
That cynicism was directly and fundamentally challenged by the events of last March: it was very hard to convince myself that we were having just another relationship, married or not it didn’t matter, when Willem was such a godlike paragon of virtue and patience and commitment both during and for the long haul after my illness. Maybe this marriage thing really did mean something special… and maybe ours, in particular, was more special than most.
And maybe it is. I still believe so, very much… most of the time.
But there’s a certain relief in knowing that we neither of us is perfect, above reproach, or even above the typical prats and pitfalls of a relationship. We might never have rediscovered this but for our intention, and now firm plan, of moving.
Because, gawd, does moving suck. The in-transition uncertainty, the sudden hyperawareness of every tiny (and huge) flaw in our current place, the pressure to pack-pack-pack even though the movers aren’t scheduled to arrive until the morning of the 17th… it’s all just a morass of stress and frustration, both on an individual basis and in our relationship.
And thus we snark, and snarl, and gripe. At the kids, to ourselves, and most especially at each other… and since we’re both used to the other one displaying a preternatural calm and control in the face of the most intense stress (OK, I’m used to that from him, anyway, and he is used to… whatever from me. Something less glowing and impressive, but not quite reaching the phase of constant complaining and whining, anyway.).
This could, and does, cause a certain level of disappointment and irritation with each other… but there’s also a certain degree of relief, simply because the concept of perfect is such an intense, highfalutin, impossible goal. How reassuring to realize that neither of us is above reproach, that both of us are subject to the very human angst and anger that everyone else I know dabbles in from time to time, particularly when preparing for a move (and if your relationship only gets stronger as you pack those boxes? Bite me.).
This is how I reassure and comfort myself, when the snarking begins and the feeling of where the hell did that come from? rolls in. And the make-up interludes aren’t half-bad, either.