Today, my husband and I celebrate 30 years of marriage. You know that old saw, “And they said it wouldn’t last”? The Episcopal priest who married us, who’d known me since I was nine, actually expressed his reluctance to read the banns because we were too different. He based this opinion on the results of a psychometric questionnaire that he had both of us complete.
He was right that we were different, and we still are.
- My husband is a true extrovert who comes home from a party so jazzed up that he can’t go to sleep; I collapse in a heap, worn out from having to be that extroverted.
- Members of his family, men included, cry easily. Crying was pretty much trained out of us in my family, which faced most hardships and losses with stoicism.
- My approach to strong disagreement, like my mother’s, was to yell, with the occasional “god dammit” and “hell” thrown in for seasoning. Then we forgot about it. My husband learned to conquer other people’s anger by withdrawing. He prefers to stew a bit before sorting things out.
- My husband is an ESTJ in Myers-Briggs parlance and, if you’re in to that sort of thing, a Virgo. His world view is pretty black and white – it’s right or it’s wrong. He’ll give people a long leash, but if feels they’re taking advantage of him – bam! – they will get an unambiguous shove back. He likes to know the rules up front, and he likes to follow them. I, on the other hand, am an ENTJ with a healthy dollop of Gemini sauce. Rules, schmules. How I react depends on whether I’m feeling extroverted or introverted at that moment. But always, I tend to put logic before feeling.
- He likes things neat. I like things clean.
- He loves to listen to music all day long. I love quiet.
- He’s definitely conservative, in the sense of can’t-stand-the-idea-of-our-son-getting-a-tattoo. I figured it was inevitable, but I find I actually appreciate the fact that the tattoo honors that interconnectedness of people and the earth (I just didn’t think it needed to be emblazoned on one’s body).
I could go on, but you get the idea. It’s not a marriage made in heaven – I see Fr. Dave’s point – but it wasn’t made in hell, either.
What it has been is interesting – and, for the most part, good. My Dad often says that he views his life in distinct phases that feel discontinuous. Our early marriage years were horny and busy, very much about having fun with each other and fun with other people. The second phase of our marriage, after our children were born, found us fully engaged in demanding careers, squeezing every drop out of our schedule to put into parenting.
Those mid-kid years were tough, so tough that we ended up doing three years of marriage counseling. Where we learned – guess what? – how different we are. We were there because we had grown distant, because we had become great business partners, but weren’t such great lovers. Something had to change.
But the miraculous thing is that things did change. We reassessed, listened, got over our anger, and regrouped. We found better ways of being together that worked for both of us and honored our differences.
The result? I admire my husband’s integrity, his stability, and his rock-solid values, which include commitment to me. He laughs and cries more freely than I do, and both his humor and his empathy have helped me to be a happier, healthier person. Though we have been very angry with each other on occasion, he has never treated me poorly or tried to wound me. I know a lot more about music than I would have, although I am still hard pressed to “name that band,” or remember lyrics. Our kids, now young adults, are better people for having had parents who learned to listen to them and each other through our differences; they could not be more forthright, and they actually continue to seek our counsel. And our house is both neat and clean. Call ours reconcilable differences.
While this particular post honors the differences that have challenged us through the years, we had a lot of commonalities that provided a foundation. Belief in God (shaky at times, but nonetheless there), priority on family, empathy and respect for one another. And love.
It’s 30 years later, and we’re 55. I feel like we’re in phase three of our marriage, and I look forward to the phases to come. I enjoy being with him more than I did 10 years ago, and as much as I did 30 years ago. Having said that, I don’t feel at all like I did in my mid 20s. I’m not the same person. Neither is he. But we’ve found a way to be together.
It’s like getting married all over again.