Thirty years of marriage. How is it even possible?
“It really has felt like two minutes — underwater,” an acquaintance joked the other day about his similarly long marriage. Seeing as I’m very slow when it comes to jokes, this one was simple enough and made me laugh.
But I didn’t laugh because I related. To me, it feels the thirty years galloped by. Life began to accelerate many years ago and the pace keeps increasing.
Still, thirty years is a long time, and I’ve learned a lesson or two (or 26!) during that time.
It is my pleasure and honor to share these lessons with you.
1. One of you spends too much. It’s your spouse.
2. Making a budget together is torture.
3. It’s hard to agree on needs versus wants.
4. When income is high and you feel “rich”, it’s still hard to agree on what’s important. Is it a new road bike, redoing the kitchen, or putting more money into saving for The Future? In hindsight, it will be clear that you should’ve saved more.
5. Money is central to the dynamics of the relationship.
6. Money and retirement are inextricably linked, and not retiring ever is a perfectly valid plan.
7. Children can be the source of your biggest disagreements and arguments. From how to change a diaper to what limits to set -you will not be of the same mind on a lot of it.
8. “Issues” having to do with your kids can bring you closer. Diego’s developmental disabilities and Andres’s head injury did that for us.
9. Breaks from the kids can work wonders for a marriage.
10. Hindsight is 20/20 when it comes to raising children (and most other things). We shouldn’t have pestered Andres about his crooked handwriting. It was (a) unnecessary, and (b) time and effort wasted.
11. Parenting is forever.
Sorry, but you won’t get straight talk about sex here. You’ll get the indirect kind. I was raised too Catholic and I’m not there yet.
12. Sure, sex is great, even sublime. But so is having my feet touch my husband’s feet under the sheets.
13. Desires shift, diverge, match up, intensify, wane, surge, flatline, and then link up again.
14. Breaks from each other can work wonders for desire. Don’t take it from me; take it from relationship expert Esther Perel, “When intimacy collapses into fusion, it is not a lack of closeness but too much closeness that impedes desire.”
15. Increasingly as the years go by you prefer to snuggle. A hammock is the ultimate snuggling invention.
16. Like other aspects of marriage, the centrality of sex changes over time. Early in our relationship, we were kicked out of a restaurant because (the manager said) our behavior was unacceptable at that establishment. And we weren’t even embarrassed about it.
17. Monogamy is a great option. I’ve been perfectly happy in monogamy. To the youth out there: don’t rule it out.
18. “And that’s all I have to say about that,” as Forrest Gump would say.
19. “Feeling loved and loving matters to us beyond all else,” notes meditation teacher Tara Brach in Radical Acceptance. A-G-R-E-E-D. Everything flows from feeling loved and loving.
20. Displays of love are essential. Cesar’s greatest display of love for me is when he immediately rescues me from the big ugly bug in the basement that wants to eat me.
21. All fights are funny. Eventually. That is if you feel loved and you love back.
22. “We can learn to live with disagreement and error as long as we feel esteemed and loved.” I concur fully with author Kathryn Schulz‘s assertion in her mind-blowing book Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error.
23. Love takes various forms. I love and adore my husband and my children. For Diego and Andres, I would not only gladly die, but also accept the worst kind of torture. For Cesar, I would die too, but I might not subject myself to the latter.
24. Love evolves. The thing about long relationships is that you get to experience this evolution. My love now involves deeper spiritual and physical attachment than thirty years ago.
25. People evolve too, sometimes in unexpected ways. What you most admire or love about a person changes. I used to wonder at Cesar’s decisiveness and energy above all else. Over our decades together, he has become an increasingly compassionate, generous and devoted guy. And I have loved witnessing this evolution.
26. Love is The Answer! In marriage and all human matters.
Other Thoughts That Are not Listable
So yes, Cesar and I have made it to year 30 and intend to stay together forever.
This doesn’t mean, however, that my marriage succeeded and my divorced relatives’ or friends’ marriages failed.
Ending a marriage you went into aiming for forever must be incredibly hard. But sometimes, the brave step is to let go.
Whether or not you stay married until death do you part, any marriage is a life experience involving deep emotions like love, hope, fear, bliss, regret and trust.
As I reflect on my marriage journey so far, I will admit that I feel thankful and lucky. My marriage is strong. Cesar and I are happy. We are in love.
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