Twenty five years ago I fumbled my vows and said "Sure" instead of the more traditional "I do." We giggled through the rest of the ceremony, sealed it with a kiss, got a lot of advice during the reception ("Never go to bed angry," "Relationships take work") then headed halfway across the country to start a new life.
Looking back, we hardly knew each other, my new husband and I. It had been less than a year since we'd met, and all we had was a hunch that this felt right, that this person made us feel complete. Two moves, two kids, two careers and one dog later, we know each other very well. It turns out that our hunches were good, and my misspoken word couldn't have been more perfect -- I am still "sure."
When you have been together for 25 years, friends start to ask for advice. I have none. I don't presume to know what makes a relationship work -- all I have is some vague idea of what might possibly make mine work. For whatever that might be worth to anyone else, here are 25 Things I Have Learned in 25 Years.
1. Marriage is a magnifying glass. The things that were good, get better. The imperfections get bigger, too.
2. It's nice to start out a marriage away from parents and have time and space to become "just us."
3. It's nice to move back a few years later; about an hour's drive from each set of parents is just perfect.
4. Loving someone means opening a whole universe of worry.
5. The perfect thing to say is often nothing.
6. Having a first child means doing a gut renovation of your relationship; having a second child means rearranging some of the furniture.
7. You can't love one person for the rest of your life -- because no one stays the same for a lifetime. So the person you become has to keep falling in love with the person they've become.
8. "Marriage is an alliance entered into by a man who can't sleep with the window shut, and a woman who can't sleep with the window open" George Bernard Shaw said. Or, ya know, as perimenopause hits, the opposite.
9. Only one person is allowed to fall apart at a time.
10. It is only okay to fight in front of the kids if a) you fight fair and b) you both think it's okay to fight in front of the kids.
11. It really doesn't matter which way the toilet paper hangs. It matters very much that the toilet seat stays down.
12. Spouses should not call each other "Mommy" or "Daddy."
13. Nature knows what she's doing, making his eyesight go downhill at the same rate as your everything else.
14. There is nothing as sexy as a man who cleans the snow off your car before you even wake up in the morning...
15. ...unless it is a man who's fallen asleep with a newborn on his chest.
16. You will either have a marriage exactly like your parents' or completely different. If your parents had different kinds of marriages, it will give you a lot to talk about.
17. You hold assumptions you don't even know you have until they bump up against someone who didn't realize theirs were the opposite.
18. If he hates scallops, learn to order them for yourself whenever you eat out.
19. A lark can live happily with an owl, as long as they are both heavy sleepers.
20. Sex is not the same in your 50s as it was in your 20s. Trust me, that is NOT a bad thing.
21. It is lovely to be loved in spite of your flaws. It is even better to be loved because of them.
22. The things you are most afraid to admit are the things it is most important to say.
23. If you keep talking while the children are young, there will be lots to talk about after they've grown.
24. I have never thought of my relationship as "work." If you spend all your time working at a relationship, are you actually having one?
25. Sometimes you do go to bed angry. Sometimes all you need is a good night's sleep.