This week we celebrated 21 years of a successful marriage. I’ve been married longer in my life than I’ve been unmarried, which gives me the authority to know a thing or two about how marriage works.
In 21 years my husband and I have collected dozens of stories on what makes a great marriage. Aside from religiously watching family comedy since we’re like five, (Thanks for ruining that Cliff Huxtable) we’ve also done some serious live research, which has given us insight on how to keep our marriage strong and also on what NOT to do.
As long as I can remember, we’ve played this little game that whenever we meet someone who’s been married for 20 plus years we’ve always asked them- “What’s your secret?” My husband and I have gotten dozens of answers over these past 21 years.
The worst answer is
“I don’t know”
Of course you know the secret! You’re just not telling us. Are you cruel, do you have a secret room you keep your answers in but won’t let us in because there’s some 50 shades shit goin on in there? What is it that you don’t know? Maybe you can’t share the secret, because deep down you wonder if you should still be in your marriage. That or you’re just hungry for potato salad and you don’t want to talk to me in aisle three of the mass food chain that we shall namely call “Smart and Final”- the coveted name that many people associate with marriage.
Some of the answers we have loved and have snickered at are-
- “She made me stay”
- “Did I have another choice? Damn- I didn’t realize.”
- “No one else would want either of us.”
- “He makes me laugh”
- “She’s a great cook”
- “I’m truly in love with her”
- “Her mother lives in Baltimore”
- “We’re too lazy to get divorced.”
- “We have lots of patience for one another.”
- “There’s no one else in the world I’d rather be with.”
- “I truly believe our marriage is special- like angels sang when we met.”
- “She’s beautiful”
- “She’s hot, I’m not”
- “She doesn’t take life too seriously”
- “He’s rich, I’m a great shopper”
- “He’s a great kisser”
As you can see, we’ve truly heard it all. But there’s always been one answer that has left me uneasy. One answer that has made me actually frown every time I hear it. Like when I hear it, I feel a wave of nausea bubble over from my kidneys- like a ball and chain is dragging me into an oblivion of “aaah, you poor thing” rhetoric. That answer is- “Commitment”
I know you are surprised. Is this the moment you just assume I’m a loose showgirl who hopes one day Robbie morphs into Javier? No, I’m in a monogamous relationship which I deeply value. So I do respect commitment. But I can’t deal with the secret of marriage being commitment. There’s a difference.
When someone tells me the secret to their 42- year marriage is commitment, I just think- “Really- you are bound to each other because you are committed?? How sad!” It sounds like a psyche sentence or a prison punishment. I’d like to believe we stick with marriage because of love and the by-product of that love is commitment not the other way around. Sure we need the commitment, but if that’s the secret to the marriage, then I am assuming that your secret to staying has to do with a pretty lousy decision, versus an uplifting one. If the answer to the secret to being married for 20 plus years is that you are just committed to staying there, then I’m going to assume you really hate your spouse. But that’s just me.
I guess when I think of “Commitment” I think of these words- responsibility, obligation, duty, tie, liability; task; engagement, arrangement. Those words are the least kind, lovely, romantic, hot, sexy, sweet words. They are the sort of words that sounds like doing taxes, organizing your pantry or getting your yearly colonoscopy. These words speak of a different sort of union. And I’m not really interested in having that sort of love.
A puppy. A puppy needs that sort of love. Have you ever been told you need to shell out $500 to learn how to hand feed a Chihuahua because she has acid reflux and you might get doggy vomit all over your hands? Now that’s not just COMMITMENT- it’s an obligation.
I’m not saying when you’re married you don’t have to do gross shit, I’m just saying, that’s not the secret to a happy marriage. So no, I don’t want my marriage to be like owning a dog.
You know who also needs commitment? Plants. Plants need commitment. They need someone to show up every day and do the same crap Every. Single. Day. Water, plantfood and repeat. Sure there’s that exciting time of the month you move the plant a quarter of an inch to be in the light. Ya, that sounds super hot. Let’s face it, owning a plant takes commitment but it’s also monotonous, boring and predictable. NOPE, I don’t want my marriage to be like watering a plant either. I don’t think that’s the secret to a happy marriage.
So I guess that if someone asked me what was the secret to my marriage I’d say
“The pursuit to grasp romantic love.”
I say the pursuit, because it is a constant quest, one that sometimes comes very easily, and other times comes with more exertion. I never signed up for a committed marriage, not that I want him flying off and having an affair with some cowgirl named CiCi, but I definitely need more than his willingness to feel obligated to stay with me and for me to feel the responsibility to never leave. I think the secret to our great marriage is that our commitment to one another is the side-effect, not the conductor to our love. Our goal is always to strive to fall in love, I think that’s our secret. We work on falling in love everyday. And when I don’t feel like I’m falling, then I flip out, have a temper tantrum and wear a tight dress until we get back on track to start falling all over again.
So that’s my secret to a 21 happy years. We fall Every. Single. Day. And it’s never monotonous, boring or predictable. I’m not saying we have always gotten it right, or that we have not sunk into those “Committed” days. But thank God, we have never been happy with that mediocrity. We have continued to strive for awesome, and I think that’s our secret to staying together for 21 years.
So NO. Commitment is NOT the secret to our marriage. Thank The Good Lord- if it were I’d need to start calling Robbie “Fern” and buy him a blue pot to sleep in.