By Suzanne Sparrow Watson
Whenever our late dad was asked how long he’d been married, he would jokingly respond, “I’ve survived 43 years of indentured servitude”. He was the type of guy who could get away with such a statement, with a twinkle in his eye and a hearty chuckle. My husband tried it once and received an icy stare.
But icy stares aside, this week we are celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary. Where in the heck does the time go? It seems like only yesterday that we were standing before the minister thinking, “What in the heck have I gotten myself in to?”
A few weeks ago a young person asked us how long we’ve been married. When we told him we were sneaking up on 25, he asked us for the secret to a long marriage. We were stumped for an answer. Commitment, enthusiasm, insanity? Probably some combination of them all. I actually like the late Erma Bombeck’s assessment of marriage. She wrote that it isn’t the big things, like money and sex, which ruin a marriage; it’s the small annoyances adding up that suddenly made one spouse take a pick axe to the other in the dark of night. She used examples of putting empty ice cube trays back in the freezer and refusing to walk across the room to change the TV channel. I guess today it would be not charging the iPad or deleting a favorite show from the DVR listing.
Regardless of the era, her point is well taken. I think a jury of my peers would have found me perfectly justified in strangling my husband for repeatedly leaving dirty dishes on top of the dishwasher, placing empty milk cartons back in the refrigerator and assuming I’m his personal secretary. And although I’m almost sure I’ve been the very essence of human kindness over these years, perhaps he might have a thing or three to cite me for as well. But we’ve never let the small things get in the way. The real secret to a happy marriage? A very short memory.
It also helps to have the same metabolisms. How many couples have divorced because one spouse is ridiculously cheerful in the morning and the other needs six cups of coffee before grunting “Hand me the sports section.”? We know a couple who only have about 10 waking hours when their lives intersect. Who knows, maybe those 10 hours are enough. Especially when you’re both retired.
All I know for sure is that this week will will commemorate 25 wonderful years by going to a fine (and by “fine” I mean expensive) restaurant. But what I’m really looking forward to are all the days that follow. As Judith Viorst once said, “Recognize joy when it arrives in the plain brown wrappings of everyday life”. My joy is found when the two of us are alone on our sofa, laughing and chatting. And in those moments I am confident in the knowledge that he’s still going to put an empty milk carton back in the refrigerator. After 25 years you learn to choose your battles.