Although it obviously wasn’t original with him, my dad used to say that women marry expecting men to change, and that men marry women expecting they won’t - and both are wrong. There is a bit of gender essentialism here that I don’t quite agree with, but there is a certain amount of truth to the idea. One might rephrase it that we go into marriage expecting that some things will change - and we are often wrong - and that other things won’t change - and we are often wrong about that too.
Clearly, no one should marry intending that their spouse be their little improvement project. We humans are remarkably set in our personalities from birth. (Having five kids who are all different from each other in temperament made this pretty dang clear.) So we shouldn’t expect to be able to change our spouse.
On the flip side, though, none of us are the same person after a decade of marriage as we were before. For that matter, are any of us the same as we were a decade ago, leaving the issue of marriage out of it? I would hope we are not. I am glad I have grown up a bit since my teens; and I am glad I am not the same person I was when I married at 24. He who does not grow remains stunted. (Le Toupee is a great example…)
So, yes, I am essentially the same person I was when I married. But I am also a very different person. And so is my beloved wife, Amanda.
Today is our 16th Anniversary.
When we married, we were both pretty young - she was barely 21, and marriage was not really in her plans before we fell in love. We still had a lot of baggage from our Fundamentalist days, which led to some hilarious-in-retrospect moments like our “dating contract,” and her insistence that “obey” be in our wedding vows - I was more egalitarian, so I let her have her way. Neither of us in our present form would repeat those specific decisions now. Because we have both changed.
If you think about it, this really was inevitable. We have had five children together, and now are entering the teen years with some of them. We have read literally hundreds of books, gone through some traumatic experiences with extended family and church, made major life decisions together, made new friends, learned many things through experience and research, built careers, and just a whole bunch of stuff. We have both been shaped by these experiences and decisions. We have both changed.
I am no longer married to a 21 year old living on her own for the first time. (Not that she wasn’t competent - even then she had mad skills.) She is no longer married to a twenty-something trying to figure out the legal profession. I have a couple more inches around the waist. Her wedding dress won’t fit over her biceps after 15 years of turning 400 pound patients. We both have some grey and smile lines creeping in. We are technically middle age - although we don’t really feel that way inside.
I know that we will both continue to grow and change as we age in the future.
But what I must say is this: there is something magical about growing together. Changing together. Experiencing a friendship that itself changes both of us. We were always pretty good at connecting, but we can read each other’s thoughts even better now, after these 16 years of marriage. (18 together - and yes I count them)
Amanda says I have mellowed. It’s true. And so has she. We have learned enough about the way the other acts and reacts that we roll with it, because it is familiar, and we know how the other works out frustration and stress. More than ever, we know how to ease each other’s stress, and when to step in and when to give space. It is a dance, and we know the steps better than ever. And the dance doesn’t get old. The familiar notes awaken a sense of peace and belonging and mutual love. This is companionate, egalitarian marriage. We are better together, stronger together, happier together, more at peace together.
Life is a journey, not a fixed place. We may not know the future, but we know there will be things we do not expect. It is truly a blessing to have a friend and companion to share the journey with me, and I do my best to be pleasant company for her as well. Wherever our roads may lead, my dearest wish is that I walk them with her.
Last summer, we had the chance to visit Paris - Amanda’s first time overseas. This is my favorite picture from a professional photo shoot we had there.
Other Anniversary and mushy posts:
Just a bit of music from local funk fusion band Soulajar: Outweigh the Bad. Life and marriage aren’t perfect, but in a good marriage, even in troubled times, the good times outweigh the bad.