In fact, I was 50 years old when I slipped into a shimmery pink, custom-designed ensemble, and, clutching a bouquet of matching Gerber daisies and sweet peas, walked down the aisle (actually, a manicured lawn) to enter into wedded bliss with my soon-to-be husband.
That was the first time, and the only time.
Now, this month, we are about to celebrate a decade of marriage.
There are times when it seems that I’ve blinked and the years have passed.
But there have also been formidable challenges that have made those 3,650 days and nights sometimes feel a whole lot longer.
These trials have included navigating the rocky relationship my spouse had with his three grown daughters when we married (we’re all pretty good now), as well as the free-falling loss of his once solid business. Too, there was a period when both of us were working hard yet still not making enough to pay all of our bills.
But hardest of all was the abrupt foreclosure on what we thought would be our forever, dream home.
In fact, the most awful times were right after we lost the house, when we were barely speaking to one another (my choice) and my anger was just a tad below a rolling boil.
This was in 2008, and because we were casualties of that first massive wave of foreclosures, we never realized that we literally should have, and could have, held our ground. (The bank representative we had been working with had repeatedly told us not to worry, and had also said, many times, “I promise you we will work it out.” The lender itself went belly-up less than a year later.) In the end, we were given one hour--yes, you read that correctly--to vacate, and with a deputy sheriff at our door, believed that leaving was our only option.
Still, we had a bit of luck in that we were immediately able to move into a friend’s vacation home, for free, while we waited for the tenant who was renting my own smaller home to move out in a month. It was around this time that my husband also got a call to teach one class at a private high school, which was a start (he is now going into this fourth year as a full-time employee).
I did a lot of crying, privately and publicly, and I didn’t care who was watching.
Despite having promised to be by my spouse’s side for better or worse, sorry, this was not what I had signed up for. Naturally, I wouldn’t allow—nope, at least I had the power here—to let him so much as hold my hand.
One friend told me to get a divorce, pronto. Another, my best friend and matron of honor, listened and then asked one question.
“Do you love him?” she asked.
“Yes,” I said, weeping. “I do.”
“Then you’ll get through it.”
She was right.
After all, he hadn’t cheated on me, he hadn’t abused me, and he wasn’t an alcoholic or a drug addict. He was just someone who wasn’t very good with money (as it turned out, his late wife had handled that part of the business, and he had been stumbling to do it all himself, something I didn’t fully realize until it was too late). He is also a very kind man, and certain people had taken advantage of his naiveté. Sadly, that took us into even darker waters.
Eventually, I owned my part of the mess.
Because the business had done so well for so long well before I arrived on the scene, and because we had been able to make a very large down payment on our dream home, I assumed he knew what he was doing when it came to handling our finances. Most of the bills were in his name, and frankly, I liked it that way.
But as it happens, I’m quite good at budgeting and saving (thank you, Mom!), so after the fall, I took control of the checkbook (which my husband was very happy to hand over). Bit by bit, we got back on our feet again. I’m especially proud that my credit rating is higher than it has ever been.
Although those times are not something I would ever want to go through again, I’ll say this: they not only made us stronger as a couple, they made me realize that I wanted to stay married.
Indeed, there was something about taking my vows in front of God, and in front of family and friends, which made me recognize how strong the commitment really was.
For one thing, given that I was late to the marital merry-go-round, I’d already trotted around the block a few times. So, I knew that what we had was pretty special. For another, I had my own, personal comparison when it came to an intimate partnership: I had lived with and loved another man, my daughter’s first father, for many years, but we had never made our commitment a legal one.
This coupling was not nearly as easy to walk away from.
And guess what? Because I stayed, chances are that I’ll live longer.
According to a 2013 feature from the online magazine Slate, study after study about getting married tells us why.
For one thing, having a family gives people something to live for, and because of that, also discourages risky behaviors like smoking and riding a motorcycle. The article also says that a life partner provides an outlet to discuss personal stresses, and helps with remaining more intellectually engaged with others as well, which can avoid dementia. (There are many more reasons right here in the entire article, at http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/future_tense/2013/10/marriage_and_health_it_may_extend_life_but_increase_the_risk_of_obesity.html)
So, here’s wishing you a happy anniversary, Larry Grant. Thank you for running the marriage marathon side-by-side with this girl clown.
And always remember this: I love you to the moon and back—and there are no plans on this end to leave the arena.
Yes, no, or somewhere in-between…what are your thoughts about marriage and other kinds of commitment?