2013-02-01 – I will be married 22 years as of tomorrow (2/2).
When we chose the date for our wedding 22-1/2 years ago, we thought it was amusing to pick Groundhog Day. We bought a plush groundhog for the buffet table. Our big concern about a February wedding in Chicago was the possibility that we could be snowed out. A big snow would have kept our out-of-town guest away. Or, depending on the timing of the storm, could have stranded them here.
The temperature hit 60° on our wedding day. My nieces, then little girls who had come from Southern California, were disappointed that they didn’t get to see snow. We weren’t disappointed, though. We had just put new carpeting in our home where the wedding would take place. No snow to be tracked in. We didn’t see snow until our honeymoon, in the mountains outside of Santa Fe.
Though the choice of Groundhog Day was a bit of a joke, over the years it became a feature of our marriage. A day of hope that spring is just around the corner.
Marriage is a weird institution. You get married for love, but as you say in the vows, life is for better and for worse. There is an inherent conflict between me and my marriage. This is true for everyone. That’s why, when things get rocky, individual therapists often tell you to divorce. Take your lumps and get on with life. Marriage, almost by definition, entails duties to and sacrifices for the other. If your allegiance is to your self and your well-being only, you end the marriage as soon as you can, if you could even stand to get married in the first place.
Marriage is not a me institution. It is an us institution.
Americans, at this time in history, are not very good at us institutions. They don’t participate in their communities. They hate their government, and half of all marriages end in divorce. These are not separate phenomena. We have a hard time being committed to others.
It’s no trick loving your spouse (or supporting your country) when everything is going well. It’s your commitment that takes you through the bad times—when the feeling isn’t quite there.
I was probably eight or 10 years into my marriage to Kit before I fully understood this. You have to value the relationship, not just your lovey-dovey (and fickle) feelings in order to make a commitment. The exit strategy was off the table. The only option was to make it work.
Before that time, we had rough times. After that time, we had rough times. No more and no less than anyone else. But after we understood that we were really together for the long haul, we began to get better at working things out. We were on the same side. And sure, each of us has quirks. She doesn’t like microwave ovens. And I . . . well, I’m not sure what mine is, but I must have one.
So now, it’s been 22 years. And tomorrow, regardless of whether the groundhog sees its shadow, we can be sure of one thing. Spring will be here soon.
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