November 27 is my 25th wedding anniversary. Such occasions can be considered meaningless calendrical artifacts. But they do provide prompts for reflection and celebration. Yet in truth I hardly need it, since no day goes by without my reflecting upon and celebrating my marriage.
My wife has said she feels the lack of a sociability brain module that others have; and I feel that myself. There’s a lot of the loner in me. And, when I belatedly got ‘round to hankering after women, I was pretty clueless in going about it. Doubtful of my ability to land a great catch, I’d have settled for less; I cringe to think of some of the unsuitable women I pursued, fortunately without success. It’s an irony that the one I actually did get was the best of them all.
And whereas, for most people, by my stage of life, those fires have dimmed to embers, I am having it backwards – having now what normally comes with youth. It’s said that youth is wasted on the young, and in the sense meant, I certainly wasted mine; but I’m making up for it now, certainly not wasting my elderhood. And the inversion seems advantageous, since now I have the seasoned wisdom to appreciate the gift.
What I mean to say is that I’m actually more in love with my wife than ever. Couplings are supposed to start out passionate and then ratchet down to tamer feelings. This too I’ve inverted. If my marrying Therese was more from intellect than passion – really a utilitarian judgment – that judgment has been wholly vindicated, and the feelings once tame have grown intense.
But, of course, just as my choice 25 years ago was not from heedless passion, nor is my passion now heedless either. It rises from what she is and what we are together. Quite simply, we have a beautiful life together. One of the big mistakes in marriage is the hope of changing the other person – an error we’ve never made. Indeed, acceptance of each’s nature, and allowing each to be him/herself, is a fundamental principle of our marriage. But perhaps for us that’s easy. Or for me, at least; maybe the most annoying things about Therese are her leaving windows open, and dishes in the sink; at which I just smile, small prices to pay for all that’s wonderful about her. How splendid it is to be greeted each morning with her smile.
I’ve read that the key to happiness is: low expectations. You’re less likely to be disappointed, and more likely to be pleasantly surprised. It’s worked for me; I am still in a state of pleasant surprise at what I’ve gotten.
Yet one can see life as ultimately cruel and tragic. Nothing is given to us without its finally being taken away. The beautiful life Therese and I have will end. But no law of the universe decreed our entitlement to such a gift at all. We can only rejoice at what we’ve been given.