We're celebrating our seventh wedding anniversary. All told, we've been together for ten years. When we met, I can state with great confidence that romance was the very last thing on my mind. I wanted no part of being in love again, not until I felt financially secure on my own at least, and I had actually gotten down on my knees and prayed never to feel infatuated or have a crush on anyone ever again. I had been divorced for five years. I'd hardened my heart and swallowed my tears. Cupid, get away from me. I have things to do.
Divorce will paradoxically make a romantic out of you just as you think you're being your most pragmatic. Even when you know all the nuts and bolts of quarreling over housework and arguing about money, even when you know how hard it is to get along with someone else's family, you still think that next time it'll be better. Even when you know approximately how long it takes to find out someone else's secret single habits, even when you've mutually evaluated every possible flaw and failing, you still think you'll find someone worth feeling warm and snuggly about. Then it happens. You can hardly believe it's true. You put it under the microscope and examine it to within an inch of its life, and somehow it survives scrutiny. Real love can put up with almost anything.
We were helpless against each other. From the day we met, we were intrigued with each other. We always had something to talk about. We annoyed each other. We argued about politics. He taunted me and I kicked his chair. I threw my shoe at him and he walked off with it. We started having three-second phone conversations. We left each other notes. We had lunch together every day. People were talking about us, and we snorted and laughed it off. Give me a break. We were both divorced, fat, and broke, too jaded to want anything from anyone, and besides, at that point we were both casually dating other people.
Time went by. The other people left the picture. The first time he called me on the phone, I asked him what he wanted and why he was calling me. I was mean. I wanted him to go away because I was afraid for my job. Then I got a better job that paid more somewhere else. It took us weeks to work out the parameters of how we would be together. It took more like a year to hammer out the details of living in the same zip code, much less living under the same roof.
He wanted to live together without getting married. I wanted to get married and not live together. We compromised. Somehow, we wound up doing both. Still not sure how that happened. The truth was that not living together and not being together was never an option. The phone reception was too bad. As soon as we realized how much more we could talk after we got married, it was a lost cause.
I knew I had to marry him when I realized that no matter what happened, I would always be curious about what he was doing. I would always want his opinion. I would always find myself trying to make him laugh, which is basically impossible unless I'm talking about how he never laughs at my jokes. Or the time I farted at the library. He's the first person I think of whenever anything interesting happens, or anything embarrassing, or even when I have a boring random thought. He's the person I want to impress.
Loving someone for ten years isn't really about that person. You can love anyone or be annoyed or bored by anyone. It's not about their personal qualities or character. It's about how open you are. It's about what you see in people and how you interpret what they say and do. We keep believing in fairy tales and thinking that true love comes from somewhere outside, like a meteorite or gamma rays. You can really only feel the love that you feel. If you want to be shaken up and transformed by crazy love, you have to make it happen inside yourself. You turn on the spigot of love and keep turning it until it quits sputtering a thin, rusty trickle and gushes out, clear and pure.
It just so happens that the man I chose is a terrific human being. I dote on him. He's one of the coolest, most interesting people I ever met. I only found out all these cool things about him after I got to know him, though. I looked for certain things, to check if they were there, and they were. He's brave. He's strong. He's hilarious. He's generous. He's sweet. He's confusing sometimes, and he reacts differently than I would in the same situations, and he has his own particular value system that is tougher than mine in some ways. He still surprises me. I don't know all his stories yet. Sometimes, he says things that stop me in my tracks and have me following him around for days, asking him to tell me more. I married him because I believed him when he said he thought there could be something more. He was right. There's still more. There will always be more because he keeps growing and changing and improving over time. I hope I do, too. That's the commitment.
Marriage is about being a mutual admiration society. It's about reflecting each other back to each other, providing a beneficent mirror that helps us see ourselves truly and recognize our weak spots. It's about cheerleading. It's about facilitating each other to live the best life possible, and that means being the best self possible, and sometimes that means being tough on each other. We've had some moments of radical candor that took real humility and courage on both sides. That's where the trust comes from. We'll never fake each other out. We have each other's backs. He's on my zombie apocalypse squad. We're like two sparrows in a nest, and he's my sparrow, and I'm his.
People often ask if you believe in love at first sight. He doesn't. I do. I mean, we did see each other and we did get married, so you can't really rule it out. It feels like fate. If I hadn't taken that temp assignment that day, if either of our previous marriages had worked out, if I had had enough money to follow up on my plan to teach English in Japan... So many things had to fall into place for us to meet. We've met thousands of people, though, and we only found each other when we found each other. Love is about the story you tell yourselves, the story of how lost and lonely you'd be without each other, the story of how ridiculous your life was when you were by yourself, like a bicycle with only one wheel. Maybe we're really more like two unicycles riding side by side.
Where will we be in another ten years? Who knows? I'm pretty sure we'll be together, if the Fates allow. I could never begin to explain all our inside jokes to someone else. We're a secret society with a closed membership of two. Somehow, we've gotten all wrapped up around each other. I think we share a brain. I know that at this point we share a heart.
I love you, babe. Thank you for being my somebody.
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I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.