Posted by: unlikelygrad | June 24, 2009

19 years

I haven’t posted in a while because I’ve been both desperately busy and incredibly sick. What this means is that I’d force myself to work until I got too dizzy to stay vertical, then I’d go back to bed and sleep. The cycle repeated several times a day for a while (the first day, I couldn’t even stay up for 10 minutes at a time), and now I’m down to one afternoon nap. What a relief.

Yesterday was my 19th wedding anniversary. In some ways it’s hard to believe it’s been that long–didn’t we just get married?–but in others, the length of time we’ve been together is hard to ignore. UnlikelyDad is getting gray hairs at his temples and crinkly little lines at the corner of his eyes, no doubt from smiling/laughing a lot. My children are getting huge–two of my boys are over six feet. And we have way more stuff than anyone should ever have.

As you can guess, I got married young. I graduated from high school early, went off to a college with way more boys than girls, and married after the end of my sophomore year. Some people say this was a stupid thing to do–that I should have taken time to “find myself” before I hitched myself permanently to another human being. Personally, I think this is baloney. You do not know what you, as a person, are capable of–for good or for ill–until you live in close quarters with someone for extended periods of time. How can you “find yourself” if you don’t know this critical component of your personality?

When I was young, I heard some people say that the keys to a lasting marriage are communication and compromise. While I think these are useful tools, I don’t think they guarantee happiness or success. For example, take a common disagreement: whether or not to have another child. One of us wanted another child, the other didn’t. On several occasions, we expressed our feelings on the subject: lines of communication were open. There was no way to compromise. (You either have a kid or you don’t.) This had the potential to make someone desperately unhappy, and, in fact, it did.

What, then, is the foundation for a good marriage? I would say that it is commitment. Commitment is the motivation to communicate and to compromise, to make sacrifices when necessary. Commitment forces you to face issues instead of running away. A person who’s 100% committed to the marriage thinks, “I’m going to be with this person for the rest of my life no matter what*, so I’m going to do what’s necessary to make him/her happy…and then I’m going to find a way to be happy with the outcome myself.” (After all, who wants to be around a miserable partner for the rest of their life?)

I can’t say that I’ve been happy for all 19 years of my marriage. We’ve gone through some incredibly tough times. But I do know that, after putting up with everything I’ve put up with, I now have the most incredible, supportive friend (and lover) whom I know will be with me forever. And I know that, after 19 years of hard work, I’m a much better person than I would have been had I stayed single.

*Which is not to say that there aren’t reasons for divorce. But I think many divorces could be avoided if people were just more committed to the marriage and to the happiness of their partner.

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Responses

  1. I appreciate this insight. I’m not married, but i’m committed – which actually has recently brought up the fact of getting married which I’m against but he isnt. But ultimately, we want eachother happy, because, well, we’ve done it for the last 14 years.

  2. Stumbled on your blog, and read this post. I have to point out – you don’t know if you’re a better person because you’ve been married throughout your entire youth, you’ve never grown up by yourself! And your marriage going on 20 years (congrats) – it’s not only because you’ve worked hard at it (though I commend you for that as not everyone does and am fully aware of its importance) – it’s also luck. And considering you’ve never actually been alone in your “adult” years, referring to the years after when your age had the word “teen” in it, you have no real clue as to what it’s like to actually find yourself by yourself. It’s not necessarily a good or bad thing, it’s simply a different identity than one that is affected by having a life-partner (and children) and growing in your youth with that person. You talk about commitment forcing a person to face issues instead of running away, but if an individual can’t do face things without this idea of “commitment” to marriage, maybe there are things the individual needs to look at within him/herself. There ways to learn about not running away from issues while being single, or not married, or not committed in such a relationship. This is of course not to insinuate in any way, that you need to, but I thought it was something to consider in lieu of your blog here. But as a person that knows people who have married early and who have married late, I have to say that it’s more to each his/her own rather than one thing better than the other. Good luck with the rest of your marriage, sounds like you have a good idea of how to sustain it for yourself.


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