I’m watching my girls at the pool when I start eavesdropping on the couple sitting next to me.They’re laughing and talking about their day, people they know, what they did last weekend… and it all seems terribly interesting. To them. Both are engaged in the conversation and instead of long silences or nagging questions, their conversation is injected with with laughter, eye contact and affirmation.
I’m so impressed with this husband and wife team and their animated communication, I decide to compliment them–it’s not often I see middle-aged partners exerting so much effort to connect–but before I voice my appreciation, they leave. The next week I find out I was wrong: the bubbly woman is divorced and the man whom I’d assumed to be her husband, the one who was so eager to hear what she had to say, was a new romantic interest. Of course they’re not married, I told myself, surprised I’d been duped, that’s not the way spouses act… as if they’re actually interested in each other.
In case you haven’t noticed, we’re in the thick of anniversary season right now. A couple weeks ago Stan and I completed thirteen
committed, sacrificial blissful years years together. Tolstoy wrote that “happy families are alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way”, but he was wrong. Happy or unhappy, every relationship is unique. The problems Stan and I have might be easily recognized by millions of other couples, but the details, the slivers that get under our skin, are wholly ours. Fortunately, it’s the same at the other end of the spectrum. What makes our marriage work might be summarized in a few lines, but the joy in our marriage also comes from the subtleties in our relationship that are as individual as our fingerprints. Sometimes these particulars make me shake my head, or grit my teeth in frustration, but they often produce a sense of gratitude and awe that make me say, “I can’t believe I found you.”
Although Stan and I don’t usually exhibit the keen interest the couple at the pool had in each other, I’m perpetually amazed by my husband because he is so, well, interesting. Who else makes their own home brew, prays passionately for their children, designs jewellery, pretends to be a luthier–and pulls it off, never leaves home without tools, likes hunting and musicals, has a heart for social justice, can sew, sing and scale mountains?
Just last week, Stan rushed to Canadian Tire at 9 pm to buy a security camera. He’d spotted a robin’s nest in one of our trees and wanted to stream a live video of the mama bird tending her eggs so our girls could keep tabs on her. While he shimmied up the tree in the dark, securing wires, I knew it was just as much for him as it was for our daughters. And it made me feel lucky. When I watch him strumming his guitar alongside Belén, coaching her on rhythm while belting out Let it Go or Katy Perry’s Roar (these two titles pretty much exhaust our pop-culture knowledge of the new millennium) and then, in the next moment, try to explain the concept of thermodynamics to Susanna, it makes me smile. I’m reminded, too, that because I married Stan, because I got him–with all his quirks, talents, and passions, my life will never be boring.
Maybe interesting isn’t how you would describe your spouse. Maybe he’s as dull as a doorknob, but gentle and patient when it comes to your screaming children. Or maybe she’s charming, charismatic and knows how to work a crowd when you’d rather shrink into the wallpaper. Likely, what makes you weak in the knees isn’t the same as what works in your best friend’s marriage. And, like the rest of life, any energy you spend comparing your relationship is probably a waste of time.
This is easier said than done. While I listened to the couple beside me at the pool I wished Stan and I were like them, with endless enthusiasm for daily conversation, broaching each new topic with more excitement than the last. But we’re not. Admitting this doesn’t mean I don’t feel lucky. In fact, sometimes I feel sorry for other woman, knowing there’s only one Stan, and he’s already taken. He’s no chatter bug, but after thirteen years I’m still fascinated by the man I married, and this amazement makes for a deep contour in the fingerprint of our marriage.
What is your marriage-print like?
Wishing you eyes to see the details that belong to the two of you,