June 17, 2014

Six Down, Twenty To Go

I am allergic to metal.

I used to couch that in parenthetical exceptions, but about ten months ago I had to stop. When M and I got married, we were very careful in our ring selection. We went to the trouble of making sure not only that we got rhodium plated rings, but that we returned to the store every six months without fail to have them re-plated.

Sadly, no amount of re-plating could stop the inevitable. After five years of wearing my wedding band, never taking it off save for MRIs or those weird days we'd take to visit the 'burbs and replate the sucker, the hives began coming.

Skin allergies suck. First comes the vague itching. Then comes the blotchy redness. Then comes the open, festering, pussy wounds on your skin. Not pleasant, I know.

So after five years of marriage, I took off my wedding ring.

I hated it. I hated not wearing it. For the first few months if I went to an occasional wedding or special event, I'd put it back on. But even that became unbearable.

And so, M and I planned to replace it with something I could wear. Lucky us, we live in a city filled with brilliant artists and craftsmen, and we located a local shop, less than a mile from our first home together and only two miles from the site of our wedding. In the converted warehouse, a small group of brilliant odd-balls make beautiful rings from reclaimed wood.

For our sixth anniversary, we got new wedding rings. They're made from old xylophone tiles, and mine has a band of crushed lapis lazuli, which makes it resemble my old wedding and engagement rings, stacked together.

Created by Simply Wood Rings
We didn't have a dedication ceremony, or officially renew our vows, or anything like that. But it seemed odd to just pick up a new wedding ring, put it on, and say, "That's that!" So when we picked up the rings, we took a moment to commit ourselves all over again to our marriage.

M smiled his awkward, off kilter smile, and slid the ring onto my finger. "I love you more today than every day before. I can't imagine loving you more, but I know tomorrow I will, and I want to do that for the rest of our lives."

I'd rehearsed in my head exactly what I would say, knowing that one of the few times M never jokes is when he's telling me how much he loves me. So I cleared my throat, grinned at him, and slid the ring onto his finger.

"Six down, twenty to go."

He laughed and we kissed, and the lady behind the counter smiled and said we were adorable, but didn't ask for an explanation about that vow.

When M and I were engaged, we only really got to enjoy the experience for about sixteen hours. The rest of our engagement was totally eclipsed by M's health.

As our wedding date neared, M and I were driving home one afternoon when he said something that I will never forget.

"I have a new goal. I want to spend more of my life married to you than not. I want to live long enough that more of my life was as your husband than before."

He was 25 and a half years old.

For our anniversary, we put on our new rings, and flew to Santa Barbara for a friend's wedding. We extended our trip a few days, so we could spend our anniversary languidly driving up Highway 1, admiring the views of the mountains and the ocean, eating at surfer dives and buying strawberries at the side of the road. I hardly took any pictures. I was too busy feeling overwhelmed by joy, and love.

While we lounged around, without agenda or worry in beautiful Santa Barbara, life was very much as it was for us on our two week honeymoon in New Zealand. We took long walks. We ate local food. I bought some clothes. I made California Benedicts for breakfast.

At the wedding, we danced until our legs gave out, and the next day we came home to our three beautiful children.

It wasn't quite a second honeymoon. It wasn't quite a vow renewal. It was us, together, as we always are.

When I was young, I was certain I'd never marry. I didn't have boyfriends- though I sometimes referred to my beaus that way for my parents' sake. I thought the whole idea of monogamy and sexual fidelity was hogwash. I thought that committing yourself to feel the same way about the same person for the rest of your life was insane. I thought true love was something they fed you in fairy tales to keep you eager, but the reality was you do what you do to be happy, that being happy is what's most important in life, and that marriage didn't have anything to do with that.

Then I met M. And I fell in love. The idea of agreeing to be "boyfriend and girlfriend" didn't bother me. The idea of complacency and simplicity in terms and arrangements seemed soothing, and easy.

And with M, it is.

I've been married to the love of my life for more than six years, and in many ways they have just flown by.

But I read occasional blog posts about how marriage is work, how marriage is supposed to be work, how marriage isn't based on love. I hear my friends' tales of domestic discord and frustrations, of divorce and disillusionment, and I listen.

I sympathize.

But I do not understand. I do not understand why anyone would put themselves through it, deny themselves more opportunities for love and joy by staying in a relationship that brings them neither. I understand that for some people, marriage is work. But it's not for us. It never has been for us.

I know, in many ways, we are a unique couple. For most people, anniversaries and birthdays don't come with a looming counter. "Six down, twenty to go," is not a thought that accompanies these happy occasions. Each time M has a birthday, we don't just celebrate his birth, we celebrate his survival. Each time we have an anniversary, we're not just celebrating our marriage, we're celebrating the perseverance of life itself.

It's not that our lives have been easy. Far from it. Cancer is hard. Unemployment is hard. Newborn twins are hard. Going to college with two toddlers and pregnant with baby number three is hard. Hell, twin toddlers while pregnant is hard enough by itself. Three under three is hard.

Life is hard. And parenting is hard.

First day as parents
And we didn't have much experience with marriage before kids. On our first anniversary we were already 16weeks pregnant with our twins. And that was hard. But our marriage has always been easy.

I don't know that I'd recommend doing things our way, but I do know that I have long since stopped giving marriage advice. Relationship advice, sure, but marriage? Never.

Are we perversely blessed in our perspective? I don't think so. I honestly don't think that the love we consistently share, that constantly grows, that effortlessly brings us immeasurable joy and laughter and happiness is based on a fear of death. That only sharpens it around the edges a little.

I know that our love has never faltered. That the only real strain our marriage has ever suffered was depression, which was less a strain to our marriage than one of us battling a disease. And neither of us have ever faulted the other for their illnesses.

The last six years have gone past so quickly I still think of us as newlyweds. When I think of our relationship, it's in the giddy, excited, heart pounding terms of never wanting to stop touching his skin, or melting into his arms while he kisses me, or laughing as we run like teenagers down the hall to the bedroom. When I think of my love for M, it still comes with a hint of fear that one day he'll realize I'm not good enough for him, that I'm lazy and fat and unshowered and he deserves so much more than me- and rather than feeling depressed by such thoughts I feel inspired to impress him, to show him how competent I can be, how beautiful I can be, how brilliant I can be, until I surprise myself by becoming better than I ever knew I could.

He surprises me and inspires me. He makes me want to be more than I am. He makes me want not just to drop that extra twenty or thirty pounds, but to embrace myself and my body as I am, and love myself as much as he loves me.

He makes me feel like maybe I do deserve somebody so wonderful.

And that has never faltered. That has always been effortless. That has always been simply M- simply the way of the world- simply us.

The Captain Hammer Yin to my Ani Yang
Since getting married, we have grown together. I know more of his flaws and his faults, but my love only grows.

When people tell me that marriage is work, I nod. But secretly I wonder if maybe they're not doing it... wrong.

When people tell me that marriage is hard, I shrug. But secretly I wonder if maybe M and I are just... soul mates. Perfectly matched. Bound by the bonds of "True Love" in the Princess Bride sense of the words.

Maybe we're not. At six years married, with three children, I still feel like a newbie. I still feel like a newlywed. I still feel young and invigorated by our marriage.

I hope to still feel that way when we've been married for sixty years.

And I still believe what I thought before was true- marriage isn't the best idea we as a human race have ever concocted. Forever is a long time to work on something hard. And maybe, for some people, that's the point. Maybe, for some people, the hard work is what gives it meaning.

For me, the meaning is the constant joy and love. The effortless happiness we bring each other. The sharing of burdens until they're lessened almost to nothing, and the sharing of joy until it's multiplied to infinity.

We've been married longer than I've lived in any home. We've been married longer than many of my friendships have lasted. We've been married longer than I had any right to hope on our wedding day. I don't know how I'll feel then, but now I believe another twenty years won't be nearly long enough.

Six down.

Forever to go.


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks, Sarah! I can't help myself. I get misty when I think about how much I love that man. <3

  2. What a wonderful tribute to your marriage, although I'm sure words can't do it justice. I'm marrying my best friend and the love of my life next April. I hope we're able to face challenges the same way you two do. :)

  3. Such a beautiful post and tribute to your husband. We're celebrating our 20th this fall...:)

  4. Congratulations, Lea. That is so beautiful.

  5. This is a beautiful post and so true. I often wonder about people who seem to suffer in their marriages. I met my husband almost 9 years ago. We've been together since. I never thought it could be possible, but our relationship actually gets better with time. He's my best friend, my lover, my shoulder to cry on and no matter what, he always makes me laugh! Life is hard enough as it is, being married should be the one thing to give you strength, your safe harbor if you like. I wish you and your husband the best and hope you will stay together healthy and happy for many more years to come :)

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