Saturday, April 13, 2013

Happily Married. There Really IS Such A Thing!

So...... last weekend I went to Los Angeles to celebrate my brother's 50th birthday. I had a wonderful time. My experience was packed with lots of shopping, heart to heart conversations, laughter, delicious food, amazing coffee, and precious moments spent with beautiful people.

I also had the privilege of observing true love and the secrets of a successful marriage.  I've always had a bad taste in my mouth concerning marriage, mainly because mine was such a failure.  I am skeptical about ever considering another one. I spent time with a couple who have the most amazing relationship. It's the kind of marriage that most people dream about, but never quite achieve.  It's not a fairy tale marriage. Far from it. It's a union based on truth, respect, patience, forgiveness and grace. There were plenty of obstacles and struggles involved in arriving to the place where they are right now. This is a couple so happy to actually be married, that each and every moment spent together is precious. Their relationship has changed my point of view. They've given me hope for the future.  Marriage can work if two people are willing to work at it. What I saw didn't really seem like work, it seemed natural, but I am smart enough to know that any time we stop to consider the needs, desires and insecurities of another person before our own; there is a bit of self-sacrifice and the swallowing of pride involved. That takes work to practice on a daily basis. Some of us never get there.

This happy couple has been together for eight years, married for four of those years. After one year of my marriage, the honeymoon phase was definitely over. Honestly, the honeymoon ended while we were on our actual honeymoon. Sad, but true.  Not this couple. Strangers observing them would think they were brand-new lovers.

Let's face it. We all take each other for granted, especially once we're married.  We stop the special treatment. Those little pet peeves, habits and individual ways of doing things that were so endearing and cute and funny in the beginning stages of love become irritating and make us argue, whine and complain.

 "You used to laugh each time you had to pull my hair out from the bathtub drain and now it's a federal offense".

"I just can't rest if the kitchen is a mess and you always used to help me clean up so we could relax together after dinner. Now you just sit there in your recliner and tell me it's my problem, not yours!"

Sound familiar? 

Let me tell you what I saw this weekend. Two flawed people with faults and failures who accept each other as they are. They are completely in love and treat each other with kindness, patience gentleness and respect.  And it wasn't because I was there.  I am family and everyone relaxes around family.  Nope. These two were completely genuine and obviously have developed a daily practice keeping their marriage exciting and alive.

I saw two people working together to make a home. There was no your job- my job.  One cleaned the kitchen. The other cleaned the bathroom.  One took out the garbage while the other one vacuumed. One walked the dog while the other made the bed.  There were no arguments. No decisions to be made about who was doing what. They just did it. If laundry needed to folded and put away, they did it. They didn't just leave it for the other to do. The first one up in the morning, started the coffee and the other was lovingly served a steaming mug of precious brew. There were no snide remarks or comments made in passing.

"I vacuumed yesterday, so you do it today!"
"You want another cup of coffee and now you want toast, too? I am busy. Go make it yourself!"
Not once did I hear my favorite phrase:  "Are your arms broken?"

The amazing thing was neither one was a slave to the other. There's wasn't one constantly giving and the other one taking.  They seemed to have the perfect balance of give and take.

There was a homemade strawberry cheese cake involved.  Somehow, the strawberries were forgotten at the market that morning when all the other ingredients were purchased.

 "Darling, on your way home from the dry cleaners, please stop by Trader Joe's and pick up strawberries. If they don't look nice though, you will have to swing by the farmer's market to get them.  The strawberries must be perfect!"

Truthfully, I was waiting to see someone roll their eyes at the other. I expected to hear a nasty comment or at least some sign of aggravation or irritation. Something along the lines of:

"I can't believe you forgot to buy the strawberries! What is the matter with you?"
"I have so much running around to do today and now I have to add shopping for your perfect strawberries to my list?"
"Go get them yourself or just make the darn cake without the strawberries!"

I never heard one complaint. They were happy to do things for each other. Anything to make the other's busy day a little easier and more pleasurable. Neither of them were ever too tired or too hungry or too pressured to do something nice for the other. One went shopping and the other raced out the door to help bring in all the packages. Four years together and he still brings home fresh flowers! I was amazed.

There were several stops at different stores to find just the right napkins for the party.  Even I was growing weary. For God's sake, they're napkins and folks are just gonna wipe their faces and hands with them and toss them in the trash. Apparently, because the napkins were so important to one, they were important to the other.

I was almost certain some kind of argument would erupt when it came to choosing what to wear to the party.  One of them had recently bought a new pair of shoes and was hell-bent on matching the outfit to the shoes. Usually you buy the shoes to go with the outfit and not the other way around, but whatever. I couldn't stop laughing as I watched closets and drawers torn apart searching for just the right thing to wear. Something with a splash of orange in it to match the soles of the new shoes! Dozens of different outfits were tried on, torn off and angrily flung about. Messy heaps of clothing were scattered all over the house.

 "OMG! I look so fat in everything I own!"

"Baby, you look beautiful, but if you're not happy, then go and buy yourself something new!"

WHAT??!!!!  I can't remember a man ever saying that to me!

All weekend long I heard endearing words and saw expressions of true affection.

"Good morning, my darling husband".

"Can I get you anything while I am in the kitchen, my love?"

They touched. They caressed each other. They held hands.  They sat beside each other on the couch and not at separate ends like most married couples.  In the beginning stages of love, we want to be next to each other every moment. Then something changes and it's all about comfort and the end of all that hugging and kissing and snuggling. Will you stop leaning all over me?  Stop petting me; I am not a dog. I am hot. I am cold. I' m tired.  I just want to stretch out, so go over there. No there. Nope. Not far enough; I can still hear you breathing.  For God's sake, will you just move away from me, please! 

This couple was affectionate and attentive and actually listened to each other. No one shouted over the television. No one ignored the other or kept their eyes glued to the computer while the other was talking.  There were no complaints about eating dinner by candlelight just because they make the atmosphere so cozy and make the food taste better. No arguments about having scrub the kitchen from top to bottom at 3:00 AM after the party because OMG!  If I wake up to the smell of lamb grease tomorrow morning, it will just ruin my day.  One grabbed the bleach and the sponge. The other grabbed the mop.  I grabbed a drink and got out of the way.

Several times I saw them out of the corner of my eye hugging and kissing in the bedroom. It was all so very sweet. Not irritatingly sweet. Just loving and real and genuine.  As I watched them, I thought how I want what they have and I will not settle until I find it!

On Friday night, we went to the movies and then had dinner at their favorite BBQ Rib Joint. This is their Friday night ritual. Date night. Every Friday. No exceptions. They're creatures of habit, these two, but these are good habits. The vegetarian (me) ate salad and coleslaw. And a few pieces of corn bread.  I didn't care. I was just happy to be in their company. Anyway, one of them complained about how difficult it was to cut the meat off the bone.  He was clearly getting aggravated with his meal and got up to use the rest room.  That's when his partner took his plate and patiently cut all the meat from the bones for him.

"I can't believe you did that!" I said.

"I do it all the time. He doesn't have the patience I do for these types of things. He loves ribs, but just refuses to eat them with his hands!"

Seriously? Once or twice. Okay. Nice gesture. So cute. But all the time? As in every Friday night? Pick up the damn ribs and gnaw on the bones like every other carnivore in this place or order something else to eat! 

See? My attitude right there clearly indicates that I am no way near ready for any kind of relationship!  But isn't true love supposed to be about the doing the little things and helping the other have and enjoy what they want and how they want it; even if it means a bit of sacrifice on our part?


My last day there was a Monday. It was a mad dash for all of us after a very exhausting weekend. They needed to rush off to work and I needed to get to the airport. We had a few moments to sit down and enjoy coffee together before we all parted ways and that's when I heard the first negative comment in four days.

"Oh. No frittata this morning?" one of them said.  They explained that homemade frittata is their week day morning ritual. They actually sit and have coffee and breakfast together every day before they go their separate ways. WOW!

"I am so sorry about the frittata," said the other. "With all the excitement around here, I completely forgot.  Are you hungry, my darling? I can whip up some eggs in less than five minutes."

"No worries. You have a busy day ahead of you. I'll just pick something up on the way to work."

There was no pouting. No complaining or aggravating sighs. No accusing, no judgement and no demands.

Who are these people? 

I was in shock. And envious. My marriage was never like that. I never had a relationship of any kind like that. Not even in the beginning stages. Not ever. God knows, I tried, but when the other partner is not willing to give or receive, it just won't work. Most people I know don't have marriages like that. They are tired, unhappy and bored. They feel trapped and taken for granted.  Their husbands don't help around the house. The wives are never satisfied with anything. They rarely feel treasured or adored or respected. As the years drag on they grow apart and live separate lives or eventually one of them leaves. This isn't always the case. Some people really do have happy marriages. But off the top off your head, how many genuinely happily married couples can you name?

Time. Effort. Love. Passion. Appreciation.  Respect. Patience. Kindness. Forgiveness. Grace. I think these are the key ingredients to a happy, healthy marriage. These ingredients must be applied daily to keep that marriage growing and beautiful.  The married couple I spent time with do not have the perfect life. They struggle and wrestle with sickness and disease and trials and jobs and bills and everything else that we all battle with every day. But in midst of all that, they managed to retain something so special and rare. They have everything I want. They are the perfect example of what marriage should be.

Who is this happily married couple? My brother and his amazing husband. True loves. Legally married. For life. In sickness and in health. In good times and bad. For richer and for poorer. God knows, they've endured it all. Marriage is their reward and they treasure it every single day. Does it make a difference that they're gay? Not to me, but to those fighting so hard to keep those who love each other apart, perhaps you need to spend time with with a gay couple or two and see how they love each other. It's easy to fight against something you don't really understand. Once you do, I think you'll change your mind.

Some folks argue that marriage is supposed to be one man; one woman.  Personally, I think one man; one woman has made a real mess of things. We've disrespected the whole institution of marriage. We've rejected it, thrown in the towel when it became too difficult,  broken our marriage vows and then turned around and took new vows with somebody else. Why not give another group a chance to get it right? After spending last weekend with several gay married couples, I realize that they have something that we lost a long time ago. And because they fought so hard to get it and are still fighting for others to have the same privilege, they won't be so quick to let it go........