Marriage After Fifty: The Eighth Year
I am a survivor of divorces and child custody battles and restraining orders and you-name-it, I’ve been there. I don’t wallow in regret, or condemn myself, I was just ill-equipped when it came to romance and things went south. I learned difficult but valuable lessons, and often recite, “It takes a lot of no’s to get to a yes.” Learning what to avoid, in my opinion, is just as important as learning what to embrace. It took a long time and a lot of profound discoveries about myself, but in my fifties, I finally got to the ‘yes’.
That being said, it is amazing to me that I am just now learning how to be married longer than four years without some sort of crisis. My husband and I are about to embark on our ninth year of marital bliss, have sworn to each other we are together until the end, and that’s a pretty good feeling. We are done with the drama of ‘looking for love in all the wrong places’.
So done. Yay.
But the learning curve at this point, for me, involves the petty, bizarre, intimate, details about a person that emerge after so many years. I find it hilarious and irritating and reassuring all at the same time. For me, familiarity doesn’t breed contempt, it breeds fertile ground for growth. Lots and lots of personal growth.
For instance, ladies, how many of us breathe a sigh of relief when our husbands leave for a few days/weeks/months (well, maybe not months); because we do not have to go behind him and pick up dishes/reading glasses/dirty socks/boxers/etc. etc. A perfect opportunity to build patience, as I huff out my gratitude through clenched teeth for this wonderful, solid man and get exercise at the same time, bending and squatting and picking up all that stuff. See? Growth.
And driving. It was oh-so-wickedly satisfying when I heard a paragon of virtue like Joyce Meyer remark that she dislikes her husband’s driving so much (and vice-versa) that they actually take separate vehicles whenever they can. When my husband is driving my panic leaks out in spurts like this: “Do you have to take up the whole road when you turn a corner? Every. Single. Time?” or, “Stop. Stop! You are in the middle of the intersection on a yellow light! You are inviting an accident!” or, “That guy nearly sideswiped us! Don’t you use your horn? EVER? Why?” and so on.
Conversely, when I am driving, his irritation leaks out like this: “WATCH IT!” (Arms outstretched) “You are too close to the curb! Kerry!” or, “No, THIS way. This way! What are you doing?” (Head swiveling wild when I ever take a different route than he would, thereby making me mad that he doesn’t think I know how to get where we are going. Really?)
We have learned to kind of square our shoulders and brace ourselves when we drive somewhere together. Still, it is reassuring to know that if Joyce Meyer takes separate vehicles sometimes in order to avoid conflict, so can I. A fallback position should it prove necessary.
And how about closet habits? Never in my wildest imagination did I think I’d care about a closet door hanging open or pairs of male shoes neatly arranged OUTSIDE the open closet instead of inside their tidy shoe-shelves, but I do. After eight years, I really do. I have come to the conclusion this is a minor detail and will not change. I deal with it by suggesting his closet and mine be in separate rooms, which works great except when I have to clean that room. On my good days, I put away his stuff with a sigh and gently slam the closet door and mutter my gratitude for a good marriage even if my spouse is not an OCD must-have-order person like me. Everyone needs balance in their life.
Food habits? Sigh.
My husband – and maybe most men – are fans of messy, smelly, food, e.g. seafood that must be manipulated, torn apart or slithered out of its shell and guzzled; or wings slathered in barbeque sauce. I cannot bear to watch. Also, he is a huge fan of onions and garlic, both which send me running outside fanning my nose. Though I’ve begged him to spare my nose, he still manages to sneak in an onion or two into the fridge. And seriously, he does it when I’m not looking because he knows I will freak out. When I find the onion, the convo goes something like this:
Me: Gasp! “Did you buy an onion?’
Him: “What onion?”
Me: I can smell it, and it’s still in the plastic bag!”
Him: “I’ll use it when you’re not here.”
Me: “It’ll smell up the whole house for two days.”
Him: “I’ll never understand why you don’t like onions. You should try onions. And seafood.”
Me: (Face getting red) “I’ve told you a thousand times the smell of onions and seafood makes me nauseous. Do you want me to get sick? Just because you won’t give up onions?”
Him: ” I won’t cook them. I’ll eat them raw. You should try them.”
Me: “I. Will. Never. Like. Onions. Or seafood.”
And so on. We’ve agreed to disagree. He still has to have the occasional onion, hoping I won’t notice. And I don’t, until he surreptitiously pulls out a frying pan, plops in oil and garlic, quietly dices the onion he has spirited in under his shirt, and cooks it. What, he thinks I won’t smell that? Gagging, I turn on every fan in the house, open the windows, and stomp outside. In the spirit of compromise, I am considering noseplugs.
The marital learning curve continues, and my personal goal is to get through at least one day without shrieking regarding any of the above. After all, the clashes we have about this stuff are pretty funny. Well, a few days later, they’re funny.