Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Re-upping for another year

Last Friday, D and I celebrated our 16th wedding anniversary, although celebrate isn't really what we did.  Due to bad weather on Thursday (Halloween), our neighborhood's trick-or-treating was postponed to Friday.  So D took a hippie, Jake the dog and Finn the human out trick-or-treating while I sat with our neighbor and passed out goodies.

(I also tried to recover from an off-the-chain tantrum by G, which resulted in an off-the-chain tantrum by yours truly, which is a post for another day.)

Given the planning, preparation and attendance at 3 separate Halloween parties last week, I didn't even get D a card.  

When we decided to wed on Nov 1, we didn't have the foresight to understand how 3 Halloween parties in 3 days, plus actual trick-or-treating, would keep us me from remembering an anniversary card purchase.  

Married for 16 years and together as a couple for 18 years seems remarkable, and in a way it is.  So many couples don't make it nearly as far.  

I'm not sure how we've kept it together.  We keep our mouths shut a lot.  We accept each other for who we are (and vent to objective, third parties).  Therapy helped.  We have realistic expectations of what marriage is.  We really do like each other.  

And I venture to say there is a whole lot of luck involved too.

Recently I read an essay/blog suggesting that marriage is about making the other person happy, and while I don't completely agree with his point, I don't completely disagree either.  I think it is easy to love someone and want to make someone else happy when life is uncomplicated, when the married relationship is new, when you don't have the demands of children added in.  (If you don't have a mood-disorder, that is probably helpful too.)

In my experience as a mom for almost a decade, I honestly have not had the energy much of the time to worry about keeping D happy.  I have struggled to keep my house and sanity intact and my children alive.  I'm not saying this is ideal; I'm saying it is real.

D and I have also gone through enough "shit happens" experiences, like the death of a parent, like unexpected surgeries and health issues and house fall-apart situations, that take the wind out of one's sails and make it impossible to make oneself happy, forget about making the partner in the relationship happy.

I think my biggest issue with the writer's point is the use of the term "happy."  Happiness is short-lived.  I have moments, snippets, nanoseconds of joy/happiness in my life.  I have large swaths of soldiering on, "what the fuck am I doing," and mundane.

It is a slippery slope to spend too much time and energy trying to keep someone else happy because where and when does it end?  Sure, if both people are trying simultaneously to keep the other person happy then the idea is they are both made happy, but I propose that although we should aspire to this, the reality of marriage, if it lasts longer than a hot second, is that there is a large amount of selfishness.  And if not selfishness, then distraction by that big large entity we call "LIFE."

I think better than the notion of "making the other person happy," is "Do no harm."   What makes D happy is not what makes me happy.  I may like seeing him be happy, but I want to be happy too, and the reality is that sometimes that happiness doesn't have a darn thing to do with him or anything he can or can't do for, with or to me.

But if I pursue my happiness while not doing him any harm, it seems I can find a better balance and not feel the full weight and responsibility of his happiness on my shoulders.

I don't propose that my idea is better than the guy who wrote about making the other person happy.  Maybe it is because he is a man, and I'm a woman.  Maybe because I'm most certainly older than him and have been married longer.

I think my idea doesn't sound as romantic or doe-eyed as his, but so far it seems to have worked for us.
And I guess that is all that matters.  

1 comment:

Kelsey said...

Congratulations Carrie! 16 years is most definitely impressive. Glad to hear you actually like each other... people forget that's important, no?