Reminds me of the Tom Waits song of the same name, but I am not talking about a car that I am driving home from my lover’s house...I am talking about an event that came and went without much fanfare and without my proper attention. Last Friday my parents celebrated 55 years of marriage. And that is a fucking long time to be alive, let alone married.
We celebrated last night, they not really concerned with dates and times, and supremely flexible. But I feel remiss in not mentioning, not celebrating their amazing accomplishment.
I cannot date someone for an entire year, and somehow I sprung from people who committed to the long haul and then saw it through. I often wonder if they were asked and were honest, if they could do it all over again, would they? But then I don’t think they could or would be entirely honest, for my sake and theirs, and I really don’t want to know the truth. Chances are that they both have regretted and not the length, duration, station and tenacity of their marriage. I am not sure it can be any other way...
Relationships are hard. And the longer you are in them, the more there is to forgive, the more there is to adjust to and the more life there is to survive together...and my parents have made that look way easier than it likely has been and I am supremely grateful for that.
Regardless of the ups and downs, they have stuck it out, and arrived at a celebratory event, still in tact, relatively sane and loving each other. The extent, depth and other parameters of their love I leave to them. I will not trespass on that. But it does cause me to think on the status of long term marriage in today’s world...
I think by the time I am dead, there will be very few people that have remained married for 55 years. I currently don’t know many people who have been married 25. And those that I do know, most of them are not happy and at least one of them would make a different choice if they were given the right circumstances to leave: money, time, and security that all they have worked so hard to build would not be destroyed in an instant.
It appears that my generation has thumbed our nose at longevity being a part of sexual relationships. We make the commitment, hang in there for a decade or so, then we move on. Trading partners and lives, and kids and houses, in a much more temporary way. Was it better to remain in relationships that failed us? Is it better to move on like we do? I am not sure...but I do know that it is a divorce economy and it isn’t likely to change.
I seek the person to spend the rest of my life with, really. I know my dating behavior would not really support that conclusion from an outside perspective. But it is what I want. But I have my issues, fears, wounds and traumas that make my ability to commit to just one person for the rest of my life, less and less likely as the time goes on. A comfortable solitude appears to have settled upon me and my age group and we appear to really just need each other for travel companions and sex. I am over simplifying for sure. But look around at the 50 year olds...tell me you don’t see it too...
I will own that this part of me feels like a failure when I hold myself up against my parent’s marriage. I quit, I leave, I move on while they persevered, sustained, and continued. And I know that those skill sets in me are nubs in comparison. I started to say stunted, but that would mean that would leave the impression that they got farther along than they did...I think nubs accurately describes it.
But, but, I can’t say that I am completely displeased with it. I am grateful for the freedom I have, the financial, sexual, emotional freedom. I am grateful to have my own space, to wake up alone and to go to bed that way also. For the right person, I would check those things...but would I be capable of casting them aside forever? It is easy when the rush of love is stoked with carnal desire to push those things aside, telling yourself great stories but after the sexual tension subsides would I really still give it all up? I like to think so, but my path belies that belief.
I have started thinking of people differently, like some people are lifers, some people are decaders and some people are temporal. I fear that I am the later...
I think I am good at starting relationships. I am available and make an effort. I am willing to put the work in and make time for it. But I tend to become distant with time. And it has come to my attention that perhaps that is because I am actually not good at starting things, I lie and do not tell the complete truth, lest you leave, and that results in me being dissatisfied down the line. Perhaps if I was a little more reluctant to begin, perhaps I might not miss some important things in the beginning...things that I later wish were different.
I know this would be beneficial but even as I write it, I wonder how realistic it is...
Do people end up in long term marriages because that is who they are, they are willing to work harder, they are more suited to long term commitment and not easily enticed by shiny newness?
I mean, that is what it seems like from my perspective. And as I inventory my own conduct, I fall short on every count. And am left wondering if someone who is not suited for long term, hasn’t been willing to work harder and is not who I am, can change?
Is it really a matter of finding the right person? And if so, why do someone people seem to so easily find that person, while others roam the earth seeking love in all the wrong places?
I do not know.
I believe, at least I think I do, I lie to myself so often that I have come to doubt everything my inner voice tells me, that it has to be more about being the right person. That like energy attracts like energy...so if I am stable, committed, and willing to do some work, I am much more likely to find and pull to me someone who is similarly situated.
I guess as with everything in life, there are no guarantees. But I know that I have done a fuck ton of work to get where I am and I am the best version of myself that I have been so far. And the quality of the people I pull towards me is better than it ever has been. And at the very same time, I see a new pattern in my dating and love life that I never saw before. I will save that for another blog since I am already so far off the topic I started with...but I see it.
So perhaps my parents are still married not because they found the right person, or loved so deeply or intensely or passionately, but because there was room in their marriage for them both to grow and change and become a better version of themselves. And each of them was able to be patient when it seemed like the person they were, that was woefully lacking, would never change. Perhaps being married for 55 years really just means that you are patient enough to wait out the long droughts of change, and selfless enough to provide each other some grace when the change, the growth into a better you comes hard, too slow or not at all.
Happy 55th Anniversary Mom and Dad. Thank you for being amazing examples and also ample warning over the years. Your marriage isn’t perfect because no one has a perfect marriage. And I think that perhaps, that is the secret to your success: you hung in their long enough to become content with the imperfections while also working individually and as a couple to become a better version of you/us than you were the day before...
I am impressed, grateful and happy to have the two of you alive, relatively healthy and close by. I watch, I see and I admire all the qualities about each of you that contributed to making it to this most amazing milestone. Congratulations on doing something the rest of us can’t even fathom anymore.