If there’s one thing we’ve learned, the two of us, it’s that marriage isn’t always easy, and there will be times that try us without mercy. We will sometimes – maybe even often – disagree, and things and people and events will come along that test our courage and resolve, and that’s when we will turn to the memory of this precious time together, and the knot we are weaving to bind us into one.
—Beatriz Williams, A Certain Age
I came across these sentences last month, when I read Williams’ glittering novel about tangled love and secrets in 1920s New York. My path to marriage – thank goodness – was not quite as dramatic as that of Sophie, who writes these lines to her sister near the end of the book. I met my husband on a quiet college campus in West Texas, and I married him on that same campus, nearly six years after we met (and almost five years after we started dating). We were starry-eyed and stubborn and impossibly young – and we have been married, as of yesterday, for eight years.
Eight years is a long time and not a long time, all at once. It is not quite a decade, but it is long enough that we have formed certain habits, learned and unlearned certain things, built a solid (I hope) foundation for the rest of our marriage and our lives. By virtue of meeting when we were so young, we have been together for a good chunk of our lives. But eight years is also long enough to learn this: things change.
I am married, in some ways, to the same man I met when we were 18. He has the same dark eyes and wide smile, the same clear tenor singing voice, the same love for sports and his family and me. I am also the same, in some ways, as when we met: I have green eyes and freckles and a deep love for books. I read and write both to make my living and to make sense of the world. And one fundamental thing is also the same: we love each other, fiercely and deeply.
But eight years is also long enough for a lot of change to happen. We have both changed jobs, finished graduate school, moved across the country and changed jobs again (roughly in that order). More importantly: we have both learned and grown as people, which means that our relationship has evolved. There have been times – including the past year, when I was job hunting – that have tried us without mercy. And life has tested our courage and resolve.
The work of marriage in these years has been about building a life together, yes, but it has also been about giving each other the space to grow and change. It is hard for me sometimes to admit that our life looks different than I thought it would, or that we are both allowed to change our opinions – and then that change might require some reshuffling. Like anything that is expected to endure, a marriage has to be both strong and flexible. That is, as I once heard Lauren Winner say, “hard and holy work.” And it is ongoing.
Here is the other side of that coin, though: marriage is sweet. It is deep and rich and nourishing, and it is often a lot of fun. I am grateful to be married to someone who makes me laugh, who always has my back, who gets me in ways I don’t have to explain. We love to go adventuring together and we love to stay home. We love being us, even while we are still two separate people. We love our life together. And I am grateful for it all.
Happy anniversary, love. Here’s to many more.