We’ve been married for three years. Well, three years and change, but somewhere along the way we stopped celebrating the months in between the years. The magic we rode through engagement and on a 9 hour flight to our honeymoon is gone. The butterflies at the sound of his key in the lock have all found another heart to live in. Sure, I love my husband and he loves me, but we’ve left the phase of marriage where we like each other all the time. Ted isn’t always attractive or impressive to me. Sometimes I think he makes poor decisions, and I feel embarrassed when he wears socks with his Sperrys. And I’m sure my fuzzy morning teeth and demanding, Type A self doesn’t always make Ted excited to come home every night. My anxiety and depression and PTSD don’t get me a lot of wife points, either. We’ve swapped some romance in our bedroom for a baby monitor on our nightstand. And except for our weekly State of the Marriage talk, we share more memes and Buzzfeed articles than meaningful conversations at night.
The flash-bang love that takes over your mind and makes you a little crazy might be what’s required to put a ring on it, but it’s not what keeps the rings on, and I didn’t find it sustainable. I absolutely think my husband’s hot, but to want to jump his bones all day every day has to get boring. It’s not a surprise to me that our flashy magic love dissipated, and to be perfectly honest, I don’t really miss it. Being excited and falling in love all the time is exhausting. But the normal we have now is deeper magic in a more real way.
I’m not an expert on marriage (three years feels like a lifetime but it’s only actually three years) and sometimes I have to secretly look up Ted’s personality questionnaires to figure out why we’re missing each other in a repetitive argument. But I can tell you that something sacred and mysterious brews when divorce is a banned word. Separating isn’t an option for us. We’ll be together come hell, high water, financial ruin, wandering eyes and hearts and selfish moments. And this has wrapped us in a stability that can handle even the wreckage of my PTSD.
We dated for 8 months, and then had a 7 month engagement. I think those are the numbers; it all felt really fast and hectic and scary and wonderful and too long at the same time. I remember driving 6 hours from his parents place back to our city for the wedding and wondering what we would do with all the time in the rest of our lives that we were planning on spending together. Since divorce wasn’t going to be an option (though murder may certainly creep onto the table from time to time). The brushing-your-teeth-before bed moments. The grocery shopping moments (except we stopped grocery shopping together not long after because I’m apparently erratic in how I wander in a grocery store). The endless Sunday evenings as we prep for work, and all the holidays, big and little, and waiting in line at the airport and on the subway and for takeout and for sleep to.come.every.night.in.the.same.bed. But of course, I was still in the hurricane of in-loveness when I wondered this because now that we’re in the deep magic stage–not the pull a rabbit from a hat and dance in a white dress and tux magic, but the old, pagan, Stonehenge, back of a wardrobe magic–I know what we’ll do with that time. We’ll live together. And butter each others’ toothbrushes (because we stopped sharing). And learn about familiarity in way that’s almost forbidden in our 140-character world.
Neither of us know a whole lot about being rooted. I live in Pennsylvania for the first twelve years of my life and then moved to Colorado for seven and then NYC for college. I’ve just started my ninth year here, and in those nine years I’ve lived in eight apartments in five different neighborhoods in three boroughs and have easily had about 40 roommates. And Ted has moved around much more than I have so I’m not even going to try to tell you his numbers. It may be our transient city, but we’re not anomalies. Two lifetimes of movement makes it shockingly difficult to entwine the roots of our hearts together and to understand what is happening to us. But we’re experience the magic of being known in our worst moments and our best moments and all the dull moments in between. It’s a taste of the way God loves us. He remembers us both when we each had our first crush. And was along for every twist and turn and faceplant along the way. And Ted and I will remember each other as we were before we became parents, when we were reckless with our free time and bought a dog on a whim. There is more to lasting friendship than a lot of inside jokes, but the inside jokes are really great.
I’ve been re-reading a book called “Quotidian Mysteries” by Kathleen Norris. “Laundry, Liturgy and “Women’s Work” is the subtitle. It made Ted laugh because he’s more a feminist than I am and keeps trying to initiate conversations about how our roles in marriage and parenting shouldn’t default to traditional roles just because he’s working and making all the money and I’m at home with the baby. (I think the happiest I’ve made him lately was when I told him dinner wasn’t ready because I’d spent the day writing. So he chipped in and chopped some potatoes and didn’t ask about my work but smiled and kept kissing me on the cheek. My selfless man!). The book is a really challenging and thoughtful look at the routines of life and the meaning inherent in them and lost when the intimate quotidian are outsourced. She also talks about depression being the inability to sustain through the little moments. Which is what I know it to be. Kathleen, we’re on a first name basis because anyone who pierces your heart like she’s pierced mine should be on a first name basis, challenges me to see the daily moments as invitations to play. To live. She challenges my type A, to-do list. And she affirms the daily moments of tooth brush buttering that Ted and I share. And our familiarity is a magic and a wisdom and a window into the intimate and menial things that God cares about.
NYC is transient because everyone has aspirations and nobody has time to do their own laundry. Or cook their own meals. Because they are pursing their dreams and working long hours and just trying to pay rent to live in the greatest city in the world. And a lot of NYC is professional, unconcerned, and not interested in the personal care of lives. I recently had a friend move to Milweake (Milwakee? Milwakeau ..??) and she said that the first thing that stuck out to her was that there were no nannies there. But she doesn’t really want to be there either, and I’m worried she’s going to hold this move against her husband and become depressed as she cares for their son in the basement of her in-laws house. Because I think that Kathleen is right. And I think that our world is missing embodied souls, and that being married past the magic creates embodied souls together. In the downtime.
One last thought from my all time favorite book. Sheldon Vanauken wrote “A Severe Mercy” about falling in mad, crazy love with his wife. They went on many actual adventures in a sailboat and lived through World War II and met C.S. Lewis in England. And then Davy, the wife, died. Sheldon was crushed. But he as he walked me through his grief, he talked about knowing her more fully in her death than maybe he could have in her life. Because all of her could be present to him at one time. All the different Davy’s from all the different moments of their time together could be present and he could see her as a whole.
I think this is how God can love us in our darkest sins. Because he knows us in our all our glorious reflections of him. And Ted can love me when I offend his self respect by being a dictator about the baby’s care because he’s known me longer and knows that this is only one part of me.
So, all in all, I think it is better that Ted and I don’t like each other all the time. Because then there are no illusions in our marriage, just real, dust of the earth, magical love.