This past August, my husband and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary. There was no champagne, flowers, candy, or special date. In fact, it was just another Thursday, a pretty unremarkable day.
The symbol for the 15th year of marriage is a crystal. A symbol of clarity and durability. A fitting representation in our case, if I may say so myself. Long gone are the days of courting and the need to put on a show.
The need to impress one another long dissipated to be replaced by quiet contentment.
Our relationship has evolved in the 20 years we have been together (we dated for five years before we married). We were friends, then lovers, and now life partners. We depend on each other, and we trust each other. Clarity and durability. That is not to say we don’t have our moments.
“I bet you wish you took that trip to Japan,” I always tell him when he’s exasperated with me.
“There’s still time,” he always answers with a smirk.
The summer we met, my husband was planning a trip to Japan. His dream trip. Apparently, meeting me derailed his plans. He never took that trip. Instead, he settled down and had three kids with a woman far from his type. Who, in fact, was his complete opposite. I’m quiet but temperamental, and he’s chatty but calm. I’m the introvert, and he’s the extrovert.
After 15 years of marriage and three kids, the magic and the newness are no longer there. Something much more important has taken their place: dependability. Knowing we can lean on one another and have each other’s back. Knowing we can sit in total silence and have an entire conversation through gestures and looks. That kind of relationship develops over time and is not a given.
Looking back at our years together, I know one thing for sure.
Love is not enough.
Marriage is hard work, and people change. The best marriage advice I ever received came from my mom when I was still in my teens.
“Marriage is about choosing the same person every day. Every day you must get up and choose to be with the same person for one more day because people change, and the person by your side 10 to 20 years from now will not be the same person you married.”
And boy, was she right! Sometimes, even the sound of my husband’s breathing annoys me. And I know I haven’t been the easiest partner. But every day, I look at my husband and find something that reminds me why I am with him.
His sarcastic humor can make me smile on my lowest days. His incredible emotional stability centers me. He’s the only person I’ve never seen break. Not even once. I think he’s a mutant because I swear he must have adamantium running in his veins. He’s the calm in the storm. He’s the anchor that grounds me.
I often wonder if he regrets his life, and I dare not ask.
I prefer that can of worms stays closed. He was a regular bachelor when I met him. Working, sharing an apartment with friends, and spending white nights playing games. I was a typical Catholic girl. Twenty years old, in university, and still living with my parents. I always knew I wanted to marry and have kids. But things weren’t set in stone for my husband until he met me.
Now, whenever the kids are being challenging, the house is a mess, I’m being the nag I know I can be, and I find him exceptionally quiet, staring absent-mindedly into the horizon, I wonder if he’s rethinking his life. I wonder if he pictures himself in another lifetime under some cherry blossoms on an emerald green lawn, lying on a cozy plaid blanket with a dark-haired Japanese beauty by his side.
But then, our 5-year-old daughter touches his arm, “Papa, can you place this dress on my dolly,” she asks with her disarming smile.
And I see it.
The glow in his eyes. The joy on his face as he gets up and heads toward the living room to play with his children. Our eyes lock, and he smiles as he blows me a kiss. And there is no doubt in my mind he knows he made the right choice by choosing this life.
Maybe one day, when our hair is a bit grayer and our skin a bit more wrinkly, we will embark on a plane and go to Japan. Because even if the trade-off of dating me was worth it, marriage is about compromise, not sacrifice.