According to the Pew Research Center, millennials increasingly think society is just fine without marriage, and it’s easy to see why they do.
As I write, Ian and I are finishing up a trip to Washington state in celebration of our 25th wedding anniversary. We’ve met many people these last 10 days, and when they discover why we’re here, they quickly congratulate us. But what feels more appropriate is, “Whew! You made it!” Cue the fist bumps.
Because you’re right, mills. This marriage thing is hard.We know everything about each other, can anticipate each other’s next sentence, and not only know exactly where the dirty socks will be thrown but when. We repeat the same fights, stick to the same guns, rebut with the same rebuttals, face the same bedheads in the morning. If monogamy equals monotonous (and, let’s be real, that happens), why oh why would we hitch ourselves to someone’s star for the entirety of our days?
You get tired, mills, true enough. You get bored. You get sick of him and he gets sick of you. There are days and weeks and even years when it’s all you can do to smile at each other. If we did things your way, we might stick together past the first fight, but I’m more concerned about the 101st one. What then, mills?
We’ve spent the bulk of our time this week not just looking at beautiful mountains, but also over the landscape of our marriage. What we’ve seen is that our marriage license, that thing you think so superfluous, has at times been the only thing that’s kept us afloat on the stormy sea of long-term relationship. Like the Olympic mountain range, marriage is full of jagged peaks, perilous intersections, and dangerous threats we thought at times would do us in.
But to see our life together only in terms of these is to miss the deep turquoise lakes, the wildlife, the tiny pink phlox that covers the rocks like moss. Not to mention the stunning vistas: 25 years’ worth of love notes and anniversary cards; six children, three of whom look like him, three like me; eight houses; and countless meals, car rides, hugs, scrapbooks, and tuckings in. Sometimes it doesn’t look like much until you stop and add it all up.
That’s what we’ve spent the last 10 days doing: standing on cliffs, hiking up steep trails, walking 5 miles into the sea along a sandy spit, adding it all up. But it’s still hard to express how something so hard can be so worth it. I wish I could send you a link to how it feels to hold the hands of the man I’ve known since I was 16; how delightful, despite their familiarity, his kisses still are; and how hopelessly woven together the threads of our lives are, no matter the tangled mess of things we’ve made at times.
All I can say is, there’s something about this “death ’til we part” business that’s worth hanging in for.
“One advantage of marriage is that, when you fall out of love with him or he falls out of love with you, it keeps you together until you fall in again.” —Judith Viorst