Sunday, April 27, 2014

Thirty Thoughts for Thirty Years

All dressed up for the fancy date!
April 28, 2014 marked thirty years since Stephen and I said, "I do" and joined our lives together before man and god. Best choice I ever made. Here, in no particular order, are my reflections on those thirty years.

1. Our differences make us stronger. I am more emotional, more spontaneous, more moody. Steve is more contemplative, more logical, more stable. Together, we are a yin-yang of balance.

2. I don't know that I would say that marriage is "hard work" as so many have, but I will say that it is a constant priority. Every single day we do something that strengthens that bond, whether it's making tea for the other or pillow-talk at bedtime. Sometimes it's bigger things, like being the wife-of or husband-of at corporate events, or giving up the last cookie.

3. Conflict is inevitable. Learning how to handle disagreements was one of my biggest lessons of our first year together. When I got angry, I wanted confrontation -- loud and clear -- but the more aggressive I got, the more he withdrew. Which made me even angrier. It took a while before I learned how to calmly and respectfully express my point of view. It has made a huge difference, I think, in how our marriage has thrived.

4. Respect is a keystone of our relationship. Even when we disagree, we give the other person's opinions and concerns full weight. People have accused me of "wearing the pants" in this relationship (such a sexist comment!), but they don't see behind the scenes. We each bend. We each give, and we each take. Neither one of us feels overshadowed and neither would make a major decision without the other.

5. He gets better-looking every year. Seriously. It may be that I'm just accustomed to his face, but I sometimes look at him and just . . .

6. I would know him in a heartbeat. I once caught just a glimpse of someone gesturing - from far across an open field, amidst a large group of picnickers - and knew it was him. I didn't even know that he had joined the event.

7. Watching him with our children and pets has made me love him even more. The tenderness - and the firmness - he demonstrates are so in tune with mine that my heart swells. And it's not just seeing him with the kids when they were little. I love listening to his conversations with our sons -- all things historical, technical and philosophical.

8. We've been through some hellish periods and have come through with matching scars. No one else this side of heaven knows the full story. We trust it to each other's bosom.

9. He always makes me laugh. Laughter has been one of the saving graces of those rough times. I make him laugh, too, not always on purpose, but, hey, it works.

10. He has shown incredible patience as I've struggled repeatedly with depression. It's hard to live with someone who is miserable and who periodically thinks about suicide. He has held me as I've cried, encouraged me to get help, and supported every effort I've made to get well.

11. "Money" is a dirty word, but I have to express my gratitude for what a strong provider Stephen has been. For 35 years, he has worked hard, even when work was far from enjoyable, even when that work meant being far from the comforts of home, or even putting his life at risk. He has been steady and committed, even when I've suggested that it would be okay if he quit. This has given me options, like staying home with our young children or even taking early retirement as I've done, that I would not otherwise have. I am incredibly grateful for that.

12. "Remember, if the ladies don't find you handsome, they'd better find you handy!" Thus Red Green exhorts his followers to venture into the world of duct tape, welding, and pop-rivets. Steve is both! There are very few fix-it jobs around the house that Steve can't handle. One of his retirement plans is to do more home-improvement jobs -- and I support that 100%.

13. I like our little rituals. Sit-down family dinner at six every evening. He goes to bed at 10:00 every night, without fail. He always walks on my right; we (almost) always hold hands. I sleep on the right side of the bed, he on the left. These things bring comfort to the chaos that life sometimes throws at us.

14. We travel well together. In fact, road trips are one of our favourites because we get to have long, intimate conversations. At our destination, Steve sometimes has more energy and more interest in being with other people, but we're comfortable letting each other take some time apart - I with a book, he with a crowd.

(I'm worried that I'll never make it to thirty.)

15. We both love to read. It never occurred to me that there were people who didn't, and I honestly don't know what I would have done if I'd married a non-reader. Probably would never have happened. It means that we both understand that, when the other is reading, it is a sin to interrupt. We've also never argued about the importance of allowing a line for "books" in our budget.

16. We share what we learn. Steve reads mostly non-fiction, while I read fiction, but we still share what we're reading and whatever insights we've gathered. Occasionally, we both read the same book - and that is even more fun.

17. Being a military spouse has been both a challenge and a blessing for me, as I've explained here. As we approach the end of that life, I appreciate how it has exposed me to more of the world and given me opportunities that I would otherwise not have had.

18. I am not at all afraid of retirement with Stephen. I know that there are couples who've managed to use their careers to avoid each other, but that has not been the case with us. We both look forward to more time together and a more relaxed pace.

19. I depend on his steadfast faith in god. He is not preachy or pious, but he practices his faith daily, and it is important to him. My own faith is quieter, more private, no less real, and he respects that.

20. Thirty years! I was a mere 21 years old when I made this choice, just a kid, really. When I look at our children and imagine them marrying, it scares me. I hardly knew myself (though I thought I did), and there I was, ready to get married and have babies. All I can do is pray that our children choose as well as we did.

(That's not so bad; I'm at twenty already.)

21. I'm really looking forward to being that cute, old couple -- you know, the ones holding hands while sitting on the park bench, helping each other across the street, spending 20 minutes discussing whether to buy the square basket or the round one.

22. Thirty-one years ago (more or less), I looked up from my homework and gazed down the hall at Steve who was doing his own homework. He must have sensed it, and looked up at that very moment. That image is imprinted on my brain for the emotions it evoked in me: comfort, home, love, security. I wanted to look at those eyes for the rest of my life. How can a glance say all that?

23. I love his physical strength. It's corny, but I really do like that he can open jars, break walls, build sheds, lift boulders. There's some primitive corner of my brain that appreciates all of this.

24. See that picture at the top? That is my favourite place to be: wrapped in his arms. When I'm having a bad day, that is my "happy place."

25. He almost always lets me have the last of any treat we get: last candy, last spoonful of ice cream. I am just selfish enough to take it. (Also, he doesn't have as much of a sweet tooth as I do, so it isn't as big a deal for him. That's my logic.) I let him have the last of anything spicey or bitter: he can eat all the chicken vindaloo, and that last grapefruit (along with the first one) is his, all the way.

26. While he appreciates a comfortable and attractive home, it just doesn't matter that much to him, so he accedes to my design choices. At the same time, when he has a preference, I try to make it happen.

27. Growing into our in-law families could have been a nightmare, but hasn't. His parents and siblings welcomed me with open arms and have been incredibly supportive over the years. My family likewise admires and esteems him. We've been lucky that way.

28. Incredibly, he has never forgotten a birthday or anniversary. He booked our dinner reservation for this anniversary a couple of weeks ago. Can you imagine? Which reminds me: I need to go get a card!

29. I love it when he falls asleep in his chair while reading, which is why I've posted so many pictures of it on Facebook. He jokes about it: "I'm closing my eyes. Aren't you going to take a picture?" But I love seeing him relaxed, sleepy, at peace. He works so hard, so diligently, that he really deserves that rest.

(Last one! Better make it the best one!) 

30. In another thirty years, I will be 81 years old, Steve will be 82, and I hope that we'll still be doddering about together. Anything else would break my heart.


  1. I wish you another 40 or 45. This post made me teary eyed for reasons...

    1. 40 or 45 would be just fine with me. (Sorry I made you teary-eyed. I cried a little myself.)

  2. What a fantastic post! I especially love and can relate to the "matching scars" comment… perfect. We are coming up on our 24th anniversary and I adore and respect my hubs more now than ever. I feel truly blessed and it sounds like you are equally well matched. Congrats on 30 years together… wishing you many more!

    1. Thank you. When the fit is right, it's hard to imagine it any other way, isn't it?

  3. This is beautiful. You guys are great role models for the rest of us who strive for exactly what you've listed. Congrats.

    1. Thanks, Bronwyn. I hope our kids will go on to have happy marriages, too.

  4. I so appreciate this post, Wynn Anne. As someone still fairly new to the great adventure that is marriage (not four years yet), I find the wisdom that comes from people married for decades tremendously valuable.

    1. You're practically newlyweds! I hope there will be one or two nuggets that help you make your best marriage possible.


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