Apparently the traditional gift for someone’s 9th wedding anniversary is pottery, while the more modern gift is leather. Pottery and leather? Really? Knowing that more than 40-60% of all marriages in the United States end in divorce and that the median length for a marriage is only 11 years, you would think that either pre-paid marriage counseling or an attorney on retainer would be a better anniversary gift for a couple. I also don’t buy into the idea that there are such things as “soul mates” or that people can “fall” in and out of love. Mature, healthy and romantic relationships take work with a level of commitment that is unconditional. I am no stranger to marriage either, this being my second, so why then do we continue to dive into such an unstable and heart-breaking contract?
Because, when you get it right – everything is right.
Today is mine and DW’s ninth wedding anniversary. There are days that might feel longer than others, but the years have slipped by as effortlessly as breathing. The secret? Selflessness and honesty. We will never see eye to eye on everything, but as long as we tell each other the truth, there are no false pretenses or a marriage built on sand. There is also an equal amount of respect for one another. We also don’t have an expectation that marriage is about a 50/50 agreement. We both put in 100% effort and attention as often as possible. It drives me crazy when I hear couples complain about who does more chores than the other. I mean really – if you want the dish washer emptied, just empty it for cryin’ out loud! My mother-in-law once commented that she loved how every morning I would ask the simple question, “Is there anything I can do for you today?”. I didn’t get married to be taken care of, but to share a life with someone, to make someone else’s life fuller than the one I had on my own. It is very clear to me, especially after nine years, that DW got married for the same reasons. We try to be transparent with one another all the time. It is a choice. People are foolish if they think that they won’t make a connection physically or mentally with someone else ever again in their lives. That’s why it is so important to protect your relationship – don’t put yourself in situations that breed affairs. Don’t neglect your spouse or take them for granted. You have to commit to being both physically and emotionally available – in sickness and in health, through the good and the bad. I truly believe that most marriages can be saved if bothparties would simply make a choice to make the other person a priority over themselves. (However, I am painfully aware that there are the exceptions.)
If you haven’t followed my blog, then you might be surprised to find out that DW and I met and married within six months. Our engagement happened less than three months after we met, and was a long-distance relationship. The key here was communication. The phone was our main source of contact. Talking was the most frequent type of intimacy that we shared, plus when you are whispering hours into the night to a voice, and not distracted by sex, you tend to be more open and honest. There really wasn’t one thing we didn’t talk about – family, religion, past relationships, work, values, children, marriage expectations. And for a woman that has spent most of her life worried that all she had to offer was her looks or her body, it was one of the first times that I finally felt loved by a man (other than my father) for what was on the inside.
DW and I met in Texas at his brother’s New Year’s Eve party. My brother-in-law, KW, and I had known each other since 6th grade (my children like to announce to his new girlfriends that “my mom kissed my uncle once” only they forget to include the fact that we were like 12 years old at the time.) KW and I had been friends through middle school, and occasionally crossed paths during highschool and college. All that time, I had never realized he had an older brother. I came to this party under the assumption that there were not going to be any available men, and that everyone else invited was married. It was my intent to just come hang out for a couple of hours, welcome in 2001 and head home to bed fairly early since I had to be at work first thing the next day. Plus, I really wasn’t feeling very well and coming off an extremely tiring divorce. But when I got there, I met DW and was taken hostage by his charm and ability to make me feel like the most beautiful and important person in the room. We talked for hours – I know that I said way more than I should have, but what did I have to lose? The man was going to be driving back to Michigan the next day, and we probably would never see each other again. I didn’t realize until later how shy DW really was, either. Every so often he would excuse himself to get a quick shot of courage. By the end of the evening he was fairly intoxicated to be perfectly honest, and I was completely sober (amazing, I know). But the next day he drove two days straight back to Michigan, while I nursed myself back to health (it turned out I didn’t feel well because I had bronchitis). My wish was that he would call when he got home, but I was trying not to get my hopes up. Elation escaped from every pore the minute I heard his voice again on the phone.
The first time he came back to visit, he surprised me at my work with a bouquet of flowers as soon as he had gotten off the plane. I remembered exactly what he looked like – his deep blue eyes, boyish smile and broad shoulders swept me off my feet all over again the moment he walked into my store. However, I didn’t find out until his toast at our wedding reception that he really couldn’t remember what I looked like and hoped that I would spot him first. The flowers were a decoy, to get my attention just in case I didn’t recognize him either. He only remembered that I was short and smiled a lot. His hope was that he would be able to find me by listening for my voice. Looking back I do remember that there was a brief glossy-eyed look as he stood in the middle of the store, waiting for someone to approach him. I assume that he was relieved that he hadn’t been wearing double thick beer goggles the night we met. Either that, or love truly is blind.
Our rehearsal dinner was wonderfully hosted by my Grandfather in his back yard. We had skirted tables, catered dinner, live music and an overflowing wine bar. (I think it was the first time I ever got drunk in front of my parents – there is even video of me singing Patsy Cline while my baby brother played the guitar!) Afterwards my BFF and I headed back to our hotel room to have one last girls night together. Because once the honey-moon was over, I would be moving to Michigan.
I couldn’t help but look at pictures this morning of both the dinner and our wedding. So much has changed in nine years. My Grandfather, as well as an Aunt and Uncle have since passed away. My brother-in-law is divorced and my baby brother is engaged. I now have two beautiful girls and my parents have moved to Virginia Beach. Even my best friend has long since been divorced and finally engaged to the “right one”. The one thing that has not changed is mine and DW’s relationship. It is still transparent. We still madly love one another unconditionally. Every day is a gift and we try our best not to take each other for granted. The most obvious quality in our marriage, is that neither one of us settled. We didn’t think, “well, I guess this is the best there is” or “I think I can live with this”. I also understand now that I am worth the effort, that life is worth the effort.
Perhaps pottery represents our spirits as vessels waiting to be filled with the years of marriage. A vessel that can help nurture and quench a thirst for companionship and friendship when it is full of passionate and honest libation. Pottery starts as clay in the hands of the potter. It can be shaped and molded a dozen times before it is baked. There are endless possibilities of what the final design will reveal about the artist’s vision of their work.
And leather? Well, you’ll have to use your imagination.