Yesterday a friend sat across a table from me and told me she thought her marriage was over. She’s the second girlfriend to tell me as much in three weeks. One friend’s admission was harsh and angry with tears just behind the eyes. She loves him and knows that he loves her, but he keeps choosing his addictions over their family. The second friend was more matter-of-fact. When she was going through a rough time he couldn’t give her what she needed. She started spending more time with her friends, he with his, and one morning she woke up to realize their lives were so far apart she didn’t know how they would ever get back. More importantly, she wasn’t sure she cared. She lacked the motivation that would make her want to get back.
Both admissions were moving in their own way. But only the second more matter-of-fact friend was particularly shocking. I’m not sure why. I currently work as a family law attorney: New people tell me they think their marriages are over every month. There are affairs, drug addictions, and abuse. But, more often than not, it’s “she never folds the laundry.” “He’s always at work.” “I can’t stand her friends.” “He lets the kids run wild.” Those cases always make me go home at the end of the day and hug my family extra tight. They make me send text messages that say, “I just wanted to say that I love you.” Or, “I’m thinking of you.”
Those cases remind me not to take anything for granted.
Because those cases show me that the line between a marriage that works and one that fails can be razor-thin. To borrow heavily from a far better writer than me: If my work has taught me anything it’s that most marriages end not with a bang, but a whimper.
Inevitably, when someone starts to tell you about their marriage, you start to compare it to your own. This past fall marked the ten-year anniversary of when D and I first started dating, this winter our fifth wedding anniversary. As I sat across from my friends whose marriages were ending, I took stock of my own marriage. The only conclusion I could reach is, “Damn, I’m so lucky.”
D and I have had ups and downs. I wouldn’t wish our 2004 on anyone. I worry we were that couple who everyone thinks, “Good Christ. Would they just break up already so that we don’t have to be subjected to their drama any more?” But, generally, since then, it has been such smooth and easy sailing. I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop, for the hard part to get here. I’m not so naive as to think it’s not out there somewhere, floating just beyond the horizon. But it hasn’t gotten here yet. When I go to book club and the girls discuss the book for fifteen minutes, and then talk turns to griping about our husbands, I legitimately can’t think of anything bad to say.
D is my best friend, as cliché as that sounds. When something happens to me, when I see something weird or funny, he’s still the first person I want to tell about it. He can still make me laugh so hard I get a stitch in my side. I like how after ten years we still flirt with each other. I still look at him and think “Oh man, I have such a crush on that guy.” We still hold hands across the table when we go out to eat. We still snuggle on the couch when we watch TV. I like how when he comes home from work at the end of the day he still bends down and gives me a kiss on the neck. I like how we still stay up stupid late talking about something as pointless as, “In the event of the zombie apocalypse, what would be your weapon of choice?” just because we still enjoy each other’s company. Because we still enjoy hearing how the other’s mind works. When D travels for work, I still can only make it about two or three days before missing him starts to cause a physical ache.
As I listened to my friends tell me their marriages are over, I wondered: How would things be different if at some point before things fell off the rails and went over the cliff, someone in their marriage had turned to the other and said, “You’re important to me.” How much does it matter that I still love holding D’s hand if I don’t tell him that it matters?
So this is me, telling D: You matter to me. I love you, I need you, I want you. Love is not a feeling, it’s a choice. And every morning I wake up and happily choose you. Ten years, twenty years, thirty years from now, I still want to be waking up and choosing you.