“Babe, it's three years that we married enuh!”
“Ugh! All of three years?!” He uses an imaginary knife to slit his throat.
“Well you do realize that you are married to Popcorn, the same Popcorn from UWI (University of the West Indies) campus, who lived on Taylor Hall, Block F?” That reminder always gets him.
For those of you who don’t know, my husband and I knew each other from college, but we were NOT a couple then. Though this story may differ depends on who tells it. In my husband’s delusional mind, I always wanted him and it was only a matter of time (almost five years later) before I’d chase him down. In my rational mind, not only did I not chase him, I would not have been caught dead being his wife.
“No! Don't say that!” He continues to feign his death.
“So how long you think we'll stay married?” My husband asks as we both erupt into laughter.
“Dunno. Let's give it five years... or who knows, you may just be stuck with me forever.”
He makes a face. “Forever though?!”
Our laughter continues...
Let’s be honest, whenever we see photos of a happy couple flooding our timeline, the skeptic in us kicks in, and as much as we hate to admit it, we can't help but ask ourselves: how long will they last?
Well, my husband and I are very practical, perhaps too practical. We never avoid discussions on the possibility that we may not last forever. We don’t harp on it, but we acknowledge it. After all, statistics show that nearly half of every marriage ends in divorce. And even though I'm easy to get along with most of the times, I can be bat-shit crazy.
We are also practical enough to know that a successful marriage is not necessarily defined by the number of years a couple stays together. A lengthy marriage can be as gravely unsuccessful as a short-lived marriage. In fact, many successful marriages come to an end when they have run their life span, or what I call their love cycle.
But not to worry, we aren’t about to get divorce anytime soon. As I often remind my husband, singing in the voice of Bob Marley, "You a go tyad fi see mi face!"
Now, at the three-year mark, I can’t help but ask: what really makes a marriage strong or successful?
I can hear all the Christians shouting in unison: GOD!
But that isn’t so, is it? Having God does help, but even men of God get divorced. The truth is, there is no secret. No one has the answer. We can all share our ideas or practical suggestions of how to remain happily married, but none of these will guarantee that a marriage will last. Because human emotions are largely unpredictable, and falling in love doesn't come with instructions (despite what your preacher may say).
We smile, congratulate and applaud those who boast 10, 15, 20 years of marriage and marvel at the incredible over achievers who have racked up 30, 40 and 45 years of marriage. At every wedding that I have ever been to (including my own) these lengthy marriages are showcased as the example, the ideal to which the newly wedded couple should strive.
But are they really?
Let me be the first to admit that living with another person, even for a year, is an impressive feat in and of itself. But the contention that the success of a marriage should be equated with its length is to me a lot like the lazy employee who thinks he should be promoted simply because of the number of years he has spent at a job, irrespective of how poorly he has performed.
The better evaluation of a successful marriage is an exploration of whether these couples still deeply love and enjoy each other. How do they relate to each other even after the wild infatuation has worn off and the magic spell is gone?
You see, there are many miserable lengthy marriages. There are many couples who detest each other or have fallen out of love, but simply co-exist because it's more economical to do so. I meet too many people who tell me they would have left their marriages ages ago, if only they could afford to.
I say this without hesitation: I would prefer to have three years of "blissful" marriage than a lifetime of simply existing! And if we do get to that point, the point of simply existing, I hope both my husband and I are smart enough to let each other go.
And this brings me to my next point. I am always asked, why are you guys so public? What if your marriage doesn't work out? Aren't you afraid of people laughing at you?
My response is always, so what if it doesn't work out? Jonathan Foer says it best, “You cannot protect yourself from sadness without protecting yourself from happiness.”
Why should we restrain ourselves from showcasing the love and happiness that we now experience because of the fear that it may not last forever?
Every time I receive a phone call from a friend, a family member or an acquaintance asking for guidance on getting a divorce, I wait for the inevitable exclamation, “I just wasted the last (insert number of years of relationship) of my life!”
This one sentence resonates with me. My marriage should never be described as a waste. No matter the outcome, I should be able to look back and know we made each other better persons for having met and shared our lives. If my marriage ends today, it should have changed me, shaped me, strengthened me and I should have absolutely no regrets.
Three years later, and I’ve come to realise that the way to truly enjoy being married is to first accept that marriage isn't a state of eternal bliss (now you see why I have it in quotations above). I don't have to sell you on our happiness, we celebrate this on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter... you get the drift. The reality though is that no one exists in a constant state of happiness. If they do, they are likely committed (like a patient at a psychiatric ward). Sadness, anger, jealousy, pride, anxiety and fear are all human conditions, and you will not escape them by being married. If anything, they will be compounded.
Alas, the secret to happily-ever-after escapes me, but I do know now, more than ever, that marriage is about learning how to love someone when they are at their most human, unattractive state. It’s learning to love someone even when you have hit a glitch and then learning how to push past those glitches. It’s accepting that your significant other will perhaps never learn to make a bed, pick up his socks or put the toilet seat down (yes hon, this is directed right at you), but choosing to love him anyway. It's learning how to be compromising and then learning to be even more compromising. It's learning to be willing to lose an argument even when you know you are right. It's learning to accept that looking for perfection in anyone is a sure way to set yourself up for failure.
So forgive me, for not presenting you with an idyllic and-they-lived-happily-ever-after celebratory anniversary post, but then again that wouldn’t be me.
The fact is whether we are together for another year, 5 years, 20 years or a lifetime, it doesn’t matter because we'll make every moment count.
“You cannot protect yourself from sadness without protecting yourself from happiness.”
Happy anniversary my darling! I hope to make each day being married to me worth it!