The children (plus Niece), Dan and I spent Sunday afternoon at his office cleaning.
Do we know how to have a good time or what?
He had gotten new carpet in his therapy room, and everything on the second floor needed to be moved and cleaned and dusted. It didn’t take a long time, only about three hours, and the children were good. Flora and Michael even teamed up to shred old bills in his admin office.
I mostly carried things up and down stairs. We took home all the Christmas decorations. It was a good, productive, exhausting day. Kate and Niece played together nicely.
At one point, Dan, vacuuming and dusting in his small therapy room, said, “Thank you so much for coming and helping. This really needed to happen.”
I said, “Well, this is my house, too you know.”
And I realized something (after 13+ years of marriage): You don’t marry a person, you marry a life.
I didn’t invent this idea. I grew up in a household where my parents were partners in marriage, child-rearing, and business. When Dan came to me about buying his office building (a house in Crafton), we talked about the pros and cons, and about what it meant for our future. He was committing to private practice, which comes with a lot of work — paperwork, admin, billing, taxes, and so on. It wasn’t just showing up somewhere to do therapy and collect a paycheck.
Plus, two houses, which is why our family was spending a Sunday vacuuming and dusting in Crafton instead of at home.
We’re still learning the ins-and-outs of medical practice. His sister and his mother have been big helps with billing and paperwork. It means long hours for him, and me holding down the fort at home.
But it’s been worth it. Even the stressful weeks when billing has been off, or the insurance has denied more claims than it accepted, or that time he got audited because he had to testify in court. Even when my job has been less than ideal, or the children have a lot of school issues that need to be handled.
When I said, “I do,” I wasn’t just marrying Dan. I was committing my future to his, and vice versa. We were hitching our trains together for the long haul (not a euphemism).
It’s a little scary to think about before you get married, probably. If people who are getting married ask me for advice (those silly people), I tell them to try to find a marriage class (or pre-Cana). It can help you focus on what comes *after* your wedding day. It’s a lot of conversations that you don’t necessarily think about when you are excited about planning your wedding day with the love of your life.
But they are important conversations to have. What are your priorities? Do you both want children, and if so, how many? If it’s hard to have children, what measures will you take (if any)? What about careers? What about careers and parenthood? How much time will you spend with each others’ families? What about seeing friends? Who will take care of what around the house? If you expect the chores to be split 50/50, you need to express that in words.
If I’ve learned one thing about being married, it’s that you need to express things in words.
Last week, several news outlets reported that the oft-quoted “50 percent of marriages end in divorce” is no longer true, and hasn’t been true since the 1980s, when divorce rates in the United States peaked.
This is good news for marriage. Researchers attributed the drop to later marriages, family planning, and what the article calls “love marriages”. (Does anyone know what this means? I mean, it seems evident, but I’ve never seen it put like that.) Of course, fewer people are choosing to tie the knot, as well.
And this isn’t meant to be an anti-divorce screed. Dan and I made a series of purposeful decisions and commitments. We’ve had fights and been through some shit. We haven’t considered divorce in any serious way because we know regardless of the shit going on around us or between us, we are better off with each other than without each other.
That is not the case for everyone. I understand that.
It’s taken a long time and hard work to get here. We’ve had bad habits to overcome. We still have to consciously not take each other for granted, and we still have to communicate with one another. I don’t imagine that will end.
I really don’t have any idea how to cap this off. I’m not trying to tout marriage as the be-all, end-all of human existence. Everyone has their own lives to live and choices to make.
I guess I’m just feeling good about my own marriage, and our own choices. And I wanted to tell you about it.