My wife and I celebrated our 11th wedding anniversary over the weekend. The 11th anniversary is one of those awkward years that don’t end in zero or five so there isn’t a lot of guidance on how to celebrate. To give you an idea of how benign this anniversary is, the traditional wedding gift for eleven years is steel.
We commemorated the date by nursing our daughter’s strep throat and running interference to prevent the other two children for contracting the virus. Not very romantic, but that’s how things work when you’re married with kids.
Our married life, while thoroughly satisfying, has been no crystal stair. Even getting to our wedding date was a bumpy road. When I first intended to propose to my wife, people called me crazy. They said I was too young, too immature, too stupid. They were right. However, I paid them no mind because I was a little boy ready to play house.
“I’m going to ask KayEm to marry me,” I told my best friend hoping he’d offer congratulations.
“Why,” he whispered. “You can’t even watch TV for two minutes without switching channels. How are you going to remain interested in one woman forever?”
“Because she is The One,” I said. “And I love her.”
“I’m sure you do, but why spoil that by getting married.”
While there was cynicism in his voice, there was also truth. When people think of love, they think of joy, excitement, spontaneity. Marriage, by contrast, is work, compromise, and obligation. Since our relationship already possessed the former qualities, I thought matrimony would only enhance our bliss so I set off to buy an engagement ring. Unfortunately, I was unsure of KayEm’s ring size so I tried to siphon that crucial piece of information as discreetly as possible. She was wise to me.
“Don’t buy my ring,” she said carefully framing the sentence as if she were speaking a new language.
“Because once I put on that ring, it will symbolize forever.” Her words sat in the air like a cartoonist’s balloon. “I don’t know if I’m ready for that yet.”
Her response forced me to scrutinize my impulsiveness. Having seen few happy marriages in my lifetime, my wanting to be wed seemed illogical. I remember the fighting and bitterness of my parents’ marriage. I remember the sting of their divorce along with my yearning for a mother and father living in the same house so I could feel normal. My wanting to get married became a challenge rather than a natural progression of a relationship. Because of my parents’ divorce, I was determined to get married and make it work. I wanted to be a better man than my father by not running away when things got sticky. Of course I loved K and wanted to spend my life with her, but my charge was larger than that; it became more Herculean, less Harlequin.
By disrupting my proposal plans, KayEm forced me to forget my charge for a while and concentrate on what was really important – developing our relationship. It took two years before I had the inclination, maturity, and guts to recover from this emotional castration and ask KayEm to marry me again. In the interim, that little boy, who wanted to play house, grew up and learned a few things about marriage and himself. Instead of letting the rejection I felt from the “Ring Incident” sour my feelings towards KayEm, I decided to reacquaint myself with the woman I loved and wait until the time was truly right to propose again.
While not quite forever, eleven years is along time to be married. Because of the ups and downs we’ve experienced over they years, KayEm and I have bonded in a deeper, ethereal, more permanent manner. Not only have we evolved personally, but so has our relationship. I look forward to many more years of married life while drinking from my new stainless steel coffee mug.