I ain’t no saint; which in our marriage is a bit symmetrical because neither is my wife, Marty. We have loved and fought through multiple years, through multiple states and continents. One of us was always right. Our longest running disagreement is over which of us is really smarter. We agree one of us is, we just can't agree on whom. I know but I'm not telling.
Some of our fights were just stupid, some were inane, and some were life changing. Some of the stupid ones really are amazingly dumb. The stupidest being the time I got mad at Marty for almost telling me where to park. Yes she did, she thought it, I know she thought it and I was absolutely positively completely right to call her on it. Uh-huh.
Beyond the whole love, soul-mate thing Marty and I have stayed together all of these years for any number of reasons. We are both incredibly stubborn, we are both very passionate in our beliefs and our marriage has been one of our passions. We haven’t always been successful in taking care of each other or our marriage but we would never, ever give up on it.
I know because I tried one autumn night at the close of the millennium. I was working in Dallas most of the time; I was gone most of the time. I was emotionally and physically tired, I was grouchy, and I was at my limit. Marty was too. She hated her job, she worried for her parents 500 miles away and we were on the cusp of having an empty nest. She complained and cried way too much and about her job one too many times and I just lost it.
That Saturday night I said things that I think all of us have deeply imbedded in our brains but know better than to voice. I was insulting, I was degrading, and I told her I wasn’t sure we needed to stay married anymore. I’ve completely blocked the words from my memory because of the guilt but I remember Marty’s face and eyes when I said I didn’t know if we should stay married.
She was shocked, she was shaken, her face was pale, angry and amazed all at the same time. In all of the years we had been married, in all of our fights, in all of our disagreements I had never said what I said that night. I said it because I was tired, angry, fed-up and I thought I meant it. We quit talking that night and slept in separate rooms.
The next day was Sunday and I had to go and teach my daughter about God’s love in Sunday school. I remember feeling this immense sadness and an overriding sense of hypocrisy as I talked to the 16 and 17 year olds about God. Somehow Marty, Erin and I managed to sit through the church service and all I could feel, besides wanting to weep, was this feeling of what have I done. I just felt wrong in so many ways.
I don’t know how we got there but after church Marty and I drove to a small park close to our house. This I remember, she talked about how she didn’t want a divorce, she didn’t want to be a part time parent, she didn’t want to be the estranged parent at graduation or the first wedding, she didn’t want to be the other grandparent and she didn’t think I wanted that either. My gut churned and I knew I didn’t want to live that life either.
We talked sporadically the rest of the day, not much really. We had both talked and said way too much anyway. In the ensuing days, weeks and months I came to see the mistakes I had made, I came to understand I had been part of letting our marriage start to wither away from neglect and fatigue.
We went and talked to the right people and they helped repair part of the damage I/we had done, not just that night, but over the previous couple of years. It took Marty months before she began to trust me again, something that had never before been an issue. It took Marty having the strokes for her to really believe I would not abandon her. Now she knows my commitment to her.
One Saturday evening about two years after our big blow out Marty and I met with the right Reverend Jimmie, his wife and one very close friend in the sanctuary of our church. The lights were low, it was pleasantly quite and soft sunshine slid through the stained glass windows. Marty and I stood facing each other and once again pledged to love, honor, and cherish each other. We talked of respect, stubbornness, pride, commitment and love. We promised to once again be partners for life.
I will always believe Marty’s stubbornness, her willingness to forgive, her humility, her foresight and wisdom saved us that day. She reminded me why I loved her, she reminded why I married her, she reminded me who I really was and who I really wanted to be. I will always be grateful.