I met her in October of 1973 at Susie’s birthday party. It was a college birthday party with good, like-minded friends, you get the picture. She was going out with a friend of mine who was studying architecture, I was a free agent and we eventually found each other.
Over the ensuing 35+ years, our marriage, like most, has gone from the thrill of young love and new caresses to the precipice of marital disaster. Unlike some it has morphed into a steady, unrelenting faith in each other. Over the past decades Marty and I have loved, fought, cried and laughed, often, often all on the same day, as our relationship evolved.
I met Marty at the party, I got to know her when I drove her to David and Susie’s wedding in Dallas and got to know her even better after my friend, her boyfriend, left Texas Tech. Our friendship evolved over the weeks and months and slowly became something much deeper and I found all I wanted to do was hang with and talk with this rather unique woman.
I have always been one of those guys who easily fall in love; I fell in love with almost any woman who expressed an interest in me, a little scary for some women. It was different with Marty because Marty was different. She was pretty, she was witty, she was whip smart, she was driven, independent, knew what she wanted to do with her life and amazingly irreverent. I fell in like and then in love with Marty’s mind, with her personality and with her brain.
We married in January of 1976, much too young and much too immature to have any real hope of surviving the wars and ravages of living a life time with someone.
Ultimately we had to raise each other, learn on the fly. We learned from each other, we fed off each other; we started to slowly grow into full fledged adults with adult like responsibilities. It was a painful learning process for both of us as we tried to understand the dynamics and emotions of actual living that so often would override the love we clearly had for each other. We pissed and moaned and argued and fought over the traditional stuff, over the non-traditional stuff, over too many things that didn’t really matter.
When Matt, our first born, was born in Paris we had something else to learn about, a child and how to care for him. Then we moved to Muenster and we had another child, Erin. Children, as it happens, in addition to being the hope for the future, incrementally add stress to a growing relationship. Our marriage, our relationship, those things most important to us was irrevocably changed with children.
Marty, to her undying credit, never let us be sloppy in the marriage, we had to discuss, we had to question, we had to answer, we had to close every stinking argument. I pushed back and chafed against this unrelenting force of solving all problems, it was exhausting; it was like being in therapy 24 hours a day. Our pursuit of relationship nirvana didn’t always help, it didn’t always come out right, but it did always keep the third partner in our marriage, the relationship itself, foremost in our minds.
We kept moving to different towns as I received various promotions and opportunities in my career. Eventually the moving, following my job, became our biggest source of conflict. Marty was okay with leaving Paris, she was not okay with leaving Muenster, she was really not okay with leaving Hillsboro, and I promised I would not move her from Waco, unless….
In the blink of an eye our partnership once again evolved. Matt graduated, Erin was on her way out the door when I started working out of Dallas with the thought that once Erin graduated maybe we would just move to Dallas. That didn’t happen and for four years I spent the week in Dallas and the weekends in Waco. We were childless and for the most part living apart. We still talked, every day, we still argued, we still problem solved, we still analyzed but it wasn’t the same. Distance does not always make the heart grow fonder; sometimes distance adds a chasm that is very difficult to bridge. It was not a good time, we were both lonely, both angry, both stuck. Our marriage teetered on a very delicate precipice; this was not a good change.
When I got laid off at the end of 2004 I came home to Marty and a completely new dynamic. For the first time in 20 years we were in a house together, alone, without children. We had spent so much time apart the last four years it was hard, it was tentative, it was little scary. We had hit one of those milestones most long term married people hit, alone at last and a bit afraid of the quiet.
We were just starting to really feel our way into this new phase of our relationship when she had the first stroke. Too early and too young we hit a brand new stage where one had to care for the other, where one had to handle everything for the other, where both came face to face with mortality, where both came to grips with vows made 30 years previous.
I can honestly say I know without any doubt at all that I love my wife more today than ever. I think Marty feels the same. Our love, our marriage, our relationship, is very different, in some ways harder, in some ways easier. The up side is there is no conflict; the down side is….there is no conflict, no flint to harden the steel, no one pushing me to continue to find myself, no one challenging me on a daily basis to be a better husband, to be a better man. How weird is it that I miss that?
Our marriage, though at times very rocky, simply continued to mature, to ripen, to get stronger. In spite of ourselves, in spite of the time apart, in spite of the strokes, we got better at being together. We were never good at everything but we really were good at maybe the most important thing, tending and nurturing the marriage.
Marty’s unrelenting skill at self discovery, my realization that she didn’t want me to fix everything all of the time and my discovery of the simple phrase, “how do you feel about that,” made both of us better, if not ideal partners. It’s all different now, I think we have skipped some evolutionary steps but we are where we are, we are what we are and it’s been a fascinating journey so far.