Long ago, I heard someone say the following about marriage: “Women go into marriage expecting the man to change, and he stays the same. Men go into marriage expecting the woman to stay the same, and she changes.” I remember laughing and laughing at this brilliant observation – this “poking fun” at the obvious. Years later, I wonder if the person who said that had ever actually been married.
I’ve gone about much of my life with the assumption that people do not change. Look around, and tell me it doesn’t appear to be true. It sure seems it to me. But then I look at myself. I look at my wife after thirteen years, and I start to think that, while it’s possible that an unmarried person might remain unchanged, a married person almost can’t help but change. If he does not change, it’s likely he is married only in concept, but not in spirit.
I’ll tell you what I think it is: it’s not so much that marriage changes a person; it’s more that it strips away the chaff which tends to conceal a person’s true self. A wise man once told me that the ten year anniversary is a bit of a magic one, because it is at ten years – if you make it that long, of course – that you really see who it is you’re married to. It takes that long – ten years of living life together, enduring trials together, tolerating each other – for enough of the junk to be stripped away that you can actually see what’s truly motivating the person you’re joined to. To take it even further, it takes so many years of marriage to see what’s truly motivating you.
Carrie and I are a damn stubborn pair. Carrie uses the word “loyal”, which sounds more polite, but either way, it certainly didn’t take ten years for either of us to figure out that we’d met each other’s match when it comes to the art of being strong-headed. What did it take ten years to figure out? It took me at least this long to realize that Carrie’s inside is distinct from her outside. Carrie’s outside is sensible, dutiful, tough and sharp. Her inside is sensitive, caring, whimsical and free, and if you want to see those inside parts, you’ll probably need some Japanese food, a good spy thriller, and a bit of patience. It took me this long to know to look beyond her words, because she often says things she doesn’t mean literally. It took me this long to learn to stop trying to keep up with her, and to be ok with that, because nobody can keep up with her.
And what has thirteen years of marriage taught me about myself? I’ve learned that I can’t pretend to be better than I am – not with someone like Carrie around; she’s too good at spotting fakeness. I’ve learned that I’d rather be honestly lousy than falsely good. I have learned that, if you try to mold yourself to what you think others need, you are doomed to fail, but if you allow yourself to become the best version of yourself that you can, you will do yourself and others the best service possible. Nowhere does this apply more than in marriage.
“Lucky 13” – it’s what I’ve come to call this day of our thirteenth anniversary. It’s sort of my way of giving superstition the old single-fingered salute. It also makes sense, because Carrie and I are opposite in so many ways, it stands to reason that we would turn a traditionally unlucky number into something quite lucky indeed.
Happy Anniversary, sweet lady. You have taught me so much in thirteen years. May we each continue to learn in the next thirteen.