I looked over at my husband while he was sleeping last night. Just a tiny sliver of light from the hallway was all I needed to see him clearly in the darkness. The years have changed him. That gorgeous, wavy black hair he had when we met is now all grey. He's an inch and a half shorter, too, almost as if the weight of decades of work and worry took its toll physically. Wrinkles have replaced the firm skin of youth, and his shoulders are hunched just a little bit, stealing some of that appearance of pride and confidence with which he carried himself for most of his life.
But in spite of all those changes, I can still see him. I can still see the man who asked me out on our first date and worried that I wouldn't be interested because I was so much younger. I can still see the man who stood holding my hand as we married, promising to stay with me until he had breathed his last breath. I can still see him holding our oldest son just seconds after he was born, standing there with a look of wonder on his face and tears in his eyes. I can still see the man who laid in a hospital bed helplessly as he battled a bout of pneumonia that almost took his life. I can still see the man who held my hair back when I was kneeling in front of the toilet sicker than I had ever been before. I can still see the man who held me when I buried my mother; the same man who cared for my uncle gently and lovingly as he finally surrendered to cancer.
When he rolled over, he snuggled against me and put his arm around me, and I felt the man who made love to me for the first time. I had had sex many times before I met him, but the first time with him was the first time I had ever truly made love to a man. I knew then that we'd marry and I'd stay with him for the rest of my life. I knew then that he was "the one." It took him a couple more months to figure it out.
Since then, we've had our share of both the better and the worse, the good times and the bad. We've both gone through periods of growing pains when we weren't sure we wanted to stay, but we did. We both suffered losses from which we thought we'd never recover, but we did. We have both been wounded by the other in ways that we worried we wouldn't be able to forgive, but we did.
Just as I looked at him last night and saw the man I knew and loved, there have been times over the past quarter of a century when I looked at him and thought I was looking at a stranger. We had drifted so far apart that the only thing keeping us together was that promise to stay that we made years before. It was enough.
So, what is a perfect marriage? Is it one in which the two parties are never sexually unfaithful? If so, that wouldn't be us because we both have strayed in that way- more than a few times. Is it one in which the two people have the same perspective on life? If so, that wouldn't be us either because at various times in our marriage we have stood at opposite ends of opinion and perspective. Is it one which the people never really had anything truly bad happen to them? If so, that wouldn't be us because we have walked through unspeakable loss - the loss of a child, of parents, of friends.
I think that no marriage is perfect and yet all marriages are perfect. No one can live up to the image of a happy marriage that has no hard times, suffers no loss, moves along throughout the years without a hitch. But we all can choose to stay married, to overlook our partner's shortcomings and find ways to be reasonably happy, sometimes even VERY happy.
When you can look at your husband late at night and still see the lover he was when he made love to you the first time and you can't imagine your life without him, you have a pretty perfect marriage - as perfect as it gets, anyway. The rest is unimportant.