Sunday, February 19, 2012

The First Time

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.

17 comments:

Clem said...

Wow, a remarkably beautiful essay about the meaning of love.

fleur.d.laura said...

love the honesty. thank you.

I have a question for you but cannot find your actual email address, please contact me at fleur.d.laura@gmail.com when you have time.

ISO Validation said...

My first thought....
Take that you anonymous bitches!
My second thought....
You have captured the essence of a real marriage.
Thank you for sharing Kat!

Pam_P said...

<3

Anonymous said...

Do you still see the man you castigated about cheating...without coming clean yourself?

Do you still see the man who you duped/placated by going to counselling, only to quit counselling (when the going gets tough, you got going...) and resuming your cheating ways?

Do you still look at your older son and wonder what he would think if he saw mom exiting a hotel on the arm of another?

You want to be "spared" the judgement of others? Spare us the self-serving, falsely sanctimonious, quarterly ruminations on marriage (yours especially).

Kat said...

Anon- You have several facts wrong: 1) I never castigated my husband for cheating ever. Not once. 2) I never quit going to counseling. 3) My son will never see his mom exiting a hotel on the arm of another man. 4) I never asked to be spared anyone's judgement; however, I understand that your judgmental comments say much more about you than me.

Obviously, you've been hurt or are currently being hurt. You are either divorced and bitter or very insecure about your own marriage. I'm truly sorry that you are in so much pain that lashing out at me is one of the ways you have to deal with it, mainly because I know from experience that lashing out at others doesn't heal your own pain, it just digs it in a little deeper.

Finally, if reading about my marriage offends you in any way, please feel free not to read. If, however, it helps you in some way or helps you deal with your own challenges, feel free to continue to read and comment.

Mr. Dryden said...

Kat,

This was beautiful, honest, and probably one of the best essays on a relationship ever. Really wonderful.

- Mr. D

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post. Marriage is not easy and anyone that says so is blind to what is going on around them. I think when you can wake up next to a man and still love him and want him after a long marriage and still see him for what he is and what you are, flaws and all with brutal honesty, that you truly are an evolved couple.

And to the anon person I think your time would be better served figuring out why you are so angry at a complete stranger who is honest and brave enough to share her story good and bad.

Naughty Kitty said...

I notice Anonymous never has anything negative to say about Soccer Mom's photos...wonder why ;)

Cara Janes said...

Kat, you are amazing. You are such a classy lady and I am honored to be your friend. What a lovely post.

Soccer Mom said...

Agree, very well stated. Thank you for sharing. I always enjoy reading your posts.

NK, I assume there are a lot of anon people posting? LOL at never anything negative to say about photos.

Anonymous said...

My first thought was that the first "anonymous" commenter was your husband! Am I wrong?

Anonymous said...

Hey again, Kat.

In opposition to your detractors, I feel comfortable asserting that what exists between you and your husband is a fairly stable and profitable (with respect to the intangibles, not commerce) marriage. The only grievance that I've ever voiced to you concerning your extramarital activities had to do with the issue of informed consent. Graciously, you took the time to clear up my misunderstanding of your husband's level of awareness in said activities.

That aside, I detect a strong sense of love and affection in your prose toward your husband. Most long-term marriages deteriorate to little more than empty partnerships, and I commend yours and your husband's efforts in preventing that unfortunate turn of events. Also (although the prospect of having children is wholly unappealing to me), it is good to see that you and your husband have maintained a peaceable environment for their sake as well.

A hypothetical: another question that's piqued my interest since finding your blog is the question of consequence. If your husband, for whatever confluence of reasons that would produce such a reaction, decided that he was no longer content with your extramarital activities, would you cease them or would you take them further underground? Is your answer dependent on the level of consequence--by which I mean would you respond differently if your husband threatened divorce than you would if he simply made you aware of his unhappiness?

Also, if you were to suddenly get divorced, do you think that your relationship with JJ would continue? I ask because the kind of bond that you can maintain with an extramarital partner will of course shift under the removed "weight" of one partner's marriage. I am curious to know if you see that shift as being for the better.

Thanks again, Kat.

Anonymous said...

The folly of publishing before proofreading: there was one other comment that I forgot to mention.

I shared our previous discussion with my wife, and she looks upon your attitude (that "for better or worse" should extend to instances of infidelity) as a responsible one, particularly in light of the health of the family unit. She still knows that I would leave our marriage should an affair occur (and I believe she is still of the same mind where it involves my actions), but it was intriguing to hear her approve your reasoning.

1manview said...

Human beings are not perfect, so why do we think marriages should be perfect? Marriages are hard worK, they take a lot of devotion, understanding, giving, taking and love. Most people who say they have a perfect marriage, are the first ones to crumble under adversity. But a marriage like yours that has had adversity and became stronger because of it, is the closes thing to a perfect marriage. And when you can look at your spouse as they sleep and feel loved, it gets no better then that.. Excellent post ....

Ponyboy said...

Thanks for sharing Kat, well done.

Kat said...

Anon 7:11 - No, the first anonymous poster was NOT my husband.

Anon 10:57 (and 11:04) - You pose some very intriguing and important questions that I want to address in a post, rather than in the comments, so please don't think I am ignoring them. You'll see a post about them within the week. And thank you for posing them. As Socrates said, "The unexamined life is not worth living." I think some close examination of conscience is a good thing.

Ponyboy, 1manview, Clem, fluer.d.laura, ISO,Mr. D, Anon 5:07,Kitty, SoccerMom and Cara - {{{{smooooch}}}} You guys are the best!

Thank you, friends, for the kid comments. I really appreciate them.