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Life Notes: Love/Hate & Marriage
Sometimes it’s not all sunshine and roses

It was one of the most successful pieces that essayist Judith Viorst had ever written for “Redbook” magazine. It also brought the most tumultuous outpouring of letters, comments and confidences.

The essay was simply but bravely called “Why I Sometimes Hate My Husband.” I can remember reading that column years ago and feeling enormous relief. Judith Viorst gets it, I thought. And she gave me permission to sometimes feel very – let’s say “uncharitable” feelings about my husband.

She understood perfectly that in the love between a man and a woman, there are grumbles that grow into flashpoints for rants and even rages. There are the can’ts and the don’ts that will probably never change. I think it’s important to know that. To face it squarely and still know that all is not lost.

Despite the way he cracks his knuckles or bites into an apple or hums in that maddeningly off-key way, this marriage can be saved. And will be.

Viorst was not talking about issues that are truly scary. That celebrated column was not about people separated by a dark continent of unresolved rage. Her musings were about the more prosaic notion that even in the best relationships, there are maddening and miserable moments. Lest you think that everyone else goes home and looks adoringly at one another, while you go home and lose it because your partner has once again left his sneakers in the middle of the bedroom floor and you’ve once again told him, “I almost broke my neck because of those damn sneakers!”
Sometimes, as Viorst reminded us, the ideal vision of marriage gets lost in the crumbs of anger and irritation, and can gallop all the way to rage.

And then there’s the ongoing challenge to just “fix” the person you’re looking at across the kitchen table. Your thoughts are not “I love him/her madly,” but tend toward, “I hate the way he sings off-key” or, “Why can’t she just reassemble the paper after she reads it?” Such unimportant things…until it all turns not just irritating, but infuriating.

Relationships are tough. And those irreconcilable differences do crop up in the best-intentioned relationships. If this all sounds like heresy in Valentine’s season, please read on.

My husband Victor and I have been married longer than we ever could have imagined when we took off to our honeymoon in Bermuda. I in my pink going-away ensemble, he in his spiffy navy-blue suit. We barely knew one another. Our entire romance had spanned 10 months before we stood facing each other saying “I do,” barely even thinking about the profound meaning of those two words.

I do…what?

It has taken us years, decades, a lifetime to truly understand what it all means. There will be no sonnets exchanged between us on Valentine’s Day. I will no doubt get a dozen roses, because corny as that sounds, I still love that gesture.

I will have made chocolate pudding – the old fashioned kind that gets a “skin” on it – and Vic will polish it off in a flash. And then it will be CNN on the den TV, not a tango on some nightclub floor. One of us would surely end up with a serious hip or back injury if we attempted that.

Our union has grown more precious, more dependent and, yes, more magnificent as we surrender to wrinkles and aches and losses of loved ones.

So we’ll take meatballs and spaghetti with the grandchildren as our ticket to paradise and lots more trips to the hardware store than to exotic ports of call. But when I hear Vic’s car pulling into the garage when it’s been pouring and he’s late, I feel a relief that defies words.

My guy is home, safe and sound. Thank you, God! We’ll have the meatloaf he loves, and I’ll rinse the silverware while he clears the dishes. And if we’re really lucky, tomorrow it will be more of the same.

 

February 2018
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