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It’s July – our wedding anniversary month. The fact that I was a senior in college when we got engaged may partly explain why we chose the hottest month of the year for our wedding. I still had finals to finish.

And my groom, a grown-up lawyer, had some cases that would occupy him that fall. So July it was.

Our wedding day was one of those muggy, suffocating ones. But we were so in love and so excited to be taking this monumental step that it didn’t matter. I think of that day whenever we’re at a wedding where the bride is radiant, the groom gallant, the families joyful, and everyone is basking in their love and hope.

But frankly, I also have other thoughts, far less lofty. I think of dishwashers – and divorce. Yes, it’s a very strange leap.

But someday down the road, this same bride and groom who promised to cherish one another may be standing at their dishwasher arguing about which of them is the heathen who doesn’t know how to load it properly.

When the first blush of romance has faded, he may tell her that no self-respecting human would ever place a plate in the upper rack of the dishwasher when it really belongs on the bottom rack.

And someday, long after the wedding gown has been heirloomed, she may be looking at her beloved, no longer resplendent in a tuxedo and bow tie, desperately in need of a shave, and lecture him about why it’s vital to rinse the dishes before they go into that dishwasher.

The point, of course, is that it’s the little things in the end that can sometimes erode the best marriages. And there are always the hot-button issues: money, sex, kids, in-laws, vacations and nasty little habits.

Marriage makes incredible demands on us – especially when it comes to the trifles. Holy matrimony requires more fortitude than we ever imagined, more endless patience and a willingness, sometimes, just to say “OK, you win!”

There are countless examples that fall into the dishwasher metaphor, things that blushing brides and handsome grooms may not factor into the “I love you madly” equation at first.

There is the endless specter of housework: who does it, when, how much credit it deserves. And when you both have a stomach virus and there are no clean socks, the kids are impossible and somebody forgot to buy light bulbs, the going does get rough.

For a while, these little tempests may go almost unnoticed, woven as they are into the tapestry of domesticity. But there comes the day when somehow, they are no longer bearable. And that’s when some couples throw up their hands and think, “I want outta here.”

Marriage can make us grit our teeth as we compromise for the zillionth time. It can make us lose our cool, and it binds us on the altar of our mistakes. Even in the best unions, we repeat neurotic patterns while we plant our regrets in neat rows.

But still, most of us hang in because there’s so much at stake.

So as I hug each bride and groom in the receiving line, I resist whispering in their ears that marriage is so much more than toasts and vows and 10-piece reception orchestras. They’ll have to learn for themselves that having somebody’s arms to enfold you when a parent is ill or your boss has been beastly is the true reward for all the dishwasher debates of the married state.

Patience – compromise – determination to get past the petty are the shield against divorces that happen for all the wrong reasons. I dare to suggest that you’re in a state of grace if the wind is howling, the world is too much with you, and there’s somebody willing to let you warm your feet on his.

Let’s not forget that divorce court can be the coldest place on earth.

 

Sally Friedman can be reached at sfriedman@sjmagazine.net.

July 2017
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