Monday, April 12, 2010

Thirty Years Later

My mom and I on my wedding day...

Today would have been my parent’s thirtieth anniversary.

Nine years ago when their marriage ended, it felt very much like a death. It was not something I resented; rather, I saw very clearly the necessity of it at the time. My dad was on a path of destruction, and we needed to get out of the way.

Even when you know something needs to die, it doesn’t make it any easier to let go.

It is amazing how the experience of my parent’s divorce shaped my own approach to marriage. Not only did I date my husband for three years before agreeing to marry him, but we were good friends for a year and a half before we even became a couple.

He was the only boy I ever dated.

I watched from the outside as many friends formed relationships in high school and college and broke them off after one month, two, six...and while they mourned the losses of these defeated relationships, they never seemed to approach them as seriously as I thought the situation demanded.

Could they, perhaps, have avoided the heartache and misery?

When I eventually started a relationship of my own, I ended up on the other side of the spectrum. I took things very seriously, acting as an investigator on the prowl for a fraud or a fake. I analyzed Curtis from every angle possible, certain I would find some fatal flaw that should end our relationship. After a year of scrutiny I began to relax, but I was always waiting for the proverbial “other shoe” to drop.

If you hang around someone long enough, you will find something wrong with them.

Curtis, as I suspected, is far from perfect. He is not nearly as clean and tidy as my everything-must-be-in-place tendencies prefer. When we get into intense discussions, he will not reply to my heated remarks, but instead retreats to think through all sides of the debate, forcing me to wait for his reply. He expects so much of himself that he is miserable when he doesn’t reach the lofty goals few others even bothered to set.

The month before we got engaged, I spoke to everyone in my life that I perceived as wise and thoughtful and asked them what they thought of our relationship. Was there something I was missing? Was there some glaring problem that I had failed to see? And that’s when my pastor told me something I haven’t forgotten:

Ashley, he’s not perfect. And it’s a good thing, because you aren’t either.

It’s true; I’m not.

Being married is an interesting thing. There are days when it is all I can do to keep my mouth shut while I feel like I put up with all his shortcomings. There are just as many days (surely more) where I walk around unsure of why he has chosen to put up with all of mine.

I care too much about crumbs being left on the counter top after he has made his morning sandwich, and icing buckets (used after long marathon training workouts) left in the bathtub. I can’t stand the stacks of medical school books left on every table and corner of the apartment. I get frustrated when he eats the last orange when I’d planned on taking it in my lunch. I rant for hours about students and parents and frustrations with my job, and then wallow on the couch while I try to muster up the energy to go back the next day, while he encourages me to press forward.

There were many days when we were dating that I wished I didn’t have my parent’s divorce as the back drop for my own dating experiences, but in hindsight I am grateful for all the ways it made me more thoughtful. Marriage—even dating—was not something I entered lightly; I over analyzed every aspect I could.

And even as our relationship is not perfect, I appreciate that it is all out on the table. Everything that needed to be talked about was. Anything that comes up in our day to day experiences and interactions is addressed, because we know that this relationship is not something to be taken lightly.

And every April 12, I remember that again.


  1. Sounds like you are a very sensitive person in a good way (so am I) and that you think a lot of things through. I love that! I think that the mark of a good relationship is to be willing to accept the fact that neither of you are perfect and continually work on the relationship. Seems like you two are doing a wonderful job. Loved the post!

  2. Beautiful picture of you and your mom. A good & happy memory to cherish.

  3. I love this pic so much. Just gorg.