“Who are you and what did you do with the man I married?” I can remember the words like it was yesterday. We had only been married for one month and my wife had decided I wasn’t the man she had known for almost a dozen years.
Honestly, there were a few little quirks that I had not disclosed during our long courtship. For instance, I always took my socks off in the den where they might often stay for a few days during my bachelor days.
I would read the Sunday paper from cover to cover, leaving a mound of disheveled paper in the floor, once again for days. I did not clean out the refrigerator until I needed some of the dishes and never locked the back door.
After thirty-nine years, we have compromised greatly, which is to say I put my socks in the dirty clothes basket, the dishes in the dishwasher and always fold the paper neatly when I finish reading. The art of compromise sometimes isn’t about compromise at all.
As time went along, we discovered so many things we had grown up doing differently. I loved peanut butter and jelly. She loved peanut butter and bananas. I loved action movies. She loved old black and white classics.
I love my eggs fried. She prefers scrambled. I slather my pancakes in syrup while she dips her pancakes in a small puddle of syrup on the side. My pancakes were covered in butter first, something she never uses on pancakes at all.
I like my steaks rare; she likes her steaks without the slightest hint of pink. Butter and sour cream on the baked potatoes for me. She eats hers with nothing added; a complete waste of effort if you ask me.
Time marches along and the first thing you know you have been married ten, twenty or thirty years. You would think the little differences flesh themselves out over time. Instead, new differences manifest themselves out of nowhere.
For instance, toothbrush preferences seem to change without warning. Even the preferred color of the brush may take on a new unexpected tone. Inadvertently, you wind up using your wife’s toothbrush one morning and it is like you did it solely to irritate her. I honestly don’t pay that much attention to details like that right after I get out of bed.
She is cold natured, but doesn’t like the blanket on the bed at night. The next morning, she wants coffee, which I no longer drink. We like different news shows in the morning. I like my cereal in a bowl with straight sides. She likes a gently sloping bowl which only causes a mess when I use it.
At some point, you think you have surmounted all the obstacles to a long marriage and then one or the other of you begins to snore. Since I have never personally heard myself snore, I am not willing to take all the blame, but it is never good to tell anyone your wife snores.
Taking matters in our own hands, we bought an adjustable bed that lifts each side independently. In fact, the control on one side has a button that lifts the bed on the other side if your partner is snoring. It took me a while to figure out why I kept waking up in an upright position.
For thirty nine years we have been a couple in constant evolution. I am not sure if Mary Lou and I would even recognize the two young people that got married at the tender age of twenty- three. In our case, that is a good thing. We remember those kids fondly while at the same time looking forward to the next stage of our lives.
Marriage is a journey with much of it unplanned and unexpected. You weather the storms and rejoice in the joys. You give and take, almost never in equal parts. You are nurtured by family, friends and in our case, our church.
Marriage, like life, is to be embraced and enjoyed. If you are lucky enough to marry your best friend, it is a bonus. Marriage isn’t perfect, but nothing is.
Till death do us part. Through love, luck, forgiveness, hope and God’s grace, it is a promise we made to each other and a promise we will keep.
Dan Ponder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org