Tales From A Middle-Aged Marriage

I have a weak spot for sap and sloppy sentimentality, especially when it comes to music. I mean, truly. I get misty just thinking about Total Eclipse of the Heart.

So you can imagine how fraught with emotion my middle-aged self was last week when John Legend’s All of Me came up on my son’s Spotify playlist. It’s one of those songs you hear and think, Jesus, I want someone to write a song like that about me. One of those songs full of vocal yearning, embodying those feelings of early love when the sun rose and set with the person you were falling for. When you laid yourself bare and took a risk, said love me for who I am and the other person said, I do.

All your curves and all your edges, all your perfect imperfections. 

You know what you never hear songs about? People who have been married for seventeen years.

There are lots of songs and movies and stories about falling in love, about that first flush of passion. And then?

And then we sort of skip ahead to the sweet, almost platonic, romance of old age. We look on in wonder at elderly couples who have settled into some sort of understated love where you’ve almost fused together into one being, two turtles sharing a shell.

What you almost never hear about is the bridge between those two things. How you got from one to the other.

You never hear songs about the quiet ferocity of middle-aged love.

You never see movies about couples who have been together for a few decades, unless it’s about the problems they face or hurdles they’ve overcome.

I guess songs about sitting next to your spouse on the couch night after night on your respective laptops and separate vacations just aren’t catchy. Maybe it’s hard to find words to rhyme with mid-life crisis, menopausal, and middle-aged spread?

But there should be more songs and stories a movies about it, because the truth is, falling in love is easy.

Staying in love is hard.

We tend to completely gloss over couples who have been quietly and fiercely keeping the flames of love under their relationship burning. It’s not really sexy, is it, to think of the regular maintenance that goes into keeping a marriage going. Far easier to focus on the rush of fire you get when the kindling and newspaper goes whoosh-all smoke and bright flame. Or to feel the pang of emotion when the fire is slowly dying, nothing but embers in the grill.

No one wants to read about forty yeas of buying logs and wadding up newspapers and for Christ’s sake, I did it last time it’s your turn and oh, shit, it’s nearly gone out we need to do something fast.

But of course it’s more than that. I can’t tell you how  many times I look across the room and see my husband and catch my breath. Or when I listen to him tell a joke, or recount a story, and want to reach out and touch him. How safe I feel in my life, in my love, and even in my rage. I know that when I lose my way, he’s there. And I know that sometimes, when I need to find the way myself, he’s waiting at the end. Recently I’ve taken to calling him my thunder shirt, because  after 17 years of marriage I finally realized I sleep better when he is next to me. It’s like he keeps me weighted and tethered, even in my dreams.

Take that, young love.

After seventeen years of marriage, we still have things to talk about. Granted, sometimes we talk about how we can’t remember it was what we were just talking about, but still. And maybe I don’t dress up in lingerie, but hell, I shave my legs and sometimes, that’s enough.

The hard work of staying in love isn’t sexy. Not the stuff of songs. But I promise you, we are out here, us middle-aged couples, quietly and yet fiercely keeping the fires burning, more in love than ever.

I am full of curves and edges, and plenty of imperfections too. My husband is not writing love songs to me–not on paper. But he has written rock operas and librettos worth in his actions over the last seventeen years. I laid myself bare and took a risk, said love me for who I am. And he did. And seventeen years ago today we said, “I do.”

Dear Reader, I stayed married to him.

Happy anniversary, my darling.

14 Comments Add yours

  1. Lynn says:

    Dina —

    You’re right. There needs to be stories/movies/sitcoms about the day-to-dayness of longer marriages. That’s part of why some people don’t know how to manage their way through a middle-aged marriage: they’ve never seen it. They may not have seen it between their parents or with their friends, and it doesn’t often appear in TV shows or movies because they are driven by conflict. With commercial pop culture: No major conflict, no attention span for sticking with it.

    And that is also the issue with hanging in on a marriage. Sometimes when there is little conflict and –although there is love– the white-hot passion of early love has become simmering embers, there can be temptation to seek excitement, newness, and conflict. Somehow our culture suggests that contentment is boring, but to me it is one of the best parts of marriage.

    I’ve been married 37 years and with my husband since the summer of 1977. There have definitely been times of passion and conflict. A couple where we considered throwing in the towel. But now as we approach retirement we are each other’s best friend. Although his snoring drives me nuts, I get what you say about your husband being your thunder shirt. We occasionally vacation apart, and while I do love retaining the blankets for an entire night, I find I wake more often without him there.

    Love, to me, is shown when he (now that he is retired and I’m still working) puts together dinner. When he gets out of a warm bed while I am in the shower and goes out to clear snow from the walk and scrape ice off of my SUV. When he, knowing the limitations of my autoimmune disease, intervenes when I’ve over-scheduled myself and suggests I need to practice some self-care. And when he (not gluten free) asks for the GF menu at a restaurant and asks when the food is delivered, “Are you sure that is GF?” or says “You need to take that salad back and bring one without croutons. And don’t just pick those croutons off, please” because he knows doing those things wears on me though I have to do it. I’ll take those things over flowers any day.

    (Super impressed that you keep the legs shaved, by the way.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dina Honour says:

      Oh Lyn, those are the real love stories, aren’t they? The clearing snow from the walk and his ordering for you is swoon worthy. No wonder why you guys work at it–your relationship’s a keeper. I think a lot about how we view love and marriage now as opposed to how marriage used to be viewed-as more of a business transaction–we really don’t make it easy on ourselves do we? It’s a lot to ask for two people to stay in constant love for a few decades–so when we DO do it, it deserves acknowledgment. And when we don’t? Well, that’s ok too.

      Thanks for sharing your little love stories. I really like the idea of those snippets of the everyday. They make me smile. Oh, and as for the legs? Not everyday, mind you ;-).


  2. Lovely piece. Happy anniversary!


  3. Beautiful piece, I’m sure a lot of people can relate and long lasting love should be celebrated!

    PS all of me was our first dance song at our wedding last year, I absolutely love it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dina Honour says:

      It’s a beautiful song. It really gives me chills. Ours was True by Spandeau Ballet (the why is not worth going into). But…if I had to do it again, I think I’d go with Roberta Flack’s The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. angharadeyre says:

    Happy anniversary – and thanks for sharing such a lovely piece!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dina Honour says:

      Thank you…and thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Debra says:

    Talking about getting misty. I wanna have a wee cry now. My hubby and I are married nine years by the end of this month and together for 15. You described all the feelings and efforts perfectly. What we have and who we are is far from perfect but I wouldn’t want anybody else to be with me. Pretty sure nobody else could handle being with me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dina Honour says:

      I bet he feels the same way about you. That’s the beauty about putting the work into relationships–they become richer and deeper and you really do appreciate them more!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Debra says:

        I know he does. And on other days we both feel like killing each other 😉 but our relationship is definitely worth the work. Thanks for the nice post again.


  6. this is beautiful!!


  7. Happy Anniversary Dina, to to your husband. Marriage is like a diamond, rough at the beginning, but with patient polishing, brings out more and more facets that catch the light. But you gotta keep polishing. I’ve been with my partner now for 40 years, 35 married. She is still, to me, the most beautiful person that I can lay my eyes on. The kind of beauty that shines with intelligence, and humour, and patience, and empathy. The kind of beauty that wise women have, with insight and understanding. She is my muse, my inspiration, my best friend who knows all my faults and still loves me nevertheless. She is also the pin that pricks the balloons that I sometime blow up. Keeping things real, keeping things grounded, is an underrated skill.

    Of course, it is a rare path that doesn’t have potholes or treacherous shoulders, or even big and obstructions. The promised rose garden isn’t real (we have to plant it, and tend it, remove the weeds, water it, prune and fertilize, and then maybe…) . And yet, the gift of a good marriage is that the sum is greater than the parts. May you both continue to find new things to be delighted and surprised about in each other. It CAN be hard work to stay open to each other, to work on listening for the unspoken words, to sense the need before it is expressed. But it is the kind of hard work that great musicians put in to hone their craft, practicing the basics day in and out, that leads to the soaring performances.

    We also have to remember that life can have very unexpected deviations. My wife was diagnosed with cancer just after the New Year, and she had her operation a week ago. She’s now recovering at home. The drugs are ruining her appetite and sleep, but there is hope as she is getting stronger each day. I’m hoping I’ll continue to be able to fluff her pillow forty years from now. But we both know that nothing is forever. So celebrate your blessings, your partnership, your fortune to have found the best teammate to play the game of life.

    Liked by 1 person

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