What Makes a Marriage Work?

November 4, 2016
November 4, 2016 Betsy Voreacos

What Makes a Marriage Work?

When I got married way back on November 4, 1989, I was way too cool to hire a wedding photographer. I cringed at the  thought of posed shots of entwined hands superimposed over a wedding invitation. I scoffed at the ridiculousness of lining up bridesmaids and groomsmen, in height order, to get the perfect picture. And I refused to spend any time away from the party to get intimate photos of this most public of days.

As a result, I have dozens of 3 x 5 photographs yellowing and crinkling in a Rubbermaid tub in my basement, donated by friends and family who knew one day I would live to regret my coolness.

I also believed that the fairly new practice of videotaping a ceremony was a sanctimonious, stupid thing to do. It’s not like I would forget what color dress my friend Natalie wore, what Debbie’s first husband looked like or the expression on my father’s face when he walked me down the aisle.

But, my dear friend Nancy Schaeffer wouldn’t hear of it. She videoed the day onto a VHS tape and I watched it twice. When I went to watch it the third time, I was baffled when I saw Susan Lucci as a guest. But soon realized that I had recorded All My Children on top of my wedding video.

Wedding days breeze by in a blur, but I made sure mine lasted as long as possible. My parents were willing to pay for the event, but they had their limits, and I had my choices. I could have a small, country club wedding or a big shindig in the basement of Bentley’s Restaurant. I chose the latter and opted for a brunch with a buffet of breakfast foods whose mere stench turned my stomach, just so I could bring the guest list up to 200.

186 people came. If I really tried, I could name the 14 who didn’t come and their reasons why.

Everyone wanted to be a part of this happiest of days.

I don’t remember my reasoning, but I slept on the floor at my sister’s house the night before the wedding. I tossed and turned but finally fell asleep, waking up in the morning with an overwhelming sense of calm.

There wasn’t a doubt in my soul that I was doing the right thing.

The wedding was at 11:00 in the morning at St. Thomas’ Episcopal Church in Whitemarsh, Pennsylvania. It was a cool, crisp day and nothing went wrong. At least nothing I was privy to.  The reception at Bentley’s lasted until 4:30 and was followed by an all-night, blow-out party at the Schaeffer’s house. My wedding celebration lasted well over 14 hours.

I’ve been with my ever-loving spouse for over half my life. We first started dating 30 years ago and have been married for 27. Both of us had parents who were happily married until the day their mates died so we had that going for us. It never occurred to either one of us that there was a way out if things went south.

I’m not an easy person to live with. I like things the way I like them. I am obsessed with the fear of compromising my personal comfort and have quirks that would make the quirkiest souls squirm. But, for some reason, I lucked out and married someone whose issues complemented, rather than clashed with mine.

Having witnessed the demise of many a union, I can’t help but wonder just what it is that makes my marriage work.

It could be that I never get angry when my journalist of a spouse has to stop everything to write a story, whether it’s in the middle of our honeymoon, during a dinner party or on the day we’re supposed to go to a winery with my Mahjong friends. Maybe it’s because he never gets angry when I devote too little time to my freelance work and too much time spending his hard-earned dollars.

It could be that I pretend to comply when he announces that as well as composting, we are now hand washing dishes and has pilfered my kitchen counter space and adorned it with a white plastic dish rack from the dollar store. Maybe it’s because he doesn’t say anything when I use copious amounts of plastic bags and toss them in the trash rather than taking them to Stop n’ Shop for recycling.

It could be that though I told him time and time again that I did not want the eight, spindly, dead-leaf producing lantana plants in the bright blue plastic pots living in my living room in the winter. Maybe it’s because I didn’t poison them. Yet.

It could be that he barely grumbles about the bedroom fan blowing loud and strong all winter long. Maybe it’s because I don’t insist on air conditioning even when our bedroom temperature reaches 90 degrees in July. But we do have a thermometer in our room, just so we know exactly who is torturing whom, and to what degree.

It could be that I only occasionally complain about the massive amounts of over-ripe fruits and vegetables he brings into the house every single Saturday from a farmer’s market ten miles away. Maybe it’s because he pretends not to notice the Julio’s containers I hide in the refrigerator, filled with over-priced produce.

It could be that I don’t yell at him for collecting newspaper articles, magazines, ticket stubs, sports programs and other worthless memorabilia that takes over our basement. Maybe it’s because he doesn’t mention when my clean clothes don’t make it into the dresser drawers, instead, drape from the chair into a heap on the floor.

It could be that he knows how important it is for me to go off on my own, sail the seven seas, hang out with my college cronies and visit my sisters. Or maybe it’s because it’s equally as important for him to do the same. Substituting mission trips in third-world countries for luxury Caribbean cruises, of course.

It could be that he has accepted that I have no filter and will talk, and write, about every intimate detail of my family’s life. Just as long as I keep him out of it. And maybe it’s because he’s two years behind in reading my blog that I know when it’s safe to sneak him in.

It could be that we both know we are far from perfect people. Maybe it’s because we don’t yell at each other. We don’t curse at each other. We just roll our eyes and know that our transgressions could be a whole lot worse.

This morning, as I fly the friendly skies, heading off on yet another fun-filled adventure with friends, and my spouse sits poised in the court house waiting for the impending Bridgegate verdict, all I can say is Happy Anniversary to us.

And be thankful that he would no more say, “Really? You’re going away without me on our anniversary?” than I would say, “Really? You won’t go with me to Chapel Hill?”

What makes a marriage work is a mystery indeed. It could be about appreciating differences. Maintaining independence. Or keeping a sense of humor. It could be about making compromises. Taking blame. Or accepting circumstances.

Maybe it’s all of that.

Or, maybe, it’s just that some girls have all the luck.