Tomorrow I celebrate 18 years of marriage. Not too long ago, I read somewhere that marriage is like waves. The good times come and go, and sometimes people forget to ride out the low spots before the next wave washes in.
I will admit the last 18 years – 22 counting the dating years – have not always been a bed of roses. What is most interesting to me is the worst life has thrown at us were not the times our relationship wavered.
Last year, I had the pleasure of two surgeries in less than a week – an ovarian cyst removal and a rotator cuff repair with acromioplasty. I am a terrible patient. I am fiercely independent and notoriously impatient. The more helpless I feel, the crabbier I get. That does not bode well for those stuck sharing the same 2000 square feet with me.
Shortly after the surgeries, our Norwegian exchange student went back home. I was exhausted from a severe lack of sleep, frustrated with a slow healing process, and heartbroken to lose my foreign daughter.
I could barely hook my bra, let alone run the vacuum or scrub the bathtub. It took me several weeks to get my arm high enough for mascara, and forget shaving. On top of that, I cried at the drop of a hat.
While I don’t love asking for physical help, I will do it if I have to. Emotional help is another story. Feelings are hard for me, especially vulnerability.
For the first time in our relationship, I was faced with a situation that didn’t fit my analyze-plan-implement method of dealing with emotional crisis. I just didn’t have the reserves.
My husband – bless him – rose to the challenge. He kept the house clean, the kids fed, and everyone where they were supposed to be. He drove me to doctor’s appointments, washed my hair, and propped me up with pillows. Most importantly, he kept me sane. He never once made me feel like I was imposing – in fact, we got along better in those couple of months than we had in years.
After the crisis passed – both my heart and my shoulder eventually healed – I wondered what it was that made us so much stronger. Some of it, I am sure was the shared trauma. I was hurt, he was scared, we both missed Katrine terribly – but we had been there before and it had not had nearly the impact.
Then it dawned on me. It was the first time I had truly opened up and shown him my vulnerability. I was simply not capable of taking charge, and I needed him in a new way. It wasn’t just to help with the household – anyone could have done that – it was to hold me together.
There is a special bond that comes from caregiving. We feel it for our children when they are young, our loved ones when they are sick, our friends when they are hurting. I have felt it professionally when I have walked beside someone in pain or witnessed suffering.
What I had not done was let myself be in the position to be cared for. In doing so, I had also denied my husband the opportunity to care for me.
I am incredibly grateful for this new stage in our relationship. We are on the crest of a new wave, and I am hoping that we get a nice long ride.
So, here’s to the man that holds my head when I am sick, my hand when I am happy, and my heart when I am hurting. The first twenty years have passed by in the blink of an eye, and I can’t wait to see what the next twenty have in store for us. No matter what, I am glad that he will be the one to share it all with me!