So Roy and I have been married for 25 years.
It’s customary to dispense advice on such occasions, but I have little to give.
The things that have worked for us have evolved slowly. And conversely, some advice from the marriage books—“Always go to the bed at the same time,” have wasted time.
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Barbara Brown Taylor made famous the question, “What is saving your life right now?”
Well, here are some things that are saving our marriage.
1 Getting a weekly cleaner. Oh yes!
2 The weekly date. Or perhaps a walk together several times a week.
4 Forgiveness. A mental act of balancing. I know Roy would do most things for me, within reason, and often without reason, and when I am very angry, I place that against my reason for rage!!
I remember that I have committed to love him, and that my discipleship of Christ isn’t worth much, if I can’t love the person who loves me most.
5 Travel. Ah, travel! Travel saves our marriage (a FACT hotly disputed by my other half!)
It gives us time to be together, to see new art and architecture, to experience history, to revel in nature, to eat new foods, and laugh at (and with) new people.
It’s time out that we’d be unlikely to take at home, given our busy-bee, workaholic driven natures.
Travel is a major source of happiness, as is our garden.
6 Learning that not every criticism needs to be voiced. I now quietly think, “My, isn’t he being annoying!!” For perhaps the first twenty years, I’d declare, “Roy, you are being very annoying!” Now I roll my eyes, and return to work.
Okay, I guess most people learnt this in kindergarten, but in many ways, I am a late developer!
In fact, much of this probably sounds so blindingly obvious to any mature adult that if you stop reading right now, I’ll forgive you!
7 Me, I increasingly do life by prayer, but for years I omitted to pray faithfully for Roy, and I often still forget. Mea Culpa, and I repent.
8 When our partner felt far too infuriating for any rational adult to endure, we got help, separately, and together, from some superb Christians. We are specially grateful to our dear friend Paul Miller, author of the excellent A Praying Life for discipling us over five years.
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When Ruth, spunky wife of Billy Graham, was asked if she had ever contemplated divorce, she famously said, ‘Divorce? No! Murder? Yes.’
Divorce wasn’t an option for us, either. Ah, we’ve sat in exhaustion, sighed, and said brightly, “Let’s–get–divorced!!” and grinned happily and, in that instant, it seemed as if with that act all our problems would waft away, especially what seemed like our biggest problem: each other.
But then Roy remembered that I probably would get lost on the way to the grocery store or burn my dinner, and I thought he would let the house get SO messy and lose everything in it, while he played chess all day, and he thought I would be crushed by life’s practicalities, and I thought he would get too sad without me and live on oatmeal.
And so we checked the name of our marriage certificates, discovered that apparently we were married to the right person, and so we continued.
And our marriage has got better year after year.
And so it should, so it should, for Christians, who if they are half-way, quarter-way decent at following Christ should be growing each year in mercy, pity, peace and love.
At our wedding, the celebrant outlined all we had going for us. We were highly educated, with Oxbridge undergraduate degrees and US advanced degrees, intelligent enough, young, healthy, with at least one profession between us.
But we had liabilities too: intensity; type-A personalities; drivenness; hot, hot tempers… In many ways, we were too like each other.
We’ve had adventures. Married in Binghamton, NY; a year in Cornell, Ithaca, New York for a post-doc for Roy; another year at Stanford, Palo Alto, California another post-doc; and then two years in Minneapolis, Minnesota yet another post-doc; then 12 years at The College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, Virginia where Roy became a professor of mathematics, and then Roy won a prestigious mathematical prize and the world opened up, and there were job offers, and he was a visiting professor at the University of Manchester, and then at Oxford, and then got a chair at the University of Birmingham.
And I wrote, moving from poetry to prose, and then improbably started a business which within 3 years grew too big and too complex for me to run alone.
“20 years is far too long to be a mathematician.” I said, and Roy frowned.
Nah, I never saw the point of maths, just as he never saw the point of poetry…
And Roy quit maths to run the company I founded, morphing from a mathematician to an entrepreneur—something I can definitely see the point of!!–and I morphed from a poet to a memoirist and a blogger, writing about us on the world wide web, no doubt much to Roy’s embarrassment.
Our hair was black; now, there are shades of grey.
We were barely Christian; now we are thoroughly Christian. Yeah, we’ve come a long way, baby!
We’ve had two daughters, Zoe and Irene, happy and clever.
We’ve owned three homes in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Williamburg, Virginia, and Oxford, England (not at the same time).
We’ve had five dogs in the course of our marriage, all from rescues, except our current adorable, but not yet fully-trained Merry the Labradoodle.
We’ve travelled in so many countries. Too many to count, and we can’t, since we don’t know where our old passports are. (We’ve each changed citizenship three times, India-US-UK for me, and NZ-US-UK for Roy.) But let me try: Israel, Japan, Mexico, Costa Rica, New Zealand, Czech Republic, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Holland, Greece, Spain, Italy, France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Malta, Luxembourg, oh most European countries…
Too much travel. Probably!
* * *
Marriage is a place of belonging and acceptance. It can also be a purifying fire, a place of rapid growing up, of growth in grace, in mercy, in forgiveness and wisdom
And what comes out of the purifying fire?
Eventually gold refined until impurities vanish.
The gold of a long marriage.
* * *
Sometimes at the end of a marathon, while the completers are savouring their iced lemonade and smuggery, and the cheers have almost died down, you see a couple emerging from the mist, arms draped around each other, staggering towards the finish line.
There they are, they have done it, they have limped their marathon, they have hobbled, but they have completed it.
And here they are, ridiculously grinning, so pleased with themselves, quite oblivious of the fact that others have long finished and are now napping at home.
And that too is success of the kind. The success of persisting.
Ah, see them now, the big smile on their faces. Against the odds they’ve finished that race, they’ve kept the faith, they are ready for the next marathon.
So Happy Twenty-fifth Anniversary, Roy. Happy Twenty-fifty Anniversary Me. Happy Twenty-fifty anniversary, Us.
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