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You Can't Be In Love Every Day

by Liz Flaherty

Whats it like, you ask, being married to the same person for over 30 years? How do you do it?

Well, its like this.

You know every word of his body language, can identify every freckle that dances across his shoulders when he walks into the sun, can buy him a years wardrobe in 15 minutes flat counting the time you spend writing the check and asking the store clerk how her kids are doing. You know better than to cook tuna casserole even if you like it, that a sure way to get him to talk to you is to start reading a book, that if youre not feeling well, hes most certainly feeling worse.

Youve learned by now that theres no possible way you can be in love every day. Sometimes, lets come right out and say it, hes just a jerk. Sometimes, since were not holding back, youre a pain in the neck. On those days, you look at each other with glazed eyes and wonder which lawyer to call. Then you go to bed, mumble I love you with doubtful sincerity, and lie in the dark and mentally parcel out the furniture, the dishes, and the retirement accounts until sleep overtakes you.

There are days, indeed, when Peggy Lees voice echoes in your mind, Is that all there is? In the time when you had a flat stomach and naturally glowing skin and hair that was well, a different color than it is now, this isnt what you counted on, was it? Once you got the kids raised, you were going to travel, wear expensive clothes, dance the night away. You were going to have fun.

Okay, you say, if its that bad, why do you stay married?

Well, because, thats why.

Because he can tell by the set of your chin if youve had a bad day, because hell bring home takeout food just when youre positive you cant cook one more meal in this lifetime, because he tells you he thinks youre really cute and means it even if youre not wearing any makeup and you havent sucked your stomach in.

He still takes the street side on sidewalks because thats the way he was taught, tells your daughter shes almost as pretty as you are, and never reminds you youre getting more like your mother every day. He knows the words to the same songs you do and he doesnt mind that you cant carry a tune in a bushel basket. He doesnt laugh when you cant finish singing Puff, the Magic Dragon because you are in tears you cant explain. He just tucks his arm around you and hands you a tissue and kisses the top of your head where the roots are starting to show a bit.

Well, fine, you say, but isnt it boring?

Oh, I suppose, once in a while.

But a long marriage is like the sun. Its there every day and night, sometimes hidden by dense and sulky cloud covers, sometimes blazing red and vital and exciting. During cold spaces in your lifeand life offers a lot of thosemarriage wraps itself around you and keeps you warm.

The other side of that is that long marriages are uncomfortable now and then, like when you and your spouse disagree on matters of fundamental importance, such as values, religion, politics, money, and thermostat settings. And you do disagree about these things even though you think you never will. This is when you look at him and think, Why am I still married to this person who is so wrong about everything?

Maybe because, when you get right down to it, the marriage isnt boring, but a definition of fun you never imagined. And then theres the irrefutable fact that when the world is out to get you, it has to go through him first. Or, trite as it sounds, perhaps its glued by those promises you made when he was just safely home from Vietnam and you were a size five, the ones about loving and cherishing and sickness and know the ones I mean.

Or maybe because, like the sun, marriage is different most every day. Those differences are what have landscape painters and photographers lying in wait for sunrise and sunset. Some days they go inside in disappointment because the cloud cover hangs low and dismal over the show, but on other mornings and evenings they sit spellbound and work as fast as they can, holding onto the light for every precious second.

And there you go. Theres the answer to the questions, Whats it like, being married to the same person for over 30 years? How do you do it?

You just hold onto the light.

Married for thirty-some years to Duane, her own personal hero, and mother of three and grandmother of six, Liz Flaherty has written a column from her Window Over the Sink off and on for over ten years.  She hopes you enjoy her essays.  You can email her at

©2002 Liz Flaherty for SeniorWomenWeb
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