I love being married.
It’s so great to find that one special person
you want to annoy for the rest of your life.
“Five decades and five children ago…” is how my parent’s love story would begin to be told. Today, as they celebrate their almost half a century together, I wonder what requires greater strength and courage: keeping it together or walking away?
Novelist Ann Patchett was a child of divorce and suffered through an early divorce of her own. In the midst of the turmoil of her first marriage, she recounts (in her collection of essays This is The Story of a Happy Marriage):
Standing waist deep in the swimming pool, I received a gift–it was the first decent piece of instruction about marriage I had ever been given in my 25 years of life. “Does your husband make you a better person?” Edra asked.
There I was in that sky-blue pool beneath a bright blue sky, my fingers breaking apart the light on the water, and I had no idea what she was talking about.
“Are you a smarter, kinder, more generous, more compassionate, a better writer?” she said, running down her list. “Does he make you better?”
“That’s not the question,” I said. “It’s so much more complicated than that.”
“It’s not more complicated than that,” she said. “That’s all there is: Does he make you better and do you make him better?”
This conversation cleared Ann’s resolve to leave her husband. She vowed never to remarry to save herself from any more pain, not even after she met a wonderful man whom she dated for 11 years. Until the day he suddenly fell terminally ill and she realized her logic could not save her from losing him in other ways:
The fact that we came so close to missing out, missing out because of my own fear of failing, makes me think I avoided a mortal accident by the thickness of a coat of paint. We are, on this earth, so incredibly small, in the history of time, in the crowd of the world, we are practically invisible, not even a dot, and yet we have each other to hold on to. When we do things differently, and very often we do, I remind myself that it is early a matter of right and wrong. We are simply two adults who grew up in different houses.
I continue to think back to Edra, standing in that swimming pool on a bright day in summer. “Does he make you a better person?” was what she asked me, and I want to tell her, Yes, with the full force of his life, with the example of his kindness and vigilance, his good sense and equanimity, he makes me a better person. And that is what I aspire to be, better, and no, it really isn’t any more complicated than that.
Ann’s reply is exactly how this lucky Powerful Goddess describes her own gem of a husband. And he’s tall and handsome, too!
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© Sharon Birke
201 697 1947
Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Wife & Mother