By Mark Kennedy
On Thursday, my wife and I will celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary .
You’re probably thinking, "Big whoop!"
Well, it is a big deal for us.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, only about two-thirds of marriages make it to the 10-year mark . Only about half (52 percent) make it to 15 years.
While I watched my wife sleeping the other night, I thought back to the first time she smiled at me. It was on our first date, Nov. 11, 1994. I handed her a bouquet of fresh flowers, and her smiling eyes disappeared into a beautiful horizon of dark eyebrows and auburn hair.
We have been together since that night. Our friendship gets stronger every year.
While my wife was sleeping, I put my hand on her warm tummy where our second child is preparing for his big debut in November. I’m not one of those people who feels entitled to be deeply happy, but in that moment I felt profound comfort that a good woman has chosen to make me the father of her children and her best friend for life.
There was a time in my 20s and early 30s when I felt and acted like a social misfit. Like a lot of people in journalism, I thought my job was my life, not just an interesting way to earn a living. Marriage has been good for me. A life spent alone has its rewards, but happiness as a single person also has more limits, I think.
I’ve tried to make a list of reasons our marriage works. For what it’s worth, here’s what I came up with: We laugh. For example, we cackled last week when our 4-year-old son insisted that mommy adds Benadryl to the mop water. (He meant vinegar.) We know when to shut up. My wife and I have never said anything that we couldn’t take back. Even when we are irritable, we both have circuit breakers that keep us out of real trouble. We have never raised our voices in anger. We don’t fuss about money. We have been blessed with middle-class wages, and we choose to live on less than we make. We limit debt and almost never spend more than $50 without talking.
We try to be kind. She tells me when I have food hanging off my nose, and I know the correct answer to the question, "Do I look fat in this?"
We enjoy each other’s company. We don’t have hobbies that require physical separation. I read. She works (and reworks) jigsaw puzzles. But we are most comfortable sitting quietly in the same room together.
We miss each other. There are times in the day I just need to check in and say hello.
A friend told me once that you know you’re in love when you honestly hate to say goodbye. I asked my wife to cut a business trip short this summer because I don’t want to be away from her for two weeks solid. She changed her plans. We share household duties. I do the dishes. She does the clothes. I pick up. She deep-cleans. It works for us.
We have a church family that includes other couples with young children. If we had a real crisis, we could make two phone calls and have a team of people ready to help. More importantly, I think they would honestly appreciate the chance.
We are different ages. I am 13 years older, which turns out to be the average maturity deficit adult American men have compared to adult women. (Full disclosure: I made this up. Making public remarks that flatter your wife, or women in general, is really the key to most happy marriages, I have decided.) Our marriage is not perfect, because we are not perfect people. But my wife and I are undoubtedly better, happier people together than we would be apart.
I remind myself often that there are no bad days with my wife and son in the world. Not one.
E-mail Mark Kennedy at email@example.com
Mark Kennedy is the editor of the Times Free Press opinion pages and writes the Sunday “Life Stories” column. He also writes a Saturday automotive column, “Test Drive,” for the Business section. For 13 years, Kennedy was features editor of the newspaper, and before that he was the newspaper’s first Sunday editor. The Times Free Press Life section won the state press award for Best Community Lifestyles four times during his tenure. Before Chattanooga’s newspapers ...