I’m getting married in Janaury after a fourteen year engagement, an arrangement that used to be reserved for royalty. While I’m unquestioningly committed to spending the rest of my life with my lover, partner, and friend, the idea of getting married now, after fourteen years, is weird.
The children we raised are adults. After seeing the youngest off to college this past August, the dynamics of our life together have changed dramatically. We’re two months into being grandfathers. At a time when other couples who share our longevity are either divorcing or renewing their marriage vows, we’ll be taking them for the first time. If not for living in a state where same-sex marriage is illegal, we would be celebrating an anniversary instead. Fourteen years ago marrying my life partner was an impossibility and never entered my mind. Now we talk about it not in terms of if, but when.
When a couple marries near the beginning of their relationship, the event holds within it an abundance of possibilities. What will our house look like? Will we have children? How will holidays play out? What traditions will we create? These open ended options are well lived in now, more likened to memory than to anticipation.
And what of the relationship itself? Most newlyweds are still in love, meaning they really only see the best in one another, they’re cuddling and having sex like twentysomethings (because they probably are). There is also a perception that, even if misplaced, any negative behavior, perceived flaw, or worrisome quirk of the other will change for the better in time. After fourteen years, couples have had time to see the other at his or her worst. They have participated in countless arguments. Their sexual appetites likely have evolved. The ill-founded notion that they can change another person’s behavior should by now be a distant memory because they have learned the hard way that changing even their own behavior takes a herculean effort and hardly ever happens, if it happens at all.
Marrying after fourteen years together throws up a check point in the relationship at a time when the deed should have been done, the decision made, the fate sealed. It brings about a sense of cold feet but on steroids. It imposes a take-stock moment and potentially a second, third, or fourth (it’s silly to try to keep up with what number I’m on at this point) mid-life crises. And it is marvelous.
I love this man gently snoring in the bed beside me, rolled over and sleeping on a cold November morning after having made love to me. As I listen to his breathing, he is as near to me as my next breath because his scent is caught in my moustache. It fills my nose, my lungs, and eventually my entire body. We literally are one. I will marry him and we will continue to live out our ever-changing, imperfectly perfect life until the end of our days. And while it’s weird that I’ll be doing it fourteen years in, I am grateful.