My parents have been married for about eleventy billion years.
By which I mean, about 40.
Considering I could barely stay married for five, 40 seems like some kind of hellacious eternity. Considering that, on my best friend’s wedding night, she turned over in the bed we were sharing — since we always slept in the same bed like we did when we were little girls — and she asked me for marriage advice. I told her that: After about two years, you’ll wake up one morning; roll over; look at him and think, Oh. You again?
I don’t think she believed me at the time.
I’ve watched my parents have a successful marriage; I’ve watched them love each other over time and over distance. I’ve watched them fight like hell. I once even watched them throw Chinese food at each other in a horrible, completely non-comical way.
Which, if you know them, is saying a lot.
The point is: I’ve witnessed a really successful marriage, and it took me a long time to come to grips with the fact that while I am a successful person, my marriage did not succeed.
When Andrew and I were wed, we bought his parents a lovely photo album of the profession photos we had taken — the old-fashioned kind of album; not like fancy digitally produced ones that people make now. (If you have one such leather-bound book, you know exactly what I’m talking about.)
It was a ridiculously expensive gift to them — even to us, who were making a lot of money as two young BigLaw associates. And they stuffed it in a closet, never to bring it out. They also wouldn’t put up pictures of me in their house; would rarely let me be in pictures with “the family.” It was as if, all along, they were planning for my departure.
It was hard to be married to a family like that.
That experience of being invisible within my marriage hurt me so deeply that I typically stay out of photos, still. I love pictures; I take them often. But there’s only ever one or two shots of me in the batch from any party, and I’m rarely ever in group pictures.
My parents have been married for 40 years, and when I ask them what works, they always seem to say that it is about getting the closeness and the distance right. But I think it is that they are not invisible to each other. And matter how right or wrong the moments have been, I think I’ve observed that they have always seen each other.
What I am learning, now, is that I am not invisible. If I were to do it all over again, I would probably try to see my husband a bit better. And really see him. It might have meant that my marriage would’ve been over a lot sooner than it was. Which would’ve been…okay.
And if/when I give it a second shot, I know that I exist. I am a Real Girl. I am flesh, and bones, and blood. There will be photographic evidence of me, too. We can exist in real life, as well as on paper.
After my father’s mother passed away, I somehow came into possession of a copy of my parents’ wedding album — leather-bound, with the puffy cover. I keep it out on my shelf, next to the family photos; next to the pictures of the Women of Winesday; surrounded by snapshots of meaningful moments from each phase of my life.
Love that endures is meant to be seen.