When you are married for this long, it is not luck or circumstance.
It is persistence and patience.
Those are the only two words.
It is not a trip to Spain and Portugal to celebrate year twenty. It is not living in Spain for a year with three young girls. It is not liking different things and settling on communal tastes.
It is persistence.
Persistence in those moments when one or both of you thinks it is the last straw–that moment when we’ve been tested on patience, on love, on fidelity, on trust, on the fact that each and every day of this human life is a struggle.
Persistence to take a walk, a weekend, a wish, to bring it all back to those moments in front of the altar when we swore our lives together in front of god and everyone.
Persistence when raising children takes everything out of each you–from the crying-it-out infancy to the crying-all-night adolescent heartbreak to the crying-all-the-time parents whose happiness can only be measured by the happiness of their children.
It is patience.
Patience when we make mistakes–of which there are many–and knowing that your spouse will listen. Advise. Console. And never for one moment give up on you because that love for you is for the core of your soul, and nothing will take it away.
Patience for all the sunrises we missed, all the sunsets that we never might see, but taking pleasure in the small moments of everyday life. Surreptitiously going out to breakfast while the teens still sleep (not telling them). Shouting aloud in the bedroom all the things we wish we could say at work. Wrapping that puppy in between us in the king-size bed. Seeing that sparkle in our daughters’ eyes when they earn enough tips, break that three-mile barrier, win a new friend.
Patience when a child breaks the car and we sit for three hours under a pink sunset waiting for a tow, and bicker and stress and speculate, but still wrap our arms around each other at the end of the bitter night.
Persistence to get through every one of those broken-down nights that could occur at any time over a period of twenty-one years.
Put them in your pocket. Look in the eyes of the person you love. Squeeze the words, squeeze the hand, squeeze the love. Fight for it like it’s more important than anything in your life.
Because it is. And he has given it to me.