One of my favorite songs. It’s been going through my head lately. “Mick Jones, who wrote most of the song: ‘The track was like a train rhythm, and there was… that feeling of being lost.'”
My brother posted this on his facebook page yesterday: a nice list of 15 ways to create and maintain a strong and fulfilling marriage, suggested by Lydia Netzer. He’s coming up on eight years of marriage this month, and he and his wife are expecting their third daughter at any moment. He noted number five on the list: “Be proud and brag,” and proceeded to brag, rightly, about his beautiful wife and daughters. My brother got married when he was 28, perhaps 16 months after falling in love with his soon-to-be-wife, and about 12 months after proposing to her. They are so happy, just thinking of them makes me happy.
My sister celebrated her twentieth anniversary two months ago. She got married when she was 27. Like our brother, she and her husband announced their engagement within months of falling in love. I’m not sure which number on the Lydia Netzer’s list might resonate most with her, but I’d hazard a guess that number 15, “Trust,” might. That’s what she and her husband reflect most brightly, to me anyway. They live their lives together with each other in mind, always with purpose.
My husband and I celebrated our tenth anniversary this spring. We got married when he was 30 and when I was 32. We announced our engagement after about three years of dating (two of which were completed long-distance, in different cities or countries). I knew I wanted to marry him within about two months of dating him (when I was 28 and he 26). To this day I’m not exactly sure when he knew he wanted to marry me (because he’s not exactly sure), but I think it’s safe to say he waited to propose until after he had a clear career path after grad school. (He’s a cautious, conservative sort, unlike anybody I know.) As for Ms. Netzer’s list: my favorite is number four: “Be the mirror: Your husband is the mirror in which you see yourself. And the things you say to him give him an image of himself too, which he will believe. You want him to believe it, so make it good. Be a mirror that reflects something positive…” We have a kind of energy that is self-sustaining; I’m proud of it.
My parents will celebrate their fiftieth anniversary next year. They met the day they were married at ages 20 (Mom) and 21 (Dad), chosen for each other by their families. For them, I’d guess Ms. Netzer’s number 10 would be most relevant: “Stop thinking temporarily. Marriage is not conditional. It is permanent. Your husband will be with you until you die. That is a given.” The only amendment is that they have never, ever, for one second, seen anything about their marriage as “temporary.” They seek and find contentment, more easily than most.
I’m reviewing all this and I’m trying to find a pattern. Is there something specific that makes our marriages work? Is it the age at which my siblings and I married, the speed or lack thereof to getting married, or the example set by our parents? Is it that we too happen to abide by Ms. Netzer’s list?
I’ve written earlier about the three people I know whose marriages have ended in the past three years. Those numbers, 3 and 3, could grow to 4 and 4. And this time, a marriage isn’t combusting, catalyzed by abuse or adultery, or a lack of love. There’s unhappiness. And resignation. And exhaustion. And a mild but persistent level of irritation. It’s got this restless, off-beat rhythm, like a train that might derail.
And try as I might, there’s no list of 15 directives, no personal reflection, no pattern–there’s nothing I can think or do or say or write to change that rhythm.
I just want them to find, one day, whether the two are on the same track or not:
It’s a much shorter list. There’s that, at least.