My sweet husband turns 35 today, meaning he has five years, tops, before I trade him in for a younger model and an overpriced penis car that goes vroom.
If you had told me 15 years ago that I’d be in a happy second marriage with a younger man, some bright day in the future, I would have bitterly laughed in your face and then lit another cigarette. Up to that point, all I knew of marriage was that to the wrong person, it could be hard and explosive and soul-crushing and sometimes very scary. I had never felt more alone than I did when I was married. Internally, I was suicidal most of the time; externally, angry and defiant. I could not remember what happiness actually felt like for a long, long time; we just brought out the worst in each other, two fighters with different agendas. Even our marriage counselor told me to throw in the towel, but we held on for another 18 months. It was quite telling that our best and most mature conversation was when we decided to divorce. No yelling, no threats. Just…reality. Here we are, and it’s not good for anyone. We have to save ourselves from each other. Reality felt so good, the weight lifting from my shoulders so abruptly that it took my breath away. Then the fear came. And the logistics. And friendship triage. And stupid mistakes. And learning. Fuuuuh. So much goddamn learning.
I met Justin during what should have been a classic rebound phase. After my husband moved back to the Midwest, I spent the summer getting in trouble and kind of dating and smoking too much and making new best friends on Seattle dancefloors I barely remembered the next day. One of those summers.
I don’t subscribe to soulmateyhood, and I know Justin doesn’t, either. We are both so happy to have found each other, but if we’d never crossed paths, I don’t think we’d be destined to be alone. I’ve been in love before – oh, the first time is always so good, and sweet, and a little bit awful – and, if for some terrible reason, one of us perished or something (I’m envisioning the “or something” being like, a shirtless Idris Elba shows up and says MARIKA I NEED YOU and I’m all Justin remember that time you said ‘If you let me sleep in, you can have anything you want within reason’ and I was like DEFINE WITHIN REASON), I know the capacity for loving someone else would be in both of us. Though if I’m the one who dies first, I told him he has to wait four years to get married and she can’t be Asian or have better hair than me or make him laugh as much or be a good cook. And also could she be flat-chested and a little bit dumb? But they can go to the restaurants that we used to love, that’s fine. I mean, I’m not a monster.
That being said, I’m so glad we did find each other. Being in love is sweet – and being content, even sweeter – but being lifelong friends and knowing that we are supremely understood by one another (or at least strive to be) is the gift that I’m so thankful for.
I’ve never been a great partner, despite having two parents who are very much #relationshipgoals. I’m kind of totally self-centered and always have some crisis going on and have zero patience and eat too much cheese. But Justin encourages me to be a better partner by showing me how it’s done. I don’t know anyone with a kinder heart. He is infinity patient. He has actual integrity, a human trait I thought we all aimed for but agreed was not actually achievable. He is the third smartest person I’ve ever met – the other two are actually husbands of some friends, and I think he would agree they’re smarter but in that “You’re more machine than human” kind of way – and I basically know everyone. He’s also the funniest person I know, which is saying something, since I’m also pretty funny and competitive. I married someone exceptional, which can be hard to live up to, but so far: it’s worth trying.
What I know is, I wake up every day and he tells me I’m beautiful, even when I’m 300 pounds, or in a body cast, or covered in hives, or hacking up a lung, or swelling with water from this stupid kidney disease, or I’ve stolen all the fleece blankets, or I’m cussing out the morning leafblower from our bedroom window because he fucking deserves it. And he means it. Which blows my mind, but not like, leafblowing blown. Because fuck that guy.
Marika, how can you say you’re a terrible partner? You sound like every man’s dream come true.
Someone asked me recently what I liked most about being married, and my answer was freedom. I’ve never felt freer to be myself, do my own thing, and explore the corners of the world that interest me – with or without him – and still feel supported. Where I once felt like marriage was a cage, I now have wings. Like Red Bull. Or maxi pads. Or Lucifer.
Welcome to me as a wife: Flying around with wings made from maxi pads, high on energy drinks and smiting leafblowers everywhere. Happy birthday, husband, I hope you have a thousand more. I love you to the Kepler-452b in constellation Cygnus and back.