My wife and I recently celebrated our 25th anniversary together. As usual I’m the “dates” spouse, always remembering birthdays, anniversaries and the dates of other important events. But she’s the one who actually remembers the events associated with the dates, whereas all I recall are the emotions or vague scenes. She’s also afflicted with the ability to remember exactly what’s been said, and that taught me early on to choose my words – and my arguments with her – very carefully.
So in that spirit let me pass along a few of the things I have learned living with the same woman for 25 years.
- She’s not the same woman. In many ways she’s as different from the woman I met as a complete stranger. 25 years has matured her in many wonderful ways. Whereas in the past she chased every shiny thing that came across her path, exhibiting what she calls “crow-like behavior” that made it difficult for her to reach long-term goals, today she’s focused and has no trouble thinking 5 months or 5 years ahead. Physically Time has left it’s mark although whereas it took away my long black locks and replaced them with a bald pate, it took her salt and pepper hair and transformed it into silver. It is beautiful and striking, and it’s easy to recognize her from a distance in public . It’s also not uncommon for other women to comment on how they love her hair.
- I’m not as smart or stupid, witty or dour, handsome or ugly as I think I am. Although I used to think she was the one prone to extreme emotions, I realize how much she has been a moderating influence on me. Whenever I have an idea and want to learn its value, I pass it by her. Usually it’s more akin to throwing a clay pigeon in front of the college skeet shooting team but I know that when she likes something I’ve said, thought or done, it’s truly good. Likewise whenever I’m down she brings me up, and whenever I’m full of myself she tells me as much.
- Encouraging her to seek her passions makes me happy. I minored in photography and in college spent a good chunk of my time photographing, developing and printing photographs or studying the works of classic photographers like Ansel Adams, Edward Steichen and Alfred Stiglitz. Over time I developed a deep appreciation for composition and technique, but after I graduated I didn’t do anything with it (an obsession I had in my art back then ended, killing my interest in ever picking up the camera again). Fast forward a few years and I’m helping my wife take better pictures. It wasn’t easy at first. I came across as condescending and was having a difficult time translating what I had learned in the analog photography world into the digital age. But we stuck with it. I kept buying her better gear and more importantly kept dogging her to learn how to use it. I also dragged her to photography exhibitions and used bookstores where we would sit for hours drinking coffee and perusing monographs of great photographers. We would discuss and critique their work and she began to see that while there is always an element of luck or serendipity in a good photograph, the great photographers always minimized that through conscious application of composition and lighting techniques. She started with snapshots. Even her best work twenty years ago was just lucky snaps. Today she could fill a small gallery with work that can stand on its own (and is better than anything I ever shot – and that makes me happy).
- If I didn’t feed her she’d starve to death. For someone who thinks as much about the nutrition and sources of her food, she only seems to eat when I feed her the food that I make or the takeout I bring home. She worries about her weight just as Every. Single. Woman I’ve ever met has done, and while she’s nowhere near anorexic, she’s no fatty. She stresses about food, and I wish she wouldn’t but in the meantime I’ll do my best to keep her fed. To that end I have taken up the hobby of baking cheesecakes which is no help to her waistline (or mine for that matter.)
- Our relationship is like a garden. It needs careful tending, watering, feeding, and occasional weeding. Whenever we start to coast we get into trouble. I’ll start to feel taken for granted, or she’ll begin to question how a world traveler like her ended up with a stay-at-home guy like me, and things start to get off-kilter. It’s only when we work on it – that she goes to a coin show with me, and I set down my books about traveling and actually step onto a plane with her, that balance is restored. It’s usually something very simple that we do together; I’ll drive her around while she’s looking for something to photograph, then sit in the car listening to satellite radio while she shoots. I don’t give her bouquets of flowers because our cats eat them then throw up, so instead I’ll suggest an art exhibit or a drive chasing the fading light, even when I’d rather be in front of my computer or out tending the garden.
There are also many other things I’ve learned, things too numerous to mention in a lowly blog post, but I’ll finish by stating how lucky I am to have met my best friend and can think of no one else I’d rather spend half of my life with but her.