My husband knows Mr. Darcy. He is familiar with Jane and Lizzy, their younger sisters, parents, the horrible Mr. Wickham, and if truth be told has also met Emma Woodhouse, Elinor and Marianne, Anne Elliot, Cpt. Wentworth, witnessed Louisa’s horrible fall at Lyme, and knows what truth is “universally acknowledged.”* In fact, at one glance he can determine whether Elizabeth Bennet is of the BBC Bennet family, or hails from Universal Studios. Which, when translated to practicalities, means: roughly five hours verses two. This in turn dictates whether he should head for the hills or wait it out.
On the other hand, as his wife of 15 years (we celebrated our anniversary last week), I know that radioactive spiders create superheroes, can recognize whether it is Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, George Clooney, or Christian Bale’s eyes behind the dark mask, have seen Robert Downey Jr transform into a man of iron more times than I can count, and for that matter know the difference between a man of iron and one of steel. And just when I thought I had seen enough gigantic lizards to last a life time, another appears bigger, better, and without the Japanese accent. I can tell by my husband’s full face smile and glittering, glassy eyes, that we are headed to the movie theater. Or hopefully, if open, the drive-in. At least I will get pop-corn out of the deal and will ignore the calorie count.
Dave and I are a typical marriage of opposites. I like to call ahead for vacation reservations. He likes to hop in the car and see where it takes us. I like formal invites when visiting friends. He likes to drop in unannounced. Our first big disagreement occurred seconds after arriving home from our honeymoon. He had a large bachelor pad sofa with rips and tears and stuffing pouring out the side. He loved it. I hated it. While we were away some friends removed the beast (I learned later they had to use a chainsaw to cut it down to size and get it out the door). A wedding present for me. For Dave? Not so much. In fact the whole décor of his house, now our house, was a point of contention.
Our second argument, now legendary, was over a fence in the backyard. I wanted a fence. Our backyard borders a college fraternity house and I wanted a nice, four foot, wooden privacy fence. Dave agreed about a fence but wanted chain link and twelve feet high, to protect our neighbors’ windows from loose basketballs. We could not find common ground. Even now, several broken windows later, we still do not have a fence and were not even able to discuss it calmly until a few years ago. Now it is a joke. How could something so silly cause so much heated debate? We recently attended a 50th anniversary party for friends and I was amused and encouraged to hear them talk about their marital skirmishes and admit they had some subjects in their past that they let remain buried out of love and respect for each other. In the long run, the differences just don’t matter that much anymore.
As I reflect on my marriage I realize it has taught me the art of compromise, submission prompted by love, to put another person first, to truly listen and ask questions until there is understanding, to not assume, and to put the brakes on my temper. I have learned, made mistakes, learned some more, made more mistakes, been forgiven, and granted forgiveness. There have been ups and downs. There are many ways that we are still opposites. For every Jane Austin movie there has been a Godzilla flick. Yet surprisingly we have grown more and more like minded. And when I question if I would do it again, marry my husband knowing what I know now, the answer is: yes, in a heartbeat.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” I Corinthians 13:4-8a.
*“Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austin.