I used to fall in love.
It's something I did a lot when I was single.
Then I got married.
Sure I loved my husband. But I wasn't falling in love. I'd already fallen. I was standing straight up.
I could see the sky and the floor and my husband.
And you know what?
I wasn't too crazy about what I saw. Because what I saw reflected me. If he talked with egg salad in his mouth, I worried that people would think I was a slob too.
If he was a lousy tipper, I imagined the waiter wondering why I was with such a creep.
If he couldn't parallel park, well then I, too, was incompetent for having picked someone who was such a lousy driver.
And so on.
I let him know how I felt.
But the more I gave it to him, the more I got it back. I learned that he didn't like the way I ate my chicken (too close to the bone), the way I dressed (too loud), or my taste in fine art ("primitive").
So we battled. And battled.
But there were things about each other we liked. (Sometimes they were hard to remember.) We had the same interests (reading, writing and running-among other things), the same weaknesses (anger and laziness), and we both believed that you could live fine without dedicating yourself to making money.
I felt that he was somebody I could grow with. I knew he was someone I would never feel bored with. He felt like a challenge, but somebody I could keep up with. Somebody who would give me a chance to challenge him as well.
Both of us had been in romantic impossible infatuations before. We both wanted something real. We were ready.
Most importantly, we were both totally committed to our marriage. We wanted to make it work. We knew it was work to make it work. Also, we were both older. We'd had other relationships. And we knew that any relationship was tough going at times.
When the shock of marriage had dimmed, I realized: I am not him.
As a result, I was more able to accept his foibles.
I grew into my own skin and gave him back his own.
Then, an experience we had early on in our marriage set us on a clear, new course. One that we are still sailing.
One day we ran for an elevator. I was after my husband, and the door began to slam shut on me. I jumped into the elevator and complained "Why didn't you hold the doors open for me?" He replied jokingly-"We're married now!"
At hearing this, a very tall older gentleman in the back of the elevator boomed out: NEVER STOP SELLING!
We looked at him. The elevator kept moving. We questioned the stranger who explained that after 40 years of marriage, he was still working to make sure that his wife was happy. That he made sure to please her, as if she were a customer.
Although I chafed at the selling metaphor, I knew that something the man had said was true. It was dangerous to get too familiar. To treat each other too much like family (the kind of families we knew). If we wanted our marriage to work, we would have to treat each other not just like family-- but also like people. People we wanted to please.
It's helped us-sometimes.
Sometimes I remember to be nice, even when I don't feel like it.
But sometimes I don't want to sell. I want to yell. Sometimes I want to let it all hang out. Sometimes I want to let the elevator doors slam in his face.
Sometimes they slam. Or one of us walks up the stairs. But we can both laugh when one or the other of us arrives red faced, huffing and puffing. We know marriage-- like life-- is not perfect.
Other times I replay that scene in the elevator.
And I know that at that moment, I have a choice.
15 years of marriage has given me the ability to put my hand on the button, and let him enter.
15 years of marriage has shown me: it's what you do after you fall in love that matters.