March 25th 2000.
Do you know where you were?
I do. I was on the back porch of my parents’ house in Princeton, New Jersey. Standing next to me was Ann Smulders, a citizen of Belgium. I was wearing a suit, my blue one. I was twenty four years old. And I was getting married.
About thirty of our close friends and family were gathered on the porch with us. The weather threatened rain all morning, but held throughout the day. The short Unitarian ceremony was performed by my friend Ken’s mother, and included readings by my friend Ryan, and a toast from my brother Mark. Afterwards, we adjourned inside and had a fantastic meal prepared by my mother. Among her many other fabulous qualities, my mother is a gourmet chef. It was a fantastic day. And one of my favorite memories of all time.
That day is now five years and two thousand miles away from this one. I look out my window as I type this and see the universally grey skies of the Netherlands, where Ann and I have made what is the fifth incarnation of “home”. I have the advantage now of 1,825 days of perspective to look back on my wedding day and the days since, and express, as best I can, what I feel when I think about my married life.
Of course no one ever knows what it’s like until they do it. And no matter what they say, living together for long periods of time just isn’t the same thing. A marriage is a commitment. It’s a way of saying, publicly in the face of those whose regard you value, that you have found your partner.
I had a lot of people tell me about marriage before I got married. Most of them were or had been married. Those I tended to pay more attention to. Many were my good friends. Some were family. Those I listened to also. There are three people whose visions of marriage really stuck in my mind and guided my own thiking on the issue. All of them were there when I made my commitment.
My friend and coworker Julie Duffy told me that the most important quality in her partner was that he challenged her. She told me that marriage was work, and it wasn’t always fun, but it was the most rewarding relationship she’d ever had. My friend Ryan told me that marriage meant knowing that no matter what happens, you’re not alone. He also mentioned the “it’s a lot of work” thing too I’m sure. And finally my father. My father told me, “she has to be your best friend.”
So, in another act of public acknowledgment, I would like to tell the citizens of planet Earth, that Ann Smulders, in some countries known as Ann Bishop, is my best friend.
She’s my partner. She’s my buddy. She’s my confidant and my lover. She’s the woman I think of when something happens to me and I want to tell somebody. She’s the one who warms the bed so that when I get in (always two or three hours behind her), I have a nice warm spot to cuddle up to. She’s my tennis partner. She’s my conscience. She’s the one who tells me when I’ve made a mistake. The one who makes sure the bills get paid and the plants stay alive. She’s my wife, and I love her.
They were all right, those people who gave me their sage advice. It is work. You do have to compromise. But that’s life. The nice thing is, I don’t have to worry about being anybody but who I am. I know that there’s someone there when I go home who has also made the same deal. Who believes the same things about what our relationship means, and how we should live our lives.
For five years I have benefited from Ann’s graciousness in consenting to continue letting me be her husband. Even though I habitually forget my chores, can’t operate any of the devices in the kitchen, contribute negatively to the cleanliness of the household, and grind my teeth in my sleep, she has decided to allow me to remain her husband, so I would like to express my thanks.
Thank you Ann, for five wonderful years of marriage. For the unconditional support you have given me. For the thousands of times you have reminded me to take the trash out. For the net value reducing hobbies that you have tolerated. For being there every day and every night. For things like the official cuddling position, and for making chocolate mousse on my birthday, for letting me call you things like ‘honeybaby’, please accept my deepest thanks.
For five years you have made me complete. I have achieved things with you that I would never have been able to alone. I am who I am because you are who you are. As I’ve always said, from the second day of our marriage, you’re the best wife I’ve ever had, and I love you.
Happy fifth anniversary honey.