Year Nine

There was a time when the cookie sheets were not burnt and rusty, when the diamond was new, shiny, sparkling. We were young, and tan, and overly analytical. After we married, we disagreed about whether or not we should paint the walls in our Los Angeles apartment satin or eggshell. Both, we’d decided, and we slept the next year surrounded in two terrible finishes of purple – happily unhappy but deeply committed to our paint chip compromise.

And then, as it does, life gave us new disagreements – ones that did not lend themselves to compromise. Indiana or California? His job or mine? Kids? Adoption? Home birth?

There were no compromises; no gray areas to tiptoe or experiment with, no fence to straddle.

There is nothing fair about life, and there is nothing fair about love. There is no method or formula to happiness, except to choose – each and every day – to allow yourself the circumstances you are offered. To welcome them and feel them and search for the beauty in the burnt cookie sheets.

And over our years together – ten in October – we have adventured on every park apparatus we know: on the seesaw, giving and taking and giving again. On the merry-go-round, spinning faster, wild, blurred, toward corporate goals we never intended to pursue. Off the merry-go-round, and promptly. We’ve climbed the rusty ladder of hard entrepreneurial work, slid down the hot metal slide of shared grief. We’ve crossed the monkey bars into parenthood – learning as we go – one rung, then two. We have swung high and low, up and down, pumping our legs to a soundless rhythm we cannot hear or see, but can feel.

Year nine is this: unrolling the gingham blanket and laying down in porcupine grass. There is rest and cloud-watching and dream-telling and quiet. It is he with his sacked lunch and I with mine, neither of us seeking to change the contents of each others’ brown paper bag. We feed ourselves in harmony – he’ll choose strawberries, I’ll choose almonds – and the difference is okay. It’s good. We are happy as two, so we are happy as one.

Year nine is long enough to let go of the idea that you have the rest of your life to slowly, surely change your spouse, and instead, accepting – embracing – the changes your spouse has created in you.

Year nine is long enough to own your contribution to the pair, to learn to take care of yourself to learn to take care of another. It is seeking responsibility for your joy, your fulfillment, your being. It is understanding that the goal of two is to become stronger than one. Woven. Molded. Sealed.

Year nine is to grow into ourselves, to stop allowing circumstance or trial or emotion to diminish our spirits, and instead, to stretch far beyond the scratchy blanket and the picnic ants and rise above the rooted trees surrounding us. It is to plant, and to be planted.

To look above and greet the sun, and hear the rain, and feel the clouds, and return to the strawberries, the almonds, the two.

  • It warms my heart to hear this today. Happy Anniversary to you both, separate and one.

    • Oh thank you sweet Conny! It’s not our anniversary; I just felt compelled to write about marriage. But thank you for the well wishes!

  • I love how in marriage, you see how different you are from one another. It changes everything when you realize the other isn’t wrong, just different.

  • Beautifully written, Erin.
    My husband and I are on year 6, though we started dating at 14, so I could say we’re on year 13 (almost half our lives?!). Since we grew up together, in some ways we became very similar, but the differences still show up daily. Even more so now that we have a daughter, and we can pick out her tendencies as being “like mom” or “like dad.” Amazing how kids shine new light on things like that.

  • Happy Anniversary Erin & Ken!
    Thank you for posting this, it came at a perfect time, I’m still a newlywed I think (in our 2nd year) and some days things are hard. It’s so nice and refreshing to hear your calm and centered point of view and it was just what I needed to read today.

    • Ah, thank you, Jackie! From our perspective, the first and second year were the hardest. It can only go up from here! :)

  • Hi!

    I love the way your words rambled out. Thank you for sharing. I have started a new series called The Third Rail as a place to discuss marriage and relationship. If you’d ever like to contribute your words, please contact me. Thanks!

  • Wow Erin!!! Just wow! I love everything about this. Your post has me nodding my head and smiling to myself So well said.

  • This is just so so spot on. What a beautiful essay on marriage! I am coming up on 6 years, and am constantly amazed at how our marriage continues to evolve. It has made me better, I know that! Happy anniversary to you both.

  • I love this post. We are still learning to travel the ups and downs together yet how to still be ourselves in this relationship. Life changes and takes you places you might never have planned but it can still be good and maybe the way that is better for you. Great illustration of how it works.

  • I love this. I’m not married but I feel like this is an accurate portrayal of marriage.

    Happy ten years!!! :)

  • As probably your oldest reader I bring a different perspective to this beautifully written essay on marriage. After over 35 years (and the mother of one 27 yr old daughter) I feel somewhat of an expert on how to achieve a good marriage (and surviving parenthood) since I still get tummy rumbles when I spot him across the room or coming towards me in a parking lot and that is what I hope for you two as you tumble through the years. And tumble you will because each year offers new challenges that result in new insights. It is never easy but you come out of each challenge just a teeny bit wiser and with new skills. I wish the best for your adorable little family and am here to assure you that it is all worth it.

  • Your words, as always, are so beautiful. I’m so impressed with your ability to see where your life is at, and with engaging prose, describe just that. Thank you.

    • OMG you. Highest praise from you. Thank you, friend (and you know I think precisely the same about you!). :)

  • So inspiring! What a great partnership you have. It reminds me of my favorite idea about marriage from Rilke that my husband and I had read at our wedding: “The point of marriage is not to create a quick commonality by tearing down all boundaries; on the contrary, a good marriage is one in which each partner appoints the other to be the guardian of his solitude, and thus they show each other the greatest possible trust. A merging of two people is an impossibility, and where it seems to exist, it is a hemming-in, a mutual consent that robs one party or both parties of their fullest freedom and development. But once the realization is accepted that even between the closest people infinite distances exist, a marvelous living side-by-side can grow up for them, if they succeed in loving the expanse between them, which gives them the possibility of always seeing each other as a whole and before an immense sky.”
    Loved meeting you at Alt. xoxo

  • Hi Erin – First, so happy to have discovered your blog! Really love a lot of your content – In particular this post spoke to me and I even shared it with my husband. So honest and brave, thank you. I hope you don’t mind but I’ve also shared this post with my readers in my weekly link love roundup The Sunday Edition.

    Thank you again!

  • Beautifully said. I also celebrated nine full years with my husband last fall and so much of what you’ve described I’ve also experienced. “Woven. Molded. Sealed.” Indeed. Thank you!

  • I’m so glad to have discovered your blog. Very honest and real beautiful writing there. I was in an 8-year long r/s and i can feel your every word that speaks for me too. Will definitely visit your blog more often :)

  • I love this! All I kept thinking wasthat I would love to read this at my children’s wedding…to let them know all will be okay!!

  • these words are incredibly gorgeous. marriage is such a funny creature, both ferocious and sweet – you’ve captured it perfectly. this is understated, but i absolutely love this post, especially “To look above and greet the sun, and hear the rain, and feel the clouds, and return to the strawberries, the almonds, the two.”

  • Hello Erin!
    I feel so fortunate to have found your blog. Being a young twenty year old I am experiencing my first strong and very real relationship. Reading your blog makes me so eager to experience life to the fullest and not worry about the ups and downs we all embark. Thank you from the bottom of my heart, I feel so grateful to turn to a blog that makes me comfortable in my own skin!
    Thank you and take care!

    • Oh Liv – congrats on your relationship! Thank you for your encouragement, and I so look forward to you experiencing your love in its fullest, most wholehearted state. :) Best wishes!

  • I am in year nine with my husband as well and to have this mantra for the next 7 months is a blessing.

    I cannot express how moved I am by your writing. I am currently working on a blog and you have helped me realize that depth is good. Thank you for releasing my call for substance in writing. I greatly appreciate what you contribute to the web.

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