I think happily-ever-after is going to be a lot like now, only longer.
When Dan and I get married, we will have been dating for six years and 10 months, almost to the day. I mean dating dating. We have never taken “a break,” but we were long-distance for years. That’s right, I said years. Which is like a break, but totally monogamous and cell-phone-oriented.
I hope I didn’t just give all the soon-to-be college freshmen who are reading this hope about staying with their prom dates. Trust me, college will be so much more fun if you aren’t dating your high-school boyfriend.
Dan and I were long distance, which was Los Angeles to New York. We commuted every six weeks. We iChatted. We argued. We had conflicting work and sleep schedules.
It was awful, but we got great at talking on the phone and flying JetBlue. We were also in the same place for years, and it was mostly great-and sometimes more challenging, or just not as great.
Six years is enough time to have had some ups and downs. We can refer to some rough times that are wonderfully surrounded by smooth and happy sailing.
Allow me an anecdote: Senior year of high school, my literature class read Tess of the D’Urbervilles . After we had finished the book, our teacher, Geri Harding , asked us what themes we felt were most prevalent throughout the book. I’m sure someone said “the ache of modernism.” It might have been me. After a fair amount of discussion, Ms. Harding said, “How about suffering?” We were quiet. “Isn’t life full of suffering? Isn’t that what Tess learns over and over again?” (I’m paraphrasing, but that was the gist.)
We all stayed quiet. Someone probably protested. And Ms. Harding sighed and said, “You don’t want to believe it. You are young enough that you might not have suffered and so you don’t want to believe you will have to later.”
The remark stayed with me. I’m not saying I think there will be suffering in my marriage. I hope not. I’m a sunny optimist. I am going into this hoping that our life is much like it already is: really fun. But Thomas Hardy looms-we have had some difficult times in our relationship. How can I deny that we will have difficult times in our marriage, even if I don’t like the idea?
Lately, by chance, I have been reading a lot of fiction that celebrates daily life. Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout was my book club’s last selection. So much of it is about what people will endure or attempt because of their love for another person. These aren’t grand gestures, these are small things-or a lifetime of small things-and it resonates. I love Daniel, and I have high hopes that our life will be full of Hawaiian vacations (the honeymoon’s a good start to that), and undiminishing physical passion, mutual respect, support, and so much intellectual stimulation that I forget about that marathon of Law & Order I have DVR’d. I think there’s a good chance that’s what it will be. But I’m not a total innocent. I’ve already been in this relationship for years and I’ve watched a fair amount of SVU . I think there will probably be anxiety over money (the honeymoon’s a good start to that too), disagreements, things I can’t even imagine, personal unhappiness about work that will impact the other person, and so on …
I’m ready for it, though. If the past is prelude, we are in pretty good shape. I am excited to fling open the doors of my marriage and, to quote Mrs. Dalloway , shout, “What a lark! What a plunge!”