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  • Writer's pictureLiz Totton

Love in A Time of Consciously Uncoupling

15th Anniversary. Let's not think about those consciously uncoupling this evening.

Happy 15th Anniversary

Happy Fifteenth Anniversary to my husband. As other marriages unravel or are “consciously uncoupling”–if you will--around us, we remain consciously and contentedly “coupled,” most daysI know you have an aversion to my relentless over-sharing, but I have a point here, I really do! Be patient. Oh, that’s right you’re not patient, still indulge me on this one day and read on, please.

Let's not think about those consciously uncoupling this evening.

Go on, pop that bottle of Geldermann Chapmagne! 

Tonight, let’s raise our glass to the hard-working people: those still consciously coupled in spite of the odds.  I know it’s a boring Thursday night where many of you are. But, it’s more like a Friday night where we are, so do it anyway! C’mon it’s our anniversary. Pop open a strange bottle of German Champagne, like us, if you have any. What?! You don’t have any German champagne?! But, the Germans are renowned for their fine champagne said no one ever, except a German or a wine shop salesperson perhaps. Seriously folks, who buys German champagne? My husband, that’s who! He knows I am not that fussy, and perhaps Geldermann is good. I’ll get back to you on that one. But, I digress.

“Consciously Uncoupling” is, of course, a really WASPY way of saying “breaking up,” “hitting the skids,” “calling it quits,” et al—we all know that—the phrase was made famous yesterday by the uncoupling of actress Gwyneth Paltrow and anodyne-music maker Chris Martin. But they are not unique, despite their celebrity. You see, lots of people our age are throwing in the towel right about now. And, I know why: some days it’s a lot harder to stay together than it would be to drift apart. Fifteen years into this marriage, I can say that all those qualities we tacitly understood about each other that made us so dissimilar in the beginning, those quirks that confirmed the old adage “Opposites Attract” that we found so endearing 16+ years’ ago about one another, now are the very same characteristics that make us growl under our breaths, at best or argue, at worst sometimes.

He says:  “Why can’t you be more organized, clean and neat, like me?” Sorry, I can’t. I really have tried, but I just can’t. You know this about me by now. I say: “Why can’t you be more spontaneous, frivolous and laid back, like me?” I know deep down in my heart that you can’t. It’s not how you are wired. I don’t think we ever aspired to change each other, but we did both hope that our so-called “good sides” would rub off on each other by now–they haven’t. Fifteen years in, I will say with certainty that these character flaws seem to only get more exacerbated as we age. We get more set in our ways and less inclined to reform even the slightest bit for anyone—even those we love. We are what we are, we may always be. But, is that SO bad? You had no problem with these qualities when we met. Why now?

Fifteen years into this marriage and still coupled, I can say Married Love is very different to other garden varieties of love. It’s something that I work hard at each day, because I know somehow that I am better with it than I ever would be without it, right here and right now at least. Married Love is many things to many people. No two couples approach it the same way, and I would not dream about generalizing something as complex as any kind of love but, for me, it’s a bit like this. Married Love is dependable more than it’s electric. In my memory, the reason why young love felt so electrifying was that it was all so tenuous. There was that feeling every day like it might just slip through your fingers. Any day could be the Best Day Ever or the Worst. That magnificent volatility is replaced in a few years’ time with constancy. I think some equate constancy with boredom. They are not the same. People allow themselves to become bored with their partners. Constancy is sacred.

If your marriage is able to survive the myriad of tests that the pantheon of Gods and Goddesses up there, called life, throw at you, more power to you. These tests of marital survival, can certainly stress a marriage. Let’s name a few: work, children, illness, money, or perhaps worse is lack of work, children (if you indeed want to have them) or money. These problems can leave you weak at the knees. I’d rather navigate all these pitfalls with some steadfast at my side. This is a matter of personal preference though; some prefer to do it alone. Not me.

Married Love is the well tread path that you choose to take because you know it well rather than the unknown road, which could be lead to either abundant joy or the worst kind of sorrow. I have been down that latter road a lot. Now, I don’t regret ever having gone down it. It is THE only road to take when you are young and unattached. After all if I hadn’t been so keen to travel all those new, exciting roads 17 years’ ago, I wouldn’t have even met you, but I don’t want a do over. We were very lucky to have done much of what we wanted to do, separately and together, in our twenties and early thirties, rather than waiting in vain for some “perfect time” later in life to do it. I’ll happily walk this familiar road with you. Having said that, I am glad that you do indulge me in the occasional divergent path–Hello Abu Dhabi, this is the only reason I know you!

Spring Pea plants tethered to a stake. Not in a state of consciously uncoupling.

Pea plants 

Married Love is like a young plant tethered to stake in the spring, more than it’s like the “Old Ball and Chain;” a cord that binds you and doesn’t let you move or evolve. The plant needs the stake to grow. The stake props the plant up during foul weather. At times, you’re the stake and I’m the plant. Sometimes, it’s the other way around. 

You and I aren’t much for self-congratulation or accolades and, compared to your parents, a fifteen-year marriage is really still in its infancy; one more year than my parents made it though. Uncoupling’s easy. Sticking this whole marriage thing out is infinitely harder. So again, let’s make a toast to those consciously coupled–we are hardly a newsworthy lot. We have our routines. We have accepted one another’s idiosyncrasies and foibles.  We once coupled consciously out of Romantic Love what feels like EONS ago B.C. (Before Children), but we remain in Married Love out of devotion, mutual admiration, respect and, perhaps, repetitive motion. We stay together not “for the sake of the kids,” but in support of the kids we so happily brought into this world 13 years’ ago. These kids will inextricably link us for life. They made us a family. Finally, we remain coupled for the least romantic reason of all. Let’s just call a spade a spade, we remember vaguely what it’s like out there, and it’s not all that green–it’s a lot more tannish brown, off color and kinda sorted from what I recall. In the words of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, “Love the one you’re with.” I sure do. 

This is the last personal piece for a while people. Knocked out half of our family events, literarily speaking, in one week’s time. Back to cultural inquiries next week. Stay tuned…

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