Brent and I have spent almost every hour, of every day, of our marriage together.
In ancient Israel, young men were kept off the battlefield their first year of marriage. We adopted the idea ourselves. Brent started our marriage with enough savings that he did not have to take a job during the first six months of our marriage. We lived very simply our first year of marriage; we even lived tent camping for part of that year so that we could be together as much as possible . We have always felt that we set a foundation for the rest of our marriage.
There have been a few outside-the-home job in our early days. They never lasted long as Brent was committed to being home as much as possible. In our entire marriage, I can count on one hand how many times I have ever gone grocery shopping alone. I have almost never pumped my own gas. Before we traveled, we lived and worked on a small farm in Lancaster, PA. For the last nine years, we have been traveling, lived on a farm in Belize, or have been together enough that we have not shared a meal apart.
We do get the occasional questions. Does the closeness wear you down? Do you ever get tired of being together all the time? Do you have marital spats?
After seventeen years of marriage, we have learned a few tricks that contribute to our marital harmony. We certainly do need space and have learned how to give that to each other. Even now, I am alone typing, and he is off strumming the guitar and singing with the children. We share responsibilities but are comfortable with different roles. I am the cook and grocery shopper, for example; he is the driver, gas pumper and map planner. Society might see that as unfair or a form of oppression, but in our home we find that functioning in different service roles adds to the peace of the home.
We honor our marriage. It is very rare for us to be angry at each other and when we are we seek to be quickly reconciled. If anything, living closely makes it nearly impossible to stay angry because it would make living hard on all of us. That said, we do not stifle our feelings, and we believe it is good for children to realize that happy marriages do have bumps along the way.
Sometimes, however, tempers flare like they did tonight.
Brent and I left the children at the hotel suite we have called ‘home’ here in Paris. If you are the parents of nine children, running out to do errands is usually our idea of a date. That was not the case tonight.
Tonight I was upset with Brent about something. What it was exactly, I don’t remember. Even if I did remember, I would not tell you. That is a line we have never and will never cross in our marriage. My husband knows full well that I will not air his dirty laundry nor he mine. But I can tell you it was his fault.
He was upset, too because he had not accepted that he was 100% to blame and felt I was being unreasonable. Since I am never, not ever, ever, ever one bit unreasonable, I can assure you that I was right and he was wrong about whatever it was. So when we jumped on the metro in Paris, I avoided eye contact with him. He didn’t seem to care.
Parisians do not generally talk above the rush and clatter of the underground subway. This was a good thing because I did not want to talk to him anyway. Brent, obviously, was feeling mutual. So we sat on the metro together– in silence. Something that never happens when all the children are on board because there are never enough open seats. We sat but did not speak.
Eventually, our stop arrived and we jumped off and headed out in the rain. I had an umbrella, but I did not share. We found what we came to get—six golden Eiffel towers that blink–to complete a souvenir set for the children.
We then jumped back on the Metro. Brent was glad that I found the towers inside the metro station. This meant we saved a couple euros from having to buy another ticket.. In a not angry moment, we would have fled the station for a rare date–but not tonight. Brent made it clear that he was glad to be saving money, and I didn’t care.
Still not engaging with each other much, we jumped back on the Metro along with the sleepy post-rush hour crowd. We sat across from one another, each with a two-person bench to ourselves.
Then, it happened. It was a perfectly orchestrated “Lucy and Ricardo do Paris” moment.
A strolling man with an accordion began playing with all of his might. He was playing classic Italian love songs, some from “Lady and the Tramp”.
Here we were, the night before our last day in Paris, riding a metro almost alone. The metro exited the station above ground with a perfect view of the Seine River. Behind it, the Eiffel Tower was lit in a golden glow, its beacon piercing the clouds at the top. The accordion player continued to serenade us. We sat childishly avoiding eye contact.
It was too much. Brent leaned forward and whispered, “I’m sorry. Look! Here we are in Paris. Let’s jump off and go to a café together.”
I was still trying to give him a mean look, but alas I could not do it and I ended up giggling (on accident). This made me so mad that I could not stay mad when I wanted to be. The accordion music, the perfect scenes of Paris, the two of us alone on a metro was all so hilarious that I could not stay angry anymore. It also helps to have a short-term memory since I was struggling to remember the details of Brent’s offense.
And so…we apologized…and hugged…and tossed the accordion player all of our Euro change. We jumped off the metro. We strolled and kissed and let the golden glow of the Eiffel Tower shine down on us as we shared the umbrella in the sprinkling rain. Then, like school kids, we held hands and briskly walked to a café just around the corner from the tower.
We were seated by the window at a small round table made for two. We were quite under dressed for a Parisian café in the shadow of the Tower. After you have been married for seventeen years, however, such pettiness takes a back seat to what really matters. It’s the I’ll-love-you-forever-and-ever kind of love.
So, in case you wondered living and traveling in close quarters all the time does bring occasional strife. It also provides the freedom for some pretty wonderful making up.
Every marriage has spats. The key to a good marriage is learning how to resolve them quickly. What are your secrets in choosing marital bliss?