Sunday, January 8, 2012

Flawed to Perfection

A month or so ago, Dov and I were running errands together at our local shopping center when we ran into a friend. I watched Sarah’s face relax, the lines smoothing out as though controlled by some invisible puppeteer who’d let the strings go slack as she commented, “Thank God I ran into you two. So many couples have split up; it restores my soul to see the two of you still a couple, still together.”

What could we say? It was the truth. Too many of our friends’ marriages had fallen apart.

Religion doesn’t seem to be any guarantee that a couple will remain a couple. The residents of our fair town are by and large all Orthodox Jews who attempt to carry out the complicated minutiae of Jewish law in their everyday lives. But that hasn’t saved them from divorce.

It’s sad, but today it is remarkable when a couple stays together and unsurprising when they don’t. I had to wonder: is there some kind of secret to staying together that we, Dov and I, possess, that other couples do not? Because if there were some way for me to hit on the formula for marital success, I could share it and save lots of people heartache.

But I have no such formula. Our marriage is not the stuff of dreams. There are lots and lots of rocky patches, bouts of relationship insanity, and hair-pulling.

When things are at their most difficult, I think that we stay together by osmosis. We’ve been together so long it’s a habit. Maybe we’re too LAZY to get a divorce. Maybe we can’t AFFORD to get a divorce. But the bottom line is that I can’t see us apart.

A friend (who subsequently got divorced) once told me that I should try to see myself apart from my husband to see if I could envision how that would work; that this would give me the strength to actually go through with divorce. Looking back, that seems like dangerous, even BAD advice. But back then, for the sake of my friendship, I tried. I tried to see myself without Dov.

I could not.

I guess that some marriages are easier than others, but I really don’t know that for sure. All I know is that I am meant to be with Dov and Dov is meant to be with me. It’s not easier to be together, but in the long run, there is mutual satisfaction and working toward mutual goals. The rest is fluff.

If I had to pinpoint one reason Dov and I have stayed together so long, I’d have to say it’s that we grew up together. When you get to the point where you’ve been together most of your lives, you’ve got something solid and tangible. Like individual people, it’s not perfect, but it works.

The best tomatoes are never those pink, mealy hybrids piled high in supermarkets, but the cracked, irregular heirloom fruits you grow yourself in your own backyard. Our marriage is like that: imperfect, but full of flavor; still bearing fruit after more than 3 decades.

How long have you been married? Do you have "the perfect marriage?" What are your relationship secrets? 


  1. My wife and I have been together for more than 38 and recently married off our only son. Like most marriages, our relationship has been laden with happiness and tears. Corny but true.

    Like you and Dov, living together is no picnic in the park, but I cannot conceive being apart. When the chips are down, we are are there for each other.

  2. You gave me goosebumps, Richard! I feel so validated by what you wrote. The only secret is sticking around for each other.

  3. Q.But what if a person gets divorced and subsequently DOES live a dream life? Where does that leave all the people who stuck it out through thick and thin?
    A.Just not knowing.

  4. On the 20 Jan 2012, Randi and I will be married for 12 years. I can't speak for Randi but for me, I wouldn't have it any other way. It hasn't been easy but it has been interesting. We had one moment in 2008 that almost saw me (yes, me) walking away...but I realized I was very much in Love with Randi and if I walked away, I was a FOOL. It still isn't perfect but I don't think any relationship IS perfect. I sometimes think the imperfection is what keeps us together. We each have what the other lacks. She is the rock of mid-western sensibility and I'm the flake of redneck-southern impulsiveness. I'm the talkative one but when Randi gets around to saying something she gets right to the point quickly. Don't get into a matching of wits with Randi. It might take her a while to "cut" you back but when she does, you will be standing there bleeding before you realize how bad she has cut you! An example of her wit happened right after we got married. I kissed her as I left the house it she gave me a small kiss and I wanted more of a kiss and I said "That was like kissing your sister" we kissed again, deeper this time and when it was over she said "Which sister?" (Randi has two sisters that I had forgotten about!)

    Varda, GREAT BLOG!! I very much enjoyed reading it.

  5. GREAT STORY, Johnny. LOL. I've seen a bit of Randi's cutting wit and it's part of what makes her so down to earth. She tells it like it is. You guys are great and I'm so glad you found each other. That's gotta be more than just luck, right?

  6. Tamiri, I see your point. I have thought about that a lot. I just don't know the answer, which includes not knowing if your answer is the right one. All I know is what I wrote: I can't see living my life without Dov and I know he can't see living his life without me.

    I think most of us carry our issues with us. If it's not good with one person, it won't be with another, either.

    There are exceptions. In no way am I anti-divorce. But I am very pro-committment. I think that if you made it under the canopy, there's a reason and you should keep trying until there is absolutely no chance that things can work out.

  7. I'd like to add to that, Tamiri. No one guarantees you happiness in this life. I think that's a fallacy: to expect happily ever after. I think what you can expect is a kind of undercurrent of satisfaction. If you don't have that after two or three decades, I think it's just not going to happen for you.

  8. Varda, you said you couldn't see yourself living without Dov, I feel the same, I can't see me without Johnny. Like he said, what the other lacks, the other has. We take up for each other when needed. I didn't think that I could cut til blood was concerned, I wish I could to a certain insurance company, but that's another story! Twelve years, meeting on the net, and we're still going on, with speed bumps along the way! Who doesn't have speed bumps. I think these days, couples hit one of those, and rather than fix it, they let the marriage dissolve, which is very sorry. He's a good man, comes home after work, calls if he works late, doesn't hang out with the guys, but works alot in the garage with his motorcycle, while I either sleep this past week, or knit! The one thing that hurts a little, is that I moved away from my girls, and I miss them, but they are welcome any time, as are Johnny's son and daughter in law, and our new Grand daughter, Alisen! Great writing Varda, and many more happy years to you and Dov!

  9. You're so funny, Randi! Glad I'm not your insurance company.

    You and Johnny met on the net?? Wow. I love it.

    I like what you did by listing all his positive traits. That is what we constantly have to do: remind ourselves of our spouse's good traits. That usually does the trick of putting a marriage back on track!

    Here's to more visits from the kids!

  10. We are married almost 12 years. Like your marriage, there have been cycles of tremendous instability, tears, depression balanced by giddy exhilaration. There are times I imagined it easier without him; but, then I realize he's my left hand. As a dominant-right-hander, my right is convinced it can handle things just fine without the left--and then I try to tie my shoes, open a jar, and pull up my pantyhose. I can't. That's how my marriage is. I can't imagine my life without him. He's exciting, brilliant, critical, passionate, and a drug that I'll find in no other. So, we'll grow old together.

    I loved this simple, honest narrative, Varda. I remember your wedding. I'm glad to see you together at this point in the journey with all of your blessings.

  11. Merle, that was a striking metaphor. You've got another whole piece to write, right there! May you be each others' other hands for many, many more years.

    It was a little scary putting this piece out there but with all this validation, I'm glad I did.

  12. Varda, Yes, Randi and I did meet online. I have often said that my wife could find anything on the Internet. She found a husband!

  13. I loved this Varda! It was great! I read it yesterday, had to go, but knew I wanted to let you know as soon as I could that I enjoyed it very much! You never write a bad read, as I've seen yet, anyway. You have a great talent & am glad you are not wasting it by not using it.
    Btw, I absolutely love yours & Dov's wedding picture!

  14. Dawn, you're a sweetheart! Thank you for the nice words.