By Caitlin Kelly
My second wedding anniversary, to my second husband, arrives soon — September 17 – here’s a link to a description of that lovely day, with photos.
We’d been together for 11 years already when we finally tied the knot, in a small wooden 100+ year old church on an island in the harbor of my hometown, Toronto.
I loved him, but just couldn’t imagine taking vows with someone so different from me: Buddhist/Christian; American/Canadian; 30 years at the same employer/self-employed; Hispanic/Anglo; passive/aggressive; meticulous/spontaneous.
For many years, we fought, bitterly — two stubborn mid-life journo’s, both long-divorced with no kids. Two people who arrived in New York from cities far away, both determined to make our mark in the most sharp-elbowed city in the world.
It’s not easy to switch at day’s end from being someone able to beat ferocious competitors all day long to being sweet and pliable at home.
We do have tempers, and we were both well-bullied as teenagers.
It left us wary, hair-trigger, thin-skinned.
My husband and I weren’t even married yet when I first hit him. Afterward, I tried to rationalize what happened. I told myself I hadn’t hurt him. How could my scrawny 5’4” self actually hurt his strapping 6’2” frame, right? I swore it wouldn’t happen. But it did anyway.
My anger became my biggest secret. Whenever I commiserated with my sister or best friend about our husbands, I would agree that, yes, men are maddening. But I would always leave out the the part about me hitting or slapping mine. I wasn’t lying exactly. Besides, I’d tell myself, it hardly ever happens.
But I knew it was wrong. Being a child who hits inanimate objects is one thing, but being a grown woman who directs her rages into her husband’s face is something else entirely. Each time it happened, I’d apologize profusely. Each time, my husband would forgive me, and I’d vow it would never happen again. But it always did.
Why is forgiveness top of mind right now?
It might be living in New York — where two prominent local politicians both betrayed their wives and got caught, yet both are running for office again.
It might be reaching mid-life, when some once-egregious and unforgivable sins begin to lose some of their power.
It might be the basic realization that none of us is perfect. We will, inevitably, hurt and disappoint and dismay and embarrass the people who adore us, and vice versa. Without the salve of forgiveness, no wound can heal.
It might watching a couple we introduced at our dinner table now divorce.
Our wedding rings.
Yet Jose and I still spat. It’s not nice.
The other day, after a rough week, we went for lunch in a friend’s garden, and the universe decided to teach us both a lesson.
Within minutes — for the first time since our childhoods — we were both stung by wasps, I on the ring finger of my left hand (where a wedding ring usually goes) and he above his right eye, the one he uses to focus when taking photos.
We were in fucking agony!
But all we could do was fuss and coo, fetching ice and aspirin and trying to soothe one another.
It took a wasp’s venom.
But I’m paying attention, dammit.
What has saved your marriage?