It’s V-Day! 14 Years in, 14 reasons my marriage (whew!) still thrives

By Caitlin Kelly


The image is our wedding, in September, 2011, late afternoon, in a small wooden church on an island in Toronto’s harbor.

We met in March 2000, online, and after our first date at a lovely French bistro in midtown Manhattan, that was it.

We couldn’t really be more different. Jose — an American, the cherished only son of a small-town Baptist minister, loves routine, security and familiarity. I — Canadian, the oldest child of a film-maker father and journalist mother, globe-trotters both — live for adventure, new experiences and spontaneity.

But we’re still delighted to have found one another.

Here are 14 reasons why:

We laugh our asses off

People look at us on the commuter train, where everyone else is quietly reading the paper, or snoozing, or texting. What’s so funny? Anything, really.

We talk to one another, every day, a lot

His workday — as a photo editor for The New York Times — is crazy-hectic, with six scheduled meetings every single day. He juggles assignments for photographers, staff and freelance, literally across the world, and speaks to dozens of editors and reporters. Sometimes he’s even emailing at 3 a.m. to a guy in China or India. But we chat, even for a minute or two, several times every day. I want to hear his voice, share a triumph and connect. When we’re home, our computers are (mostly) off and we eat our dinner by candle-light and catch up. Studies have found that the average couple speaks very little during most days. I find that really sad.

We have very different interests

I’m a culture vulture, forever seeing museum and gallery shows, theater and dance, coming home from the library with a pile of books. He’s a devout Buddhist who meditates every morning and reads his texts. But we have enough overlap and mutual curiosity about one another’s interests.

We share a ferocious work ethic

God, that man works hard! So do I. As I write this, it’s another major blizzard here in New York and he’s working from home. We attach to our computers and phones and go. He’s seen my freelance workday up close, and knows how intense and focused it is. We are both career journalists who started selling our work to national outlets while we were college undergrads. We enjoy our work and know why it still matters, to us and to the larger world.

We have one another’s backs

He has verbally taken both of my parents to the woodshed when needed, hotly defending my needs and concerns when I just couldn’t seem to do it myself. I’ve done the same for him with neighbors or anyone, anywhere, who disrespects him. He is Hispanic and has been mistaken for a manual laborer, when wearing his casual clothes. The man has a Pulitzer prize. I tell people that. He tells them about my accomplishments. We are absolutely one another’s best advocates.

We both have spiritual lives, individual and shared

He is a devout Buddhist, who had an altar and prayer flags hanging in his Brooklyn apartment when we met. I’ve been attending a local Episcopal church since 1998. We’ve attended one another’s services and appreciate and respect our individual traditions and choices. I’ve seen, and been touched by, how connected he is to his guru, Lama Surya Das, now a friend of ours, and we’ve invited our church ministers home for dinner.

We treasure our friendships

I love his loyalty to friends. We keep our friends close, even when they live many miles distant.

We take care of one another

After my left hip replacement, in February 2012, Jose took three weeks’ vacation time to stay home and nurse me. He made an enormous list of all my pills and exercise schedule and stuck it on the wall. He cleaned my wound, all 12 staples of it. I make our home as clean and attractive as possible: candles, fresh flowers, pretty linens, a beautiful table for mealtimes. I make us delicious meals, when I can muster the energy. I even brush and polish his shoes, much to his embarrassment. It’s just care. It’s what a good marriage is about.

We’re not scared to have a (loud, scary) argument

This was a big step for us. We fought like crazy for years when we met: stubborn, mid-life, long divorced, battling for recognition and respect in a dying and difficult industry. It’s not easy to allow someone new into your life after you’ve already had a few decades of one. He also grew up in a family that never (visibly) argued. It’s almost all mine did. That was an adjustment.

When we do, we know it doesn’t mean the end

That was another big step. For a variety of reasons, I’m a little (OK, a lot) freaked out by possible abandonment. He never once stomped away in silence or shut me out for days or weeks, as some men might. While we were dating, we both left one another’s homes in fury but we also made up the next day, after we’d cooled down. Just because we fight sometimes doesn’t mean we don’t love one another deeply.

We save a lot of money for our (we hope!) shared future

I save 15 percent, which I hate. He saves 10 percent. I want a comfortable retirement. The only way toward that is saving a shitload of money.

We play together

We love to play games — golf, Scrabble, Bananagrams, gin rummy.

We both survived lousy first marriages and want this to be our last

Once you’ve tasted the bitter fruits of a nasty marriage and even nastier divorce, marriage can terrify you. It scars you and scares you. It’s expensive and miserable and confidence-shaking. Why even bother doing it again? My maternal grand-mother married six times — maybe eight — we lose track. My parents’ marriage busted up when I was seven and my mother never re-married or even lived with another man. You have to really want to be married and do the work it takes to stick around.

We know we have a lovely thing going, and tell one another this often

We both say thank-you a lot, and mean it. I never take him for granted. Life is too short to waste it being horrible to the person you have taken vows with.

How about you?

How’s your love life these days?

61 thoughts on “It’s V-Day! 14 Years in, 14 reasons my marriage (whew!) still thrives

  1. it sounds like a wonderful partnership and I’m happy you’ve both found each other. as for my love life, well – it is a bit quiet at the moment, but i am ever hopeful )

  2. I love the part about standing up for each other. It’s a good practice when you’re family with someone. It’s easy (and even makes for good stories) to complain about your spouse. And yet, I want to do better. I want to tell others how wonderful my husband is.

    1. I hope you feel that yours is!

      Sure, there are things that annoy the hell out of me (and for him as well) but I think the more you see one another as your ally, the more they ARE your ally. We are not at all close to our families (physically or emotionally) so that inter-reliance might be a little unusual, but it is what it is.

  3. themodernidiot

    15. He shovels lol

    All kidding aside this was a real pleasure to read. I’m thinking it should be sent off to every men’s and women’s magazine in the country. Finally some real-life advice for real marriages.

  4. themodernidiot

    Reblogged this on themodernidiot and commented:
    In honor of Valentine’s day, I want to share with you the best recipe for relationship success I’ve ever read. Finally, a grounded and honest perspective on what it really takes to make it work.

    Caitlyn Kelly tells it like it is without shaming, blaming, or naming your every fault like those other “advice” magazines. She isn’t afraid to open up her home, head, and heart to us ( it’s nice to know somebody else has been there).

    Best of all, she quietly lays the responsibility at the doorstep of both sexes. (No ladies, the secret to a healthy marriage is not blow jobs. And men, there’s more to it than paychecks and putting the lid down).

    Cosmopolitan and Maxim, sit up and take notes.

  5. Sunflower

    I *loved* this post! It reminds me so much of the way my partner and I relate–from her taking my folks to the verbal woodshed (!) to our lovingly creating wonderful meals for each other to doing unexpected little acts of kindness and care “just because”….all the way to my almost having bought Bananagrams at the gift shop tonight when I saw it displayed on the game table!

  6. It’s nice to know that some people meet online and end up in loving relationships…you weren’t middle aged though when you met Jose, were you? I’ve gone to meet a few men, but it never goes beyond the first encounter…am starting to totally give up. Thanks for sharing.

      1. Lucky you!
        It’s much easier to meet men when we’re in our 40’s; I met someone I really loved in my 40’s, but that relationship never progressed because he wasn’t in love with me…I guess that I’m really over the hill now!

  7. Seems like it was meant to be, yet what a good amount of effort you both put into it. Goes to show you-what matters deeply is worth working for, fighting for (or over at times) and holding close to your hearts and spirits. Great true success for two people who have worldly success! Happy V day.

    1. Thanks! We have worked hard indeed, but every year is better. I think a strong marriage is the best bulwark possible against the slings and arrows of illness, fear, anxiety, a crummy family history. I feel much stronger with him at my back than I ever did on my own. He feels the same.

  8. Pingback: Everything Valentines | Locsy With Moxie

    1. Thanks for commenting — and glad it rang true for you. I didn’t marry the first time until I was 35 and it was a two-year disaster. I think it takes a lot of self-awareness to appreciate what each person is really offering and what you are bringing to the table, for better and worse.

  9. gradabout

    Just a lovely post, displaying appreciation of a great, strong relationship with the world. I am so happy for you and hope to still have this with my love in years to come. I hope you have a lovely day together

    1. Thanks! We work hard at it every day — which I think doesn’t get talked about much publicly. It isn’t heavy lifting, but we argued last night about something, even after I posted it. Then we discussed what Jose was so pissed about. That’s the difference…it takes time to really get to know someone and trust them. I don’t think it happens automatically or quickly.

  10. Great to read about another happy couple. Jim and I have a lot of those same things going for us. One thing not on your list is touch. We touch each other a lot, with almost every time we pass. And we are each others’ head cheerleaders. He is and has always been the best person I know.

    We’ve been together for a third of a century now, and it gets better all the time.

      1. Thanks. I just ordered a copy off Amazon. It’s got to be better than some of the drivel the marriage counselor is handing to us. Those books all seem to be filled with unicorn shit, but our problems aren’t fantasies, they’re real life issues.

      2. That book is only IF (which I hope you don’t, of course) you head for divorce.

        Jose and I have gone to counseling many times over the years and the tougher the counselor, the more progress we made. We both had plenty of issues and it’s never amusing to truly confront old behavior patterns — and then change them. It’s painful to really admit, sometimes, how much baggage we each carry but we do and it affects every relationship, usually our spouse most deeply.

  11. For a child bride and groom, we’re doing pretty good I think. I just realized that last Saturday was the 5 year anniversary of Jeff proposing to me and that we’ve known each other for a decade. I have no idea where the time’s gone! Our life isn’t perfect, we’ve got money stresses and have had career delays and other frustrations, but it is exactly the one I want.

    1. You are indeed a child bride. I could never ever imagine marrying anyone until I was at least 30, as career took precedence — the guy was going to have to come later.

      Luckily, a few did! πŸ™‚

  12. My love life is everything I’d dreamed of and far better than I thought I would actually find. How could I go wrong with a man who wooed me with these sweet words from an old musical.

    ” When he thinks he is past love,
    It is then he meets his last love,
    And he loves her as he’s never loved before.”

    Glad to see another successful online meeting turn into lasting love. Congrats on your 14 years with Jose.

    1. This is good to know — and I hope your story inspires others.

      I would never have been brave enough to move to England, as you did. I left Canada to join my first husband, but coming to the US had always been my plan, and especially to NY. I was also only 30 then.

  13. I love this on so many levels. Your honesty about the fact that strong relationships take work–the way you take care of each other. People tend to forget the work needed to sustain such connections. I envy you your happiness..and it gives one hope!

    1. Thanks!

      I think the issue is also how it’s framed — when someone is told to “work” on their relationship, they think…UGH. Must I? I don’t think it’s work at all if your marriage is REALLY important to your happiness and you wish it to continue…If it does feel like work, maybe your marriage isn’t too terrific.

      I think some people are ambivalent about even being married (benign neglect) and some just assume the other person took vows and will stay, or stay faithful. My first husband walked out after barely two years. I don’t dare take this husband for granted! Nor do I wish to.

  14. How lovely! I didn’t see this post when you first published it.

    I hope one day if/when I get married, I will have a partnership equal to yours. Congratulations on 14 years! May you and Jose have many more together.

    With regard to the question at the end of your post, I am single. Sometimes I feel a little frustrated by that but I remind myself that I’m only 20 – there is plenty of time – and at the moment I am focusing hard on my degree: that is my main priority.

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