20 years together — how we do it

 

lopez in Bosnia

Jose on assignment in Bosnia for The New York Times, December 1995

 

By Caitlin Kelly

He was a staff photo editor at The New York Times, living in Brooklyn, long divorced, with no kids.

I was a freelance writer living in a New York suburb, divorced with no kids.

Online dating was still new and weird and no one was really admitting they needed it, but I did. Even after years living in New York, I had a small social circle and wanted to find a new partner — so it was really my only way to do so.

I pitched a story about this to Mademoiselle, a women’s magazine, and they agreed. My online profile headline, truthfully, read Catch Me If You Can.

Even though Jose and I actually knew a Times sports editor in common, we would never otherwise have met, between his grueling work schedule and physical distance from my home.

 

jose at pulitzer01

Jose shooting the judging of the Pulitzer Prizes at Columbia University  — his idea!

 

Our first date was in March 2000 at Le Madeleine, a midtown French bistro in the west 40s. He arrived wearing a bright red silk Buddhist prayer shawl as a muffler. Of course!

And that was it…

He moved north into my apartment in 2001 — his original moving day (no joke) was 9/11, for which the Times would win a Pulitzer for team photo editing.

 

caitlin team

My final day of radiation, November 2015.

 

In the 20 years since, we’ve been through quite a bit, including:

2 knee surgeries, a shoulder surgery and left hip replacement for me in 2012; his Times buyout in 2015, propelling him into a wholly new world of freelance work; the death of several friends and colleagues; my mother’s recent, sudden death; the work and publishing of my two books and his diabetes diagnosis and mine for early stage breast cancer — both in June 2018.

 

5th-anniversary

Toronto, September 2011

What works?

 

Laughter, lots of it!

Mutual respect

Shared goals and values

History — what we’ve already successfully survived

Optimism, always much more his than mine

A shared passion for producing great journalism

A shared skill of taking terrific photos, mine more art-y, his more news-y

A sense of perspective — if we’re vertical and breathing, that’s a good day

A home we’ve worked hard to make beautiful and welcoming, safe and tidy

We each bring a serious work ethic

A love of luxury — a great bottle of wine, a visit to Paris

Understanding (finally) that two bossy, determined, competitive career journalists will have some conflicts

Knowing that some conflict, unless chronic, is normal

Endless curiosity about the world and how it works

A wide global network of people who value us, personally and professionally

Staying as calm as possible through scary times

 

As we all muddle our way through the current global crisis of COVID-19, I’m grateful as hell to have his comfort and companionship.

I hope you, too, have someone as loving and reliable to help you through this terrible moment.

 

16 thoughts on “20 years together — how we do it

  1. Julia

    The thing about working from home together, is that you need to accommodate one another, as well as argue with each other, as well as plat together. It’s possible.

  2. Catherine

    Lovely article. We are almost 40 years together and I love the bones of him, though I could still kill him by times 😁. Like you I have been through scary personal times but he has always been by my side. I do have to rein him in on some mad ideas but even now he never ceases to amaze me…each day is a gift.

  3. It’s a beautiful thing to recognize the value of years spent with someone who accepts our peculiarities, supports our whims, frailties, strengths and shares mutual respect for all we hold dear. In a few weeks my husband and I will mark 38 years since eloping to Vegas on a whim. Wouldn’t change a moment of our life together.

  4. fionayb

    I absolutely love this. We will be celebrating our 19th wedding anniversary later this year. The first few years were the hardest because even though we’d been dating so long, being married and sharing a roof is an adjustment. But as you note, shared goals, mutual respect, and the ability to laugh are the foundation blocks.

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