21 years together. 21 reasons why

By Caitlin Kelly

Hard to believe it’s been this long!

When we met, I was then six years divorced from my first husband, a psychiatrist I’d met in Montreal when I was a newspaper reporter and he was finishing med school at McGill. Our two-year marriage was miserable and he’d simply walked out.

I was lonely and isolated in the suburbs of New York, where all people do is work and raise kids.

I’d had a few boyfriends, one who broke my heart (after making me laugh harder for our six months together than anyone ever had), one a ship’s engineer, one a tech whiz, one an architect. It had not been dull.

Then, thanks to writing a magazine story about online dating, (he saw and answered my profile, which read “Catch Me If You Can”) Jose and I met for dinner at Le Madeleine, a midtown Manhattan French bistro, in early March. We had emailed and spoken by phone. He looked great. I wore a turtleneck and a blazer, typical WASP wear.

He ended the evening with a flourish — taking off his red silk Buddhist prayer shawl, scented with 1881, (a gorgeous cologne), wrapping me in it and sending me home on the commuter train.

DONE.

His move-in day to my apartment was….9/11. He arrived a week later, (and the Pulitzer prize the Times won for photo editing [that he worked on]) that day is a lovely part of our home.

We finally married in September 2011 in a historic church on Centre island in Toronto’s harbor.

Here are 21 reasons we’re still together, laughing, hoping for 21 more:

He’s funny as hell. You wouldn’t think so, from a former New York Times photographer and photo editor, working in a fairly stuffy stiff environment. We laugh almost daily.

He smells good. That cologne! I’ve since kept him in other classic fragrances like his favorite Grey Flannel, Dior’s Eau Sauvage and Hermes Rocabar.

I love his style. Classic. I did get him out of pleats. My father is a super-elegant guy who cleans up well. So does Jose.

He somehow tolerates my weird family. It’s just not a Hallmark card, that’s for sure. His patience with them far exceeds mine.

But he has also stood up for me against them, when necessary.

He’s seen me through five surgeries. Not fun! Always calm.

He’s seen me through (early stage) breast cancer. There was a lot of crying until we learned it was contained and gone.

He has good ideas about how better to do my writing work.

His photo! This was the first time we ever worked on a story together. So fun!

He has good ideas about his photography and photo editing work.

His work ethic is insane.

Jose in Bosnia, Christmas 1995, on assignment for the Times.

He hugs a lot.

He says I love you often.

I see the world differently through the eyes of an American who is Hispanic. This has taught me a lot.

He had a loving, calm childhood, which informs our marriage. Mine was not often that.

We were younger and I was a lot thinner! Yes, this is the Oval Office, where he often worked as a NYT White House Press Corps photographer.

We plan our next meal before we’re done with the current one. We do love great food!

He brings me breakfast in bed.

His Buddhism, and basic personality, keeps him calm and generally very un-flappable.

New Mexico — his roots!

He’s optimistic.

He still surprises me, in good ways.

We’ve both had to do plenty of apologizing and forgiving. That’s new for me, coming from a family that didn’t do much of it, at all.

We love to travel together, near and far — so far to Mexico, Paris, Canada, his native New Mexico, Ireland, Arizona, D.C.

What’s nice is that I could probably double the length of this list.

We did have a very tough few years at first — we were, when we met, two very stubborn, driven mid-career journalists; both long divorced; in some ways very very different personalities (he’s the detail guy. Me, not so much.)

We initially fought a lot and we both have tempers and a stock of harsh words.

So we had to calm the hell down.

And we have.

30 thoughts on “21 years together. 21 reasons why

  1. Congratulations!! I loved your list and esp related to one truth about successful, long-term relationships: you both have to CALM THE HELL DOWN! 😂 Pure, simple, applicable wisdom..calm the hell down people..hahaha!!

  2. Congratulations on your anniversary. 🌸 M and I also celebrate the day we met much more than our wedding anniversary (meeting date in Dec; anniversary in August). We experienced our lumps and bumps also. Lovely list most of us can understand very, very well.

  3. Carolyn r

    What a beautiful tribute! Love the picture of you both in the Oval Office. It’s lovely to read a tribute to long term relationships. We’ve been together 37 years, will be married 36 in July and I can’t imagine my life without him. He makes it better in every way. Congratulations to you

    1. Thanks! It’s taken us a lot of years because we are very different — he is much more meticulous and fussy, Mr. Details and I’m more spontaneous and messy. Sharing basic values is huge.

      Right?! He spent Xmas 1995 there. Very traumatic.

    2. Jan Jasper

      What a lovely tribute to a happy marriage! Clearly, the ability to deal with hurts and disappointments and the need to apologize, is absolutely essential . A person who cannot handle conflict or deal with anger will not remain in any relationship for very long. Baby out with bathwater, over and over.

      1. Jan Jasper

        I agree that many men are too solo or too clingy. And unfortunately some men who strike a wonderful balance have other significant problems, such as an inability to work through conflicts. I have decided that I will never again attempt to have a relationship with a man who had a really bad childhood. This is a tough decision because I know many people with bad childhoods do overcome them. But the likelihood of him having lifelong problems is just too great for me to risk again. Those problems may not budge even after years of therapy. It’s very sad.

      2. Hmmmm.

        That’s interesting.

        I had a very weird childhood and it’s definitely affected how I behave as an adult. It caused Jose a lot of stress at first but he’s more used to it and I’ve calmed down. When one person grows up around a lot of anger (me) and the other doesn’t, it’s not easy.

    1. Deborah

      When you and I met, you and Jose were living together. One morning he and I happened to ride the train into the city together. When your name came up I recall him saying, Caitlin is a treasure. It was a beautiful reflection of his love for you. I’m happy that you found such a good man. You truly do complement each other …. here’s to the next 21.

  4. Kelly C

    Wonderful writing as ever, Caitlin! As I commented to Jose, the love you two share is a thing to behold. And I know that you both know how lucky you are to have it…

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