When Aidan announced that June’s Here Year theme was marriage, my immediate thought was of Amanda Magee. Amanda is one of my absolute favorite writers, and lately she and her husband Sean have written some beautiful, provocative, frank pieces about marriage. I asked her if she’d write something for us and I’m delighted that she did. There are so many posts of Amanda’s that have stuck with me, and it’s not an exaggeration to say that her words run through my mind on a regular basis. One of the first posts I remember vividly is a letter she wrote to Sean on Father’s Day that acknowledges the importance of “keeping what started it all alive.” As an aside, I’m honored that Amanda’s essay on the age of eight appears alongside my words about ten in This is Childhood, Brain Child magazine’s first book (you can buy a copy here!).
What Amanda wrote for us made me cry. Hard. Her words are both poetic and fiercely honest. She admits to having not worked hard enough at her marriage. I know this feeling intimately. And while I go back and forth on the perennial, emotional debate of whether children or marriage should come first, I think ultimately I conclude that keeping us – the private geography and subterranean world of a marriage – sacred needs to be our utmost priority.
Thank you, Amanda, for your thoughtful reflections, for your tough and strong challenge to be more here in my marriage. You’re right.
Our anniversary is this Saturday; it will be eleven years that we have been the Magees. It will be fifteen years since I told Sean that I wasn’t looking to make new friends and he told me that he wasn’t asking me to marry him.
Here we are—married, partners in a business, parents of 3 daughters, and as vibrantly stubborn and idealistic as we were when we first met. I think to outsiders we may at times seem like we have it all together.
“How on earth do you guys work together?”
“I couldn’t be around my husband that often?”
“Don’t you want to hang out with the guys?”
Since that first summer at Williamstown we have had a charge that is all or nothing, passion and drive cleaving us apart as often as they cement us together. We have been called insatiable and exhausting, as we doggedly pursue the next thing, be it a kitchen renovation or a new business. It hurts because it’s true. The very force that keeps us striving toward each goal hand-in-hand is the thing that makes us expect a level of marital devotion and attention that is difficult to sustain.
When I consider it in terms of the here year that Aidan and Lindsey have created, I realize that marriage is its own animal. It isn’t like child rearing, which comes with milestones and change—nursing, diapers, and baby gates give way to pre-school, and sleeping through the night, which give way to elementary school and delicious conversations. Marriage keeps going, and sure, there are those who acknowledge that passion isn’t sustainable, that marriage softens, like the edges of glass battered between surf and sand, to a mellow state. How do you know though? How do you know if it’s settling into a relaxed place of years being together or if it’s just settling?
Two weeks ago I had this post written, not this post, actually it was another post. I shared it with my husband and he disagreed. He talked about feeling neglected. I was shattered,because the thing about marriage is that you don’t know the truth of here unless you ask. It may very well be that one person is operating under a system that gauges happiness by x, but the other is using a y tool.
The things that are still true from my first post:
These past eleven years I’ve judged myself as a woman, as a professional, and as a mother. I have never critiqued myself as a partner. That day in June was, in some ways, more finish line than starting gate.
I’m guilty of neglecting my marriage.
I don’t insist on staying late to work at it.
I don’t go out of my way to make sure that Sean and I get equal time.
I don’t imagine what I could do to make Sean feel that he is a priority for me.
I don’t fret about how we’ll look back on these years as husband and wife.
I do this for our daughters, I do it for friends, and I even do it with respect to things in our house. I read articles about being present, practicing hands-free parenting, but the headlines are ominously absent of techniques on having a happy marriage.
What I’ve learned as I have tried to be more aware of his here is this, we both measure our happiness in our marriage through attention. I desire to be recognized as a good mom and as beautiful. I want him to still have his breath taken away and to be in love with me. He wants to be seen as a good husband and to be recognized as attractive, both being demonstrated through intimacy. Sex.
I’m not sure why a good wife doesn’t come before good mom, maybe it’s that three daughters edge out one husband. My focus on our marriage has simply not been as around the clock as my mothering. I want to change that.
I want to commit to our here, to our this moment.
The song that Sean selected and secretly requested my grandfather to play at our wedding is a gentle reminder of the simple principle to keeping us sacred.
If you’re wondering what I’m asking in return, dear,
You’ll be glad to know that my demands are small.
Say it’s me that you’ll adore,
For now and evermore