Thursday, August 11, 2011

Our Lives Together

Monday, August 8 was my 27th wedding anniversary.   My wife Kathy and I met at Stanford on September 1, 1980, so we've been together for 31 years.  That means that we've spent two-thirds of our lives on this planet together.   We've been collaborators, soul mates,  homeowners, parents, and friends together.   For three decades, our relationship has just worked.   Here's why.

My entire life has been math/science/engineering - digital, white and black, linear, orderly, and left-brained.

Kathy's entire life has been the visual arts/humanities/creativity - analog, splashes of color, wabi sabi, Victorian clutter, and right-brained.

Our talents are entirely different, our approaches complementary, and we never compete on any level.

In our 20's we were vigorous hiking partners and built a home together.

In our 30's we focused on raising a young child.

In our 40's we created stability by planning for the future, caring for our parents, and preparing our child to leave the nest.

In our 50's we're likely to travel, create, and tend our garden together.

In our 60's and beyond we're likely to create a Japanese inspired wilderness retreat to serve as a home base between experiences around the world that are part of our work lives, volunteer lives, and personal lives.

We've evolved together and continue to expand and refine our relationship every day.

When I read literature from the scientific and lay press about the "seven year itch", it makes me realize that needs change, people change, and relationships need to change over time if they are going to last.

In your 20's you're likely at the peak of your physical life with more endurance, strength, and biological resilience than any other era.   You can climb mountains and if you fall you bounce.

In your 40's, you're likely to be at the peak of your mental life with more experience, intellectual agility, and intuition than any other era.   You can climb mountains, but if you fall you break.   You're more likely focused on your 401k than your surfboard.

In your 60's you're likely to be at the peak of your financial life with more savings, more earning, and stability than any other area.   If you've kept up your workouts and managed your diet, you can climb mountains, but if you fall, you shatter.   You're more likely to be focused on supporting your children and aging parents, than thinking about a bleached blonde in a red convertible (unless you're a Congressman…)

If you and your partner are perfect for each other in your 20's, you may not be perfect in your 60's unless you adapt to your changing bodies, changing needs, and changing abilities together.

Kathy and I have been able to do that.

We've always treated each other as equals - there has never been a superior/subordinate aspects to our home lives, work lives, or family lives.   Our division of labor is not cast in stone, it remains fluid based on the schedule and needs of each day.  We share housework, we share parenting responsibilities, and we support each other's career.

Of course, we've had stress, anxiety, joy, sadness, and conflict along the way, that's life.  But we've been able to weather the challenges, relish the successes, and treat each other fairly along the way.

This month we become empty nesters as our daughter begins her college life at Tufts on August 31.   The house will seem quieter, the schedules will change, and our roles will need to evolve again as we focus more time on each other and our careers while our daughter becomes increasingly independent.   It's another risky time for relationships.

But we'll navigate the transition, overcome the sense of loss, and plan our future together.

Given human life expectancy, we're likely to live another 31 years (I'm using Japan rather than US because our diet and lifestyle are distinctly Japanese).   That means that Kathy and I are only halfway through our life together.

Happy Anniversary, Kathy.  The second half of our time together will be even better than the first.   I love you and always will.

1 comment:

brelfielfan said...

I appreciated this post. I RSS your feed and usually learn something every read. I'm in my 30s and happily married for 5 years, you've given me some things to think about to make my marriage last as long as yours.