“Do you agree with Nietszche’s quote: ‘Love is blind; friendship closes its eyes’?”
Oops, I missed a day. Oddly, it was a day on which not a lot was happening. Go figure.
First, let me say that I really hate that I do agree with Nietzsche’s quote – I hate agreeing with Nietzsche about anything, developer of Nazi philosophy as he was (and yes, I’m aware that he was unaware of that himself. But from him we have the idea of Superman (Uebermensch) and Untermensch, sub-human, and, well, we all know enough about Nazism for me to need to go into it more than that. Eww).
But I’ll make an exception in this case, because frankly, there’s nothing like long-term marriage to convince you of its truth.
You know how it is when you fall in love. The one you love can literally do no wrong. People who fall in love with abusers will make all kinds of excuses for their abominable behavior, and even those of us who fall in love with perfectly reasonable human beings think they are just the most perfect people who ever walked the earth. Even when that becomes pretty obviously not the case, a certain element of it remains through courtship, engagement, and marriage.
It doesn’t take long for reality to set in. A happily-married couple I know was talking about a party they had attended, where someone asked the husband, “How long have you been married?” The husband responded, “We’ve had nine wonderful years together.” After they left the party, the wife said, “Dear, have you forgotten that we’ve been married ten years?” And the husband responded, “Dear, have you forgotten that first year? That was not wonderful.” The wife, laughing, went on to explain that when they got married, she had been living at home with her parents (college having been within commuting distance), and he had been living in a frat house. It’s been over 25 years and they’re still married, so I guess they worked that one out.
Elsewhere on this blog – I think I called it “A Tale of Two Planets” – I’ve talked about the disparity of an only child’s being married to someone from a large family. We both had some adjusting to do, and have had to make adjustments throughout our marriage, even now, in retirement. Retirement can be stressful for both partners; one or the other is suddenly cut loose from the moorings of a lifetime, and the stay-at-home spouse, if there was one – I was – has grown accustomed to a certain routine that suddenly needs massive tweaking. It’s almost as bad as having a new baby in the house, except at least this new “baby” can speak up.
After 43 years of marriage, such as we have had, you simply can’t close your eyes anymore, especially not to the fact that the person you married so long ago has grown old. There’s no way around that. But there is a way through it, and through all the other vicissitudes of the unique Friendship that a long-term marriage is: We laugh.
By now, I’ve grown accustomed to the fact that it’s impossible for my husband simply to walk out the door, if he’s going anyplace. He needs at least fifteen minutes’ worth of separation time, from the time he says he’s leaving until he’s actually out the door and on his way. When it gets too exasperating, I’ll start to laugh, and make some kind of comment about Poky Little Puppy. He shakes his head in embarrassment that I know him so well, and moves a little faster.
By now, he’s grown accustomed to my woolly-headedness. I’m not exactly scatter-brained, but from a lifetime of dealing with kids and their simultaneous needs, I usually have at least four separate trains of thought running through my head all at once, and will jump from one topic to another with the ease of the Flying Wallendas. And he starts to laugh, and makes a comment about my sheepish wool-gathering. Sometimes one or the other of us makes such funny observations that we both collapse laughing.
It’s a unique way of closing your eyes to the “faults” of the other. It actually opens your eyes to your own “faults” – and helps you realize that those “faults” aren’t faults at all, just idiosyncrasies that make the person you love – the person you love most in the world.