Beating the odds
My husband, Roger, and I celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary last week. Statistically speaking, we’re a marital miracle.
The divorce rate for first marriages is reportedly between 40 and 50 percent. But for second marriages, in which at least one of the spouses has been married once before, the rate jumps to between 60 and 67 percent. We have managed, thus far, to beat the odds.
The biggest challenge in our marriage has come from outside influences. We call this threat “offspring,” and as any couple feebly attempting to blend families will tell you, this is the primary reason second marriages go South. At best, blending a family is difficult; at worst, it’s dangerous.
Ever watch a blender work? Put a whole vegetable into a blender and it comes out mush. Toss your family into a blender and the results are often similar. People get emotionally hurled around. Who among us really wants to be pureed into a family?
The Brady Bunch we are not, and the harsh truth is, I’m no longer hopeful that we’re ever going to be. Sometimes our kids don’t like each other, sometimes our kids don’t like us, and sometimes, our kids don’t appear to know what they like.
If four of our six kids are present in the same room on a holiday, we consider the celebration a wild success. If five of the six children make it, we consider it an act of God. I’m not sure what we would call it if all six kids came together at once; the only time it ever happened was at our wedding and even then, one child fled prior to the reception.
Valerie J. Lewis Coleman said that step parenting is like working at a late-night convenience store – all of the responsibility and none of the authority. I’d take the analogy a step further and add that the late-night convenience store is frequently burglarized, the clerk is routinely assaulted and workman’s compensation benefits do not apply.
In the last five, there has not been a single year when one of our kids has not either moved out or moved back in. In one case, Roger lamented, “They move out. Then they come back, and they bring more people with them.”
We used to talk about the trips we’d take once we were empty nesters. Now we realize, enemy combatants have overrun the nest. We aren’t getting it back. Ever. The only place we’re headed is the morgue.
It wouldn’t be easy for a traditional couple to raise six teenagers; it’s been even harder for us. I’d be lying if I said it hasn’t put a strain on us at times. However, I’d be unfair if I led anyone to believe that those stressors have defined our half-decade of marriage.
Most of the last five years have been easy. Having both gone through ugly divorces, neither of us is looking for a fight. Overall, it’s a peaceful union. We enjoy each other’s company, and we laugh a lot.
He’s not perfect by any means. He doesn’t cook and clean, but then again, neither do I, so that’s just one more thing we have in common.
There are additional minor annoyances. For instance, Roger was rifling through a stack of old mail the other night when he randomly shouted, “Somehow, my mail keeps getting opened! I thought we talked about this!”
Oh, we talked about it, alright. The last time I opened “his” mail – a bill that I would later pay – he threatened me with federal mail tampering charges. (I said neither of us were looking for a fight; I did not say that neither of us had baggage. We had a similar altercation early on in our marriage when I foolishly put lavender vanilla fabric softener in a load of his underwear.)
The truth was, although he was wildly pointing the finger of blame, I hadn’t touched his stupid mail. He had opened it himself a few weeks prior but could no longer remember doing it. I was insulted and told him as much, demanding he apologize. It had been so long since either of us had done something we needed to be remorseful for that it caught him off guard.
“I’m sorry, dear,” he said tenderly, genuinely repentant.
Turns out, every once in awhile, love IS having to say you’re sorry. In fact, maybe that’s the key to longevity in a relationship.
Roger won’t agree. He’s usually a little stingy with his apologies, so if you ask him, he’ll chalk the success of any happy union – ours included – up to his three main relationship philosophies:
1. Happy wife, happy life.
2. You can be right, or you can be happy.
3. Marry a woman who has less teeth than you’ve got, shall we say, tush.
Notice the common theme. Vilified and flagellated husband maintains marital “bliss” by continually caving to antagonistic, oppressive wife’s exigencies. I don’t know what Dr. Phil would have to say about Roger’s contention that marriage is, above all, a game of survival. If he spent any time analyzing his patient, he’d probably reach the same conclusion most people who know Roger have: he talks a good game, but he’s soft in the center.
Thankfully, I landed a guy who – for whatever reasons - doesn’t watch televised sports, changes the toilet paper roll independently and doesn’t squeeze the toothpaste in the middle of the tube. On top of that, he checks my oil and my brakes regularly, and I happen to find that pretty sexy.
In spite of the trials and tribulations of raising teenagers and the added trauma of a marital merger, Roger has stuck it out – thick or thin, hell or high water, for better or for worse. In every way, Roger Lee Wright has honored his wedding vows.
After five years, there’s still nobody I’d rather ride this roller coaster with – especially now that I know the chances of ever getting off this backward, triple-inversion scream machine are slim-to-none.
(Staci Ann Wilson Wright lives and teaches in Fairfield. She is a summer Ledger staff writer.)