Once upon a time, I worried that the best version of me was somewhere in my past. I was turning thirty and having a hard time with it. I was sure that the best of my creativity, my ambition, and my discipline were behind me. That feeling came on strong… and then went away pretty quickly (although it took me a while to realize those things weren't even the best measures of self-improvement). I’ve never once thought the same thing of Sarah. In fact, as I’ve written many, many times before, I feel like she’s ever-improving. I mean, she’s not a robot – it hasn't been a linear progression straight towards perfection – but as the years pass she keeps getting better.
What I haven’t thought of much until lately is that the same is true of us as a couple. Too often, I take our relationship for granted, largely because we’ve been together for so damn long. Our relationship has been this perpetual, comforting fixture in my life. We broke up in University for a little while, and then we had a rocky patch when we first got back together, but since then I have never once worried about us. (For those of you doing the math, that means our last rocky patch was nearly two decades ago.) Again: we are not robots. We fight, we’re short with each other, we say unloving things, but nothing has ever been said or done that would fundamentally harm our relationship.
How are we getting better? Apologies come a lot quicker – especially in recent years. We’re also more vocal in our appreciation of each other for the everyday stuff (although I’ve still got a long way to go on this). We support each other in all our big decisions. And we make one another see people with greater empathy. I knew so soon after we started dating that I loved her, and that I could be with her forever, but I had no idea what a good team we’d make.
I’ve taken the state of our relationship for granted in the past because of how we were raised. Our parents, my brother, our aunts and uncles: we were surrounded by and raised inside of strong marriages. You marry someone and that person is your best friend and you’re a team forever – that’s what we knew so it just seemed natural for it to turn out that way. But so many people don’t have that, or they had it once and lost it. In the early years of our marriage, we had a couple of friends and acquaintances split up but back then it was the rare exception. Fast forward to now and it’s becoming a commonality. But no matter how bad it is, even when it’s a couple in their sixties separating, it never makes me worry about us.
I feel very good about what we’re passing down to our kids – about relationships and how to treat your partner. I’ll say it a third time: we are not perfect. We are highly imperfect. When I go to bed at the end of a day, it’s not the parenting victories that spring to mind, it’s all the things I’ve done poorly. But as far as the example we set for our kids on what marriage should look like, we've done that well. One day they'll be grown, and if I could only wish one thing for them in life I'd wish them a marriage like ours. If my children end up with a partner like mine, they'll have everything.