My wife and I celebrated our 19th anniversary in Santa Fe under blue skies and warm sun. Nineteen years does not seem like a long time in the face of the many couples we have seen in the struggle for marriage equality. James Obergefell and John Arthur had been together for two decades when Arthur died. Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon had been together for 52 years when Gavin Newsom married them on February 12, 2004. Barbara Grier and Donna McBride celebrated 40 years together when Grier died in 2011. Edie Windsor and Thea Spyer spent four decades together before they were married in 2007. For me, these couples have demonstrated a commitment to the long haul.
Yet 19 years represents most of my adult life. Still, I am cautious about telling anyone about the longevity of my relationship. Each day feels like a gift. I do not want to brag, and, more importantly, I do not want to jinx our happiness. When a dear friend asked me to officiate when he married his bride, I only agreed when it was clear I would not be called to dispense advice as a part of the ceremony.
Since June, however, I have been thinking about longevity in relationships. What helps us wake up each day and continue our relationship together? What binds us to one another? What helps us, besides the marriage license, now recognized in every state in the union, to imagine 25, 30, 40 years together? While I do not have good, concrete answers, these four observations suggest how we have woven the first 19 years -- and how we might continue to knit the next 19.
1. Embrace change. The love of my life today is, in some ways, the same woman I met 20 years ago: smart, political, ambitious, determined. In other ways, she is a very different person. She did not cry during our first five years together; now she tears up at sappy commercials. She is both wiser today and more jaded. Life happens; we grow and change. She would probably say the same about me.
2. Swap tasks. If you have not noticed yet, life is a lot of daily work. Strive to share it, and share it equally. For the first half of our relationship, my beloved handled the finances, paying bills, organizing our household paperwork. For the second half, I have handled the finances. We both do laundry. Sometimes one does more than another for a spell. She primarily does food preparation; I clean the kitchen. We switch things up when they become too mundane.
3. Love carefully. We began our relationship without a care in the world. Our chemistry filled our hearts and minds with kindness and love and desire. After a spell, however, care must return. Love requires it. Watch for actions that cannot be undone. Beware harsh words. Be generous -- and seek generosity. Love is both the daily water glass and the Waterford crystal goblet; both need care to carry love and nourishment to our lips.
4. Share big plans. We both have bucket lists, which include shared and individual activities. We share our bucket list items with one another and pursue them relentlessly. But to actually cross things off our bucket lists required a strategy, which is why 10 years ago we went to a financial planner to develop a retirement plan. We have a financial vision and concrete plan to pursue our dreams and desires in retirement. We revisit it every year, benchmarking our savings to the initial plan and our regular updates. With our big plans aligned, daily deviations seem minor.
Not every day of the past 19 years has been blue skies and warm sun, like we had on our latest anniversary, in September, but I always know how to find blue skies and warm sun on days when it is dark and rainy: embrace change, swap tasks, love carefully and share big plans. Here's to big love and weaving longevity!
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