November 2004

Happily ever after – right?

By Suzanne Strazza

I had breakfast recently with a friend who is in the throes of her first year of marriage. “It’s a living hell,” I sympathetically told her. “No one ever tells you that until after you’re married, but we all know it.” Maybe if we were warned in advance, no one would ever take the plunge.

So much for the fantasy of meet the great guy, fall in love, beautiful ring, amazing white wedding etc. I guess “Cinderella” wouldn’t have been such a hit if they showed that she and Prince Charming (isn’t he the guy that also married Snow White?) fought like cats and dogs over paying the bills and that she still scrubbed toilets — she just traded the two ugly stepsisters for a slob of a husband.

Here’s how my fantasy turned out. I was living with a guy whom I clearly was not in love with when Tom came through town and we fell in love. We moved in together and shortly thereafter, because I came home late one day, I screwed up a carefully choreographed proposal, causing Tom to chicken out. When he did get up the nerve again, he told me there was something for me in his briefcase. After tearing through the piles of boring work papers, I finally found the card in which he had written “Will you Marry Me?” Obviously I said yes.

Instead of the huge wedding, we had a potluck, in the mountains, in May, in the snow. Looking back, I realize I hated my dress.

I spent almost every day of the first year wondering what the hell I had done with my life and how I was ever going to fix a mistake this big. Then we had our first anniversary (for which we were not together, due to conflicting work schedules) and things slowly (very) started to get better. We’ve moved on to remodeling a house, having babies, making job transitions and shopping at Wal-Mart. But still, throughout the years, there have been times when we flat-out hated each other.

There have been ill omens all along the way that I have chosen to ignore – most of them creating the “Ring Saga.”

It started when I went to a jeweler where we lived at the time to talk about engagement rings for both of us (we’re very groovy). Well, after sharing ideas she assured me that she could do exactly what we wanted, just like she had for that nice couple, Tom and. . . (my Tom and his ex-wife). But that was only the beginning.

Part of our wedding ceremony involved making our own ring (we had a blacksmith officiating). When it came time for me to make Tom’s, it broke. Then it turned out that I was allergic to mine – it made my finger bleed, so I got another one that broke, then one from Wal-Mart that turned green, and finally, one day I found one on my own that works just great.

Tom’s, after we got it fixed, was just fine until in the heat of an argument, he threw it at me. Not to be outdone, I threw it back and watched it bounce off a truck into a talus field next to the Animas River.

Gone.

Now he wears one that he got for free at a folk festival.

So I shared this with my friend and I tell anyone else I know who is just married or getting married. Marriage is hard, often it’s miserable. But the times when it is good are still outweighing the bad for us (right, Tom?).

Another thing to know, when you feel like you and your spouse are gigantic failures, is that no matter what anyone’s relationship looks like from the outside, they have their blood and guts on the inside too. I do not have one single married friend who hasn’t considered divorce, if not murder. If anyone says otherwise, he or she is a big fat liar.

The thing that has kept us going is being able to laugh at ourselves (and sometimes each other, behind our backs). I never thought it would happen, but we can even tease each other about the throwing of the ring.

This is our 10th year of marriage – pretty impressive for a divorced man and a woman who had never stayed with anyone for more than six months. So if we can do it, so can anyone.

Suzanne Strazza writes from Mancos.