Thank You Jonathan Price

The walls were institutional green and smoke danced in slivers of sunlight that peeked in between the horizontal window blinds. The room was littered with twill-covered sofas and coffee tables were dotted with soda cans, some of which the tabs were broken off in the unspoken symbol of ashtray improvisation. It was the smoking lounge of Polytechnic University in Brooklyn where I heard the best pick-up line ever: “You know no one ever learned how to be a technical writer by reading a book.” I know, makes the knees weak, doesn’t it? I guess you had to be there, twenty years ago when I sat on one of those rough-worn sofas, warily eying my soda can, reading, “How To Write a Computer Manual: A Handbook of Software Documentation” by Jonathan Price.

I had just transferred to the college from a journalism program in hopes of getting serious about my education and future. It turns out that it was serious because that day my future husband walked in to that lounge; and, even though we were both involved with others at the time, we have been together—as friends, dating, business partners, and man and wife—ever since. Our 22nd wedding anniversary is days away and I always become reflective about how quickly the years have passed and where our lives have taken us or where we will go from here. But mostly I get nostalgic and remember how my husband still appears to me like that confident young man with thick, wavy hair, amber-flecked brown eyes, and dimpled chin who walked into the lounge with his khaki pants, yellow button-down shirt, and tan loafers. And our first “date” where I let him talk for at least 15 minutes before pointing out he had pizza sauce on his forehead because he looked so cute with it I didn’t want him to remove it too soon. Or the day he was showing off in front of the multitudes of male engineering students flitting about me (one of thirty female students) by setting the lounge wall on fire with his brass Zippo© lighter. And I look to our recent years filled with pain of losing parents and friends, cancer scares and miscarriages, and joy of driving the entire California coast or snorkeling for the first time together.

I wear the years I have shared with my spouse like a badge of pride, mostly because I am proud of the work we have done to make the marriage work, and also because of the extremely high divorce rate. But what if a fifty-percent success rate at marriage is good? I mean, if you were in Las Vegas, you would take those odds. And, given how long people are living, the general stress and pressure that comes with modern life, and how big the population has become (my theory being that the more of something there is the more of something different you want, like the feeling you get wandering the soap aisle of your supermarket), a fifty-fifty chance that you will stay married isn’t a bad thing. I think that marriage is the easiest hard work I have ever done. Marriage is hard work period. Anyone who tells you different (or doesn’t tell you how hard it is) is probably not doing much to make theirs a happy marriage. You see, my husband makes it easy because he is my best friend. We were friends before anything else, and that adds a dimension to the relationship that might be missing in some marriages.

Think about it: You can put up with a lot from a friend and never think of divorcing a friend. Though you may have some you have broken off with or drifted apart from over the years. I am also lucky because Julian has an amazing attitude towards women: He believes we can do anything. So he empowers me to try anything I can imagine, shows up and pulls through for all the tough stuff to help me make it happen, encourages me to stick with things that are in my best interest not his or ours, suffers many a tear-soaked shirt when I fail, and knows how to wait just the right amount of time before nudging me in the direction of a new course. Aside from support, my marriage is graced with respect. Julian appears to be my number one fan by the way I have heard him (and have other people tell me he does this when I am not around), boast about me and my accomplishments. Sometimes I get nervous about this fortunate marriage, and wonder “Why Us?” And I think to others I know who do have good and happy marriages, and it seems we have a lot of the following rules and actions in place:

  • Treat each other with respect: If I didn’t think my spouse was competent, resourceful and a valuable member of society, I would not have married him. So why don’t people realize how badly it reflects on them to belittle and speak badly about their spouse?
  • Share things openly without agenda: If I want or need something I tell him. If I have screwed something up, I tell him. If I am disappointed or disagree with something he has done, I tell him. Manipulation is a passive form of control, and I simply do not feel out of control in our marriage so I have no need to manipulate.
  • Trust each other completely: I could not live a moment in a marriage where there was not complete trust over everything we share—money, sex, food, fears, hates, likes, everything.
  • Never keep score: I do not care who has taken the trash out more or emptied the dishwasher. We believe this is a partnership. We share a life and a home and all the nonsense that comes with life and work and home. Things are fifty-fifty most of the time; but, we have an understanding that there will be times when one of us will pull the weight a little be more.
  • Talk and talk and talk some more: This seems to help all the above-mentioned problems. Tell your spouse what you want and need and what is wrong and why and how to help. Tell them again if they don’t get it the first time. Draw pictures if necessary. If your spouse still doesn’t get it, then get help. Find a neutral person in front of who the two of you can talk. This should be someone who knows you both (not the wife’s physical trainer nor the husband’s softball buddy) like a good, old friend or older relative. This should be someone who can translate what you are both needed to say but maybe just can hear it or say it.
  • Never give up: I have seen people stick through horrendous things at a job, with their siblings or other blood relations, and in a casual sports game; but, when it comes to their marriage they don’t apply the same tenacity. A marriage isn’t a relationship that exists in addition to your family and friends, it should be the main relationship supported by your family and friends. I always half-joke with Julian that only one of us is going to make it out of this marriage!

Do we have fights and troubles? Whenever they are necessary and with an unspoken understanding of the following:

  • We remember that we want to stay married: A sure fire way to end a fight is to ask yourself whether you want to be right or if you want to be happy.
  • We never fight in public: It’s gross for everyone involved.
  • We fight fair: No name calling, no screaming and nothing physical (we found that cell phones do not survive a trip across the room into a wall).
My husband has taught me unconditional love. He has been patient through many of my tribulations and has never criticized, nor caused me to fear he would break off the marriage, because I had gained forty pounds (and thankfully never brought it up when I lost the weight) or quit jobs after three days or have been fraught with a multitude of chronic illnesses that have ruined vacations and kept us up at night.

My favorite example of this took place on one trip to Aruba. We watched a very happy couple stroll to the shore. When they reached the water’s edge, she sat down and removed her prosthetic leg. He picker her up in a honeymooners-across-the-threshold fashion and carried her into the water where he supported her as they swam and laughed and kissed. Julian turned to me and said, “I love you like that, and wouldn’t care how sick you ever got or how bad things ever got. I would still love you.” And he has. And he has made it easier to grow older because we will are doing it together (and hopefully will continue to for a very long time). Twenty two years? Piece of cake when you spend it with your best friend.

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