On December 27th we celebrated our ninth anniversary. It has been nine years since we walked out, thinner and younger and much more idealistic, onto the front steps of the church I belonged to all my life, and blinked in the December sunshine, starting our new life together. I love my husband dearly, but in these nine years I have sometimes wondered how married people could say that they loved their spouses more than they did on their wedding day. Because marriage is hard, and how could the love sustaining years of marriage compare to the gleaming romance of a bride and groom, resplendent in their most beautiful clothes and blissfully ignorant of all the hardships and sorrows and fights and dirty diapers and home improvement disasters to come?

But in the last year I have looked at my husband, on car rides and home movie nights and family marches through the zoo and dark evenings when he comes home laden with groceries, and known that I do love him more than I did on that shining day and in a dress that no longer fits. All that has come to us, in the nine intervening years, has left behind a love that is deeper, graver, more knowledgeable and more grateful.

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I struggle to know what to say about anniversaries. I think hard about my words, and it doesn’t feel right to post a cheery facebook status about “nine wonderful years”. They haven’t all been wonderful years: they are studded with happy memories, but also laced with the ache of stubborn struggles. In the early years, I wanted to scream when people remarked casually about what a honeymoon the first few years of marriage are. Maybe some marriages feature that, but ours certainly didn’t. We had a moment of enlightenment, a couple of years ago, when it occurred to us that we both came to our marriage with firm wills and strong personalities, used to getting our own way and stunned when intelligent people disagreed with us. It’s a volatile combination. We have mellowed, I think–learned to roll our eyes and move on, to not make a soul-searching and life-evaluating episode out of everything, and perhaps, perhaps, just maybe to give up trying to cram the other person into our ideal mold.

So these have been nine good years, in what they have brought about. I trust they open onto many more years that will be even better, building on this foundation. After nine years, it feels like there is solid ground under our feet. Not freedom from turmoil and not, especially in the last year, the absence of tears–but a place to stand together.

So happy anniversary, my dear, whom I love more today than I did then.

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