We did a lot of things wrong, but we did some important things right. We jumped into marriage, not by marrying too soon, but by deciding to engage too soon and then refusing to consider whether we should re-think marriage. But we got away with it.
We bought a tumbledown money-pit of a house that is now our only debt, and proceeded to demolish a bunch of it and then bog down when we tried to get it renovated. But we got away with it.
Instead of paying back our school loans immediately, we went into debt to buy that house and a car and some appliances. It took us years to pay all that off, but we got away with it.
Then we adopted twins with severe learning and emotional disabilities brought on by years of abuse and neglect followed by years of sliding out of one foster home and into the next--twins whose abusive biological mother is a member of our family and thus could never be completely escaped. We knew we were accepting that there would be a strain on our marriage, but I don't think we had any way to conceive of how bad it would get. I know I didn't. But those twins are turning 18 in a couple of days, and although there are still big problems, there's reason to believe we may have gotten away with it, even though, in a stunning display of hubris, we added a third child seven years ago, because why not?
We've gotten away with all those things so far because we did a few big things right. We reached a decision point a few years ago, and we recognized it for what it was. We knew that we either had to be willing to change or to accept that the marriage was over. We chose to change. We consulted with professionals. We learned to talk to each other in new ways. We learned to share with each other the way Seneca told Lucilius to behave with a real friend, holding nothing back:
“Why should I keep back anything when I’m with a friend? Why shouldn’t I imagine I’m alone when I’m in his company?”
We paid off our debt (except that mortgage that keeps hanging in there) and decided not to take any more on. We've stuck by that for years now. We're slowly starting the process of finishing the renovation of our money pit, with much-simplified, much-less-ambitious versions of our original plans. We'll be renovating with an eye toward simple livability in order to sell the house for a profit in a few years and move. And the twins are . . . . well, the jury's still out on that one, but we're entering a new phase. One is looking for a job today; he's put himself in a tough position, but he graduated from high school and he's decided not to run away and be homeless when he turns 18, and that's something. The other will be moving out on his birthday to live with his biological mother. That's terrifying to us, but . . . it's his decision in the truest sense. We can't stop him and we can't take the consequences for him. And that's really it. We've put in the work and time to create spaces in our life that are for the two of us alone. They aren't much, but they've kept us together. They've been enough to remind us, when we need it, that we love each other and neither of us is willing to let this experience end.
So, for today, I'm not going to worry about it. Today I'm going to celebrate this woman who loves me so much. We're going to enjoy each other. We're going to enjoy our children today. We're going to have fun together. I'm going to make her laugh! And she will know that she is loved and safe and appreciated.