Today marks my 19th wedding anniversary to the lovely, savvy, sophisticated, beautiful Catherine Pearlman—the best person I know and the only human alive who would tolerate my uncut toenails for nearly two decades.
When you’ve been married this long, people start asking about the keys. What are the keys to a happy marriage? How do you survive without killing one another? What’s the difference between a good marriage and a great marriage?
My reply: Luck.
I mean that: Luck.
Luck. Luck. Luck.
With some exception, people get hitched when they’re young. You’re in your 20s or early 30s, all excited and giddy. You do the whole one-knee ring thing, then you call all your relatives, then you plan a 150-person event that costs way more money than intelligent life can justify. You concern yourself with chicken or steak; with this person sitting at that table; with band or DJ; with an ice cream bar or just cake. Then—when the $100,000 four hours come to an end—you fly off to a honeymoon. You’re in the sun, drinks a flowin’, love in the air. Everyone gets excited, because you’re a young couple with a limitless future and an abundance of hope.
But here’s the catch: The wedding, the honeymoon, the youth—they’re all fleeting mirages. You don’t know one another so well. You have yet to encounter legit crisis situations. You’re worried about dish patterns, not a death in the family, or financial hardship, or a 400,000-dead pandemic.
Again—it all comes down to luck.
I got preposterously lucky. The person I chose to marry (and the person who chose to marry me) is a once-in-a-lifetime gem. She’s big-hearted, compassionate, generous. She’s as competent as any human who walks the planet. She repairs stuff when it breaks. She cooks like Julia Child. She donated her kidney to a complete stranger. She’s the mother of the century.
Best of all (and most important of all), we’ve grown together. We’re not the same people we were 19 years ago, but we’ve moved in the same direction. Through two kids, two dogs (RIP, Norma), a move from New York to California, different jobs and books and career paths—we’ve maintained genuine love and understanding. I still wake up mornings anxious to look at Catherine’s face. I still come home from trips (when there were trips) anxious to tell her what I found. I want to know what she’s thinking about; what she’s feeling. It excites me. All these years in.
These past 10 months have been a beast. It’s the test of all marital tests—how would you survive if you were with your spouse (and children) every … single… day, sans break?
Answer: With the same feelings I felt for Catherine 19 years ago.
When I was young and foolish and madly in love.