After 20-some intensely busy years raising four children who were born within five short years, Tom and I are now empty nesters -- and while many weekends include a visit from at least one of our kids, we are more and more often on our own for a week or two (or more)at a time.
We realized about a week ago that, with Aleks in school in the Czech Republic, Peter away at summer school at WSU, Kat heading to a friend’s cabin for the long weekend, and Elisabeth with plans of her own, we’d be spending the three-day holiday weekend, the weekend of our 27th wedding anniversary, alone… together.
On Saturday morning, we packed our suitcases and the only “child” left at home – Shasta -- and headed to Portland for a quick, impromptu 24-hour trip.
We toured Portland’s breweries, spending an afternoon drinking beer and meeting great people…
That’s Shawn, our waiter at the Rogue Brewery and, with his keen anticipatory ESP and genuinely nice personality, quite possibly one of the best waiters we’ve ever had anywhere.
This pretzel at Deschutes Brewery was incredible! That dipping sauce is cheese sauce and sweet-spicy Dijon mustard – fabulous!
That’s authentic Polish kielbasa and perogi – delicious!
Our anniversary dinner – or rather, the lava cake dessert, at The Chart House.
(I’m beginning to realize that our trip centered largely around food!)
On Sunday we headed back to Seattle in the typical drizzly Pacific Northwest weather, arriving home early in the evening, with another whole day of the holiday weekend ahead of us. We decided to watch a movie together and settled on Valentine’s Day, a romantic comedy. I’m sure Tom would have rather watched a movie with explosions, car chases, and boobs, but he was happy to oblige when I suggested something a bit less testosterone-laden.
True to form and completely and totally beyond my control, I fell asleep at least 23 times during the two hour movie, waking up enough to apologize for insisting on a movie and then sleeping through it – to which Tom just nodded knowingly.
At one point, I woke up to hear someone (Ashton Kutcher?) say to someone else (Jennifer Gardner) something about “marrying your best friend.”
‘Yup,’ I remember thinking before nodding off again, ‘marrying your best friend really is the secret.’
Marry your best friend… marry your best friend. As I half-dozed, the phrase danced in my head, and I mulled it around and pondered it – half awake and half dreaming.
As the credits rolled, I apologized again for sleeping through the movie, then kissed Tom goodnight, saying I had to go to bed, that I couldn’t stay up one second longer. He jokingly commented that he knows me well enough after all these years to expect nothing different.
Marry your best friend.
As I sleepily headed upstairs I realized that this is the secret to our very busy, family-oriented first 27 years together – and that this is what will see us through the much calmer, much quieter next 27 years of marriage (should we be so lucky).
I married my best friend – someone who shares almost all of my core values and philosophies, from child rearing to home decor to politics. In this regard, we are of one mind. Interestingly, though, Tom’s basic personality, as well as his hobbies and interests, are totally different from mine. In that regard, we are yin and yang.
Being best friends who are looking at another 27 (relatively quiet, childless) years together, we decided to go look at one of these today:
So if my kids (or anyone else) should ask me the secret to a good marriage and the secret to actually wanting to spend days or weeks on end with someone in 86 square feet of space, I’d tell them what I’ve learned, not only in the past 30-some years of knowing Tom, but in the past 3 or so months of working at The Gottman Relationship Institute. I’d tell them the same thing that my “boss,” Dr. John Gottman has learned in his 30-some years of doing research on relationships: friendship is paramount. All the other stuff – passion and dreams and goals – are really, really important, but a foundation in true friendship and really enjoying your partner’s company most of the time is what everything else in a relationship is built on, and if you don’t have that, it’s much more challenging to move together smoothly among the stages of life, from courtship to marriage to family to empty nesting and beyond.
We’re approaching the “beyond” stage now. Twenty-seven years ago, I thought of people at this stage of life, and in this stage of a relationship, as OLD and boring. Now I know that, although we might be approaching (gasp!) old (but please, NOT boring!), we’re still married and still best friends and nothing can be better than that.