en years. It doesn’t feel like 10 years. Tomorrow, April 28, I will have been married to Richard for a decade. It may sound like forever to some, in light especially of my husband’s showbiz profession, where a lot of sparkling unions happen and fade almost as quickly as they start. It apparently sounds ancient, too, for our daughter who laments that she is only seven yet her daddy and I have been together for 10 years. ‘That long,” she looks at me in disbelief when I tell her. “Bigger than me?” she asks, her eyes wide (by that I guess she means it in the context of time). “No fair,” she goes on, “Why did you not wait for me?” And she holds up three chubby fingers to show that she was obviously not in three years out of the ten. She feels left out.
Sometimes when we are playing and spending time together and she is so happy with whatever it is we are doing, she wonders out loud, “Mommy, why were you and Daddy born earlier than me?” Sana daw I was still as small as her, so I could wear her clothes and she mine. That way, too, her Daddy’s steps will not be too big compared to hers, and she will be able to finally catch him when they play habulan and she is taya.
We have a funny daughter, she always cracks me up. And she has given me, us, so much joy. The past ten years have been just that, too, joyful. Oh sure, it was not all just happy times, there were hills and valleys, many good days and some bad, but the greater chunk has been quite lovely.
As a 23 year-old bride, I must admit that I wore rose-colored glasses. I knew marriage would be a dance I did not know the steps to, but I was more than willing to learn and enjoy the choreography, as it would be revealed to me. My rosy view could be attributed perhaps to one of two things, or maybe even both: I am a hopeless romantic and I grew up in a home cocooned by a solid family life. But let it be said that I was not naïve about the harsher realities the world had to offer. I knew that people fell in love, but so too could they fall out of it. I not only knew that promises were made, I acknowledged that they could be broken as well. Hope being such a positive thing and all I was privy to far too many sad love stories, from real people and books, to easily understand that even the best of intentions, the most positive emotions, will not always be enough to make a marriage.
Yes I was young, obtuse even (maybe) as all young people in love are at some point, but that can be a beautiful feeling to have when you are treading unfamiliar shores, with the person you tied your heart to beside you and little more than great love and a whole lot of hope. The world becomes your oyster and your whole life is wonderfully ahead of you.
The four things about ever-after that I was made to believe when I was in my teens:
1. You never marry your dream man.
2. The honeymoon will be over in three years.
3. That somewhere between the 3rd and 7th year you begin to roll your eyes at your spouse.
4. That the magic will stop.
I say not true on all four counts. I refuse to believe that something as beautiful as a love story that culminated in marriage can be sectioned in a time frame, and with deteriorating returns no less. The facts are: I did marry my dream man (literally and figuratively), the honeymoon is far from over even after 10 years, and, well you sometimes roll your eyes but almost always out of frustration, not irritation over the small things he does. Lastly, the magic does not stop. Unless you want it to.
Ten years after we each said ‘I do’, I like where Richard and I are in our relationship, as husband and wife. We have grown a lot, the relationship has matured, to say the least. It is no longer the giddy kind of love that marked the first few years. Sure he still takes my breath away when he walks into a crowded room, he still makes me blush, and he has a way of making me feel like an entirely new person after four hugs, but it is now so much more than just that. It is a love that is no longer giddy, in its stead is a stoutness and solidity that is soothing. I am very grateful for that.
A marriage is romantic (if you constantly work on it) but it is also functional, and it unfolds like flowers in the garden, in the daily grind of life. There are always little surprises to be had here and there. That said, I now know it really is the small things that matter most so, yes, I say pay attention to them. I make a mental note of that to myself often and much. There are never enough hours in a day and that nudges me gently to always live in the moment. Every day you remember to love, and then loving just becomes easier even if it was never even hard to begin with. My marriage is, for me, a safe haven upon which personal and individual growth is encouraged and celebrated, even as our life as one is nurtured and respected.
I sometimes wish I could say I married my best friend, but I can’t because I didn’t. It was a whirlwind romance, less than a year in the making, inclusive of the four months from the proposal to the wedding. I married my dream man, simple as that, a guy I had a crush on since I was in Grade 6 and he was singing to Maricel Soriano in the movie Inday Bote. The best friend part did not happen until much later, a title added to lover, husband, partner.
He is still the same person I met ten years ago but because I know him better now, there are just more things about him to love. I married a man who really knows his way around the kitchen, who never throws away pictures and buys me hiphop abs videos from ShopTV, who is terrified of cockroaches, but is friends with lizards and dogs. I married a man who has simple joys, a person good to his friends, loving to me, and who thinks the world of our daughter.
We learn from each other. I teach him to be patient, he has taught me how to deal with disappointment when things don’t go my way. The latter is something I struggle with greatly but which he can deal with so easily. I have a tendency to steep in my feelings while he can easily let go. ‘Lilipas din yan, honey’ he will tell me, after which he will most likely proceed to do his trademark offbeat, crazy dance step in an attempt to make me laugh. It works all the time and I have laughed many times through my tears and my pain. I teach him to pray, he teaches me to move and make things happen even as I pray. He is an action man and I am learning, slowly but surely, how to be an action woman.
He has not once tried to mold me into someone I am not and I am thankful for that. My husband has figured out that I am hopelessly low-tech, that I am not entirely and viably human before 12 a.m., and that it takes me a long time to dress up. I like to take my time while he is always rushing. He knows I will never be a goddess in the kitchen, cooking sexily like Guada and Nigella and even Rachael. But he allows me to bloom and pursue my interests and encourages me to be the best that I can be.
It is always more dramatic to write about pain and sorrow and anguished twists and plots but sharing happy news is, well, just happy. I know not all people dream of and believe in lasting love and happy-ever-after, and by saying that I am not smug nor do I think we are so much better people than most others because that is what we are enjoying in our relationship now. But given all that I have experienced, the good and bad days in my marriage all in, I do and I will because I have every reason to. I have 10 years to back me up, I have the same 10 years to carry me through the next 10, 20, 30, 40. Yes, even if we continue to be our flawed, imperfect selves. The ties that bind us are strong, and shall continue to be, as long as we never forget to love and stay in love. Love simplifies a lot of things.
There has never been a day that I wasn’t grateful that we found our way to each other.
I do not have to think of things that might have been because I already have it here with me now. I am living my ‘could have been’. I believe that when you are with the one you are meant to be with, you will find love and reason for it even if it hid itself in your coffee.
There are thoughts that you allow to circle your mind slowly, and from time to time only, and there are those you carry all the way through. Love will definitely hold a place inside me everyday, come what may.
The dangers are out there, sometimes subliminal, other times obvious. The real world can always try to claim my husband, our marriage, but fortunately we do not have to be passive bystanders. Although love does bleed sometimes, quality time spent together brings health and healing to the relationship, and the more time you spend together the more you grow in love.
On hindsight, it was good that I wore rose-colored glasses coming into my marriage. Because, sometimes, maybe you really do get what you expect. Marriage is a dance I do not know the steps to, but 10 years later I find that, yes, I still want to go where the music will take me, discovering new steps along the way.
Ten years ago Richard came into my life and turned my simple, provincial life upside down. It has never been the same. And I have never been happier.