Empty Nest, EPILOGUE: He’s Getting Married In the Morning…

OK, not actually the morning, more like “late afternoon/evening”… and I doubt bells are gonna chime — I’m pretty  sure they don’t do that for the smaller events —  and certainly I’ll have no trouble getting to the church on time; I tend to be relentlessly prompt… but still… well, you get the gist.

The boy whose tales I’ve detailed throughout my six-part “Empty Nest Series” is getting married to the woman of his dreams on what will be a cool, sunny Friday after a maddening year of fits, starts, and global mayhem, arriving at a milestone that’s as sweet and life-affirming as milestones get, and well… let’s have a whopper.

I have found myself awash in every kind of memory and emotion as we’ve approached the day, bouncing from excited anticipation to the sheer incredulousness that we’ve reached the point in each of our trajectories that this event is absolutely natural, welcomed, and celebrated. A new family of their own to build, a new daughter-in-law for us to love (as we already do); a new family of in-laws, warm, loving people we’re delighted to get to know and join in creating a circle of wagons for the newlyweds.

But still… wasn’t he just putting Pokemon binders together, clanging around the patio with his skateboard, hollering “you’re not my fwiend!” every time he disagreed with my parenting choices? It’s such a cliche, one of the most ubiquitous in fact, yet one that proves itself to be oh, so true: it all flies by so fast. Even when you’re paying attention; even when you remind yourself it’s flying by; even when it still feels like there are years and years and years of childhood, and family trips, and teenage meltdowns, and college essays left to wrangle. There were… and now we’re here, many years past those moments, to a new moment, a new chapter, a new milestone.

I spent months of the 2020 lockdown digitizing our countless home videos from the early 90s on, and let me tell you: you try doing that and not getting caught up in an existential wonderland of tripping timelines and time-travel confusions about who and what is in the here and now, and why does then feel so real and close and tangible — touchable — when now is what is?

I sat transferring those tapes of him at two, three, ten, fourteen, and it was like that boy, that young, crazy, hilarious little boy was, indeed, the son I know and love. So viscerally familiar, so HIM, so right here… in this moment. And yet he’s not, not that boy, not in the here and now. That boy is relegated to tape, to memory, to the cloud, the past. And here, now, across the room, in a full beard, with glasses and headphones as he conducts a Zoom meeting with civil engineers he’s managing on a major Los Angeles mall project, is the boy that is. The man. In the here-and-now. I adore him. And I miss that crazy little boy. I feel both. It’s nuts, I know, but that’s how it is. I have a feeling I’m not the only one who wrestles with that paradox.

And that bearded man is getting married in the morning (well, not the morning… but we’ve already been over that) and I feel… happy. Grateful he’s found someone to love who’s good, honest, passionate, connected, and inspiring. Who’s dedicated not only to making their lives as a couple, as a family, as good as it can possibly be, but is driven to make the world around her a better place, too. There’s so much about her to admire, so much to love and celebrate; she makes a perfect fit for this man I parented who embodies those same traits and characteristics. They are a good match. And having made my own good match to a good man, I know how essential that is. It’s everything.

So I feel joy. I feel peace… and satisfaction. I also feel another little letting go. As it should be. As it must be. I know I will always hold my mantle of mother, teacher, mentor, and beloved friend, but I pass to his beautiful new wife the role of “primary.” As it should be. He’s in good hands. As is she. We’re a lucky family all around.

“Ding dong the bells are gonna chime”… even if only in my smiling imagination.

Kissing at Bridge photo by Dillon Wilke
Heart in Sand photo by Nick Karvounis on Unsplash

To read the entire Empty Nest series, click links below:

• Empty Nest Pt 1: My Very Cool Roommate Is Moving Out…
• Empty Nest Pt 2: Empty ‘Next’ Syndrome…Coming Home
• Empty Nest Pt. 3: See You In November!
Empty Nest Pt. 4: He’s Leaving Home AGAIN… Bye Bye
Empty Nest Pt. 5: It’s a Wrap… Well, Almost
Empty Nest Pt. 6: the Final Chapter: With Keys In Hand, He Flies…
Empty Nest, EPILOGUE: He’s Getting Married in the Morning

Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

Active Choosing: The Art & Craft of Finding True Love

After mentioning the 31st anniversary of my husband’s and my first date (Disneyland: he fell in love on Splash Mountain, for me it was his hand on my forehead after Star Tours queasiness), an interviewer marveled at the longevity of my marriage and asked: “How’d you do it? What advice do you have?”, making me feel like a 100-year-old woman with “wisdoms.” But still, I appreciated the awe and wonder because I remember feeling just as awestruck around long-marrieds back before I figured it out/got lucky myself. So I decided to honor her query with the reply that follows. And it’s just that: my reply, my experience. We all have different journeys, theories, and views, so take this for what it is and if/how it may inspire you.

When I was charging headlong into my early adulthood with all its intoxicating freedoms, particularly around the mating rituals of the young and libidinous, I arrived at that inevitable rite-of-passage fully and completely unarmed, lacking useful (any?) parental guidance, and boomeranging off religious repression that had overwhelmed my personal and sexual development.

See, my parents were so busy keeping me from sex I was never taught anything about it, other than to avoid it at the hideous cost of my eternal damnation. Which, when you’re a reasonably attractive, wildly hormonal young person faced with the reality of BOYS (or GIRLS, as the case may be), even threats of endless inferno hold no sway. But the problem is without guidance, without meaningful comprehension of the intricacies and nuances of how to approach and manage this seminal arena of life, it’s too easy to develop bad habits, move forward with misconceptions and rules that don’t always apply and can lead down thorny roads of heartache, breakups, and, when you’re all grown up, divorce.

I know. I’ve been there. Lots of heartache, bad boyfriends, really lousy choices, and far too many relationships that should have never happened in the first place. No divorces, but only because I didn’t marry any of them. Had I married any of them there would have been divorces. I at least had the good sense to know that marriage was to be avoided until I figured it out, which, in my case, required the tutelage of much life experience and excellent therapy. By the time I met the man who was to become my husband, we were lucky enough to have both learned the secret:

Active choosing.

If you want a partner (as opposed to an undefined whatever let’s just see how it goes thing), it’s about actively choosing someone… someone who’s not just sexy, fun, and with whom you have astonishing chemistry, but who’ll actually be a good partner. It’s how to determine that that’s the kicker.

Because what we’ve been mistakenly told, either literally or via cultural osmosis, is that when we meet someone, when we embark upon the beginning stages of a relationship, there are “rules” that preclude any kind of real due diligence: We are to be cool, not demand too much, reveal too much, make him or her feel there are any expectations of them. Don’t share too much or ask too many questions—that might overwhelm them. Certainly don’t attempt to ascertain “where we might go from here” any time soon. Act interested but not too interested, available but not too; desirous but not slutty; just go with the flow and let it all reveal itself. If you see things you don’t like, presume those things will get better as your relationship evolves. Have standards but not too high. As long as there’s chemistry, you’re good to go. Right?   

Not always. Often not. In fact, 50% of the time not. Because, despite the very real delights of early-relationship fun, you lack information. Foundational information. The kind you need to smartly assess future potential. And no matter what modern culture or “dating rules” would have you believe, there’s only one way to get it before you’re too entrenched:


Ask LOTS of candid, specific questions that require answers, then determine the truthfulness of those answers. Discuss. Debate. Don’t hide who you are, don’t hold back who you are. Don’t not eat when you go to a restaurant. Assess the “here and now” reality of the person in front of you with absolute awareness that what they are, here and now, is the essence of what they’ll likely always be, and determine if that’s compatible with your own here and now.

And that’s just a start.   

Look, I know how exhilarating it is to be swept up in the heat of passion, the allure of “new person” appeal, no questions asked. You revel in the excitement of discovery, the hope of potential, the envisioned evolution of what might, might, come to be, confident you’ll figure out all the kinks, quirks, and questions along the way. Just go for the ride and let it take you where it will.

Yes. So fun. Until you discover he has rather startling anger issues. She doesn’t think she ever wants kids. He’s a bottle-a-night drinker. In her eyes, commitment is overrated. He turns out to be really boring past the initial hot period. She’s had three bankruptcies. He struggles to hold a job. She hates dogs. He wears a red hat. She never votes. Etc.  

What I learned in my long and storied relationship career is that too often by the time I figured out the person I’d become enraptured by was fatally flawed and oh-so-wrong for me, I was already in DEEP, emotionally invested, heart, soul, hopes, and dreams. Doing something about it at that point is… challenging. Decisions are made then quickly reversed. Boundaries are set, then easily violated. Promises asserted, apologies offered, change assured, then it all swings back to the chronic state of the relationship, which, if you’d taken the time to “look before you leapt” (as my mother used to say), you would have known he/she was a bad choice. What follows then is the universally devastating process of breaking up… which is always hard to do. 

While I can count a couple of decent relationships in my younger years, those happened almost by accident. Because it was never about me actively choosing, it was typically about me responding (“Someone likes me, he really likes me… I’m in!”). Then I hit thirty and noticed this wasn’t working and, dead-weary of the repetitive recovery demanded of each breakup, I got into therapy to hopefully  figure it out. Now, I’m not pushing therapy, but given my deficit of parental guidance, I needed guidance from somewhere and my very wise therapist provided the forum in which I could learn. And I did.

By the time I went on that date to Disneyland, I had a wealth of confidence and knowledge that gave me tools to approach that relationship differently. My new, self-preserving attitude set the stage: I was unwilling to be delicate and cautious out of fear of rejection, unwilling to invest without proper knowledge; unwilling to prioritize “dating rules” at the expense of honest due diligence. So just days after Disneyland, within the very first week of our relationship, I nervously told him I needed to clarify some essential things, he agreed, and I fired away.

Now, you’ll have your own questions, but this was the basic list I asked and he answered, not necessarily in this order:

  1. Are you looking for a committed relationship?
  2. Are you open to marrying again (he’d been married before)?
  3. Do you want another child (he already had one)? How many?
  4. What are your politics and are you politically active?
  5. What is your attitude about race, racism, diversity, and immigration?
  6. What are your thoughts regarding LGBTQ issues?
  7. Do you have a drinking/drug problem?
  8. Are you a healthy eater?
  9. Do you like to travel?
  10. What are your attitudes about money, saving, spending, sharing?
  11. What’s your philosophy about truthfulness; do you lie?
  12. What’s the status of your relationship with your family?
  13. Have you ever been verbally, emotionally, or physically abusive…EVER?
  14. What is your attitude about guns—ownership, laws, controls?
  15. What are your views on religion, spirituality, etc.?

And so on…

It’s likely we were not as organized as this list implies—and, no, I didn’t have it written out at the time, I just knew what my priorities were. And it wasn’t easy, I felt squeamish; at times I could see he was surprised by my candor, but I’d reached a time in my life where I was not going to invest in another relationship without enough information. We literally talked for hours, because once we got through my list, he had his own, which was largely a version of mine from the male perspective. It was exhausting. And exhilarating.

But know that, brave though you may be to commit to this exercise, you go in aware you might get to the end of it only to realize you really aren’t as compatible as hoped, and quite honestly shouldn’t waste each other’s time when the conclusion is clearly foregone. But still, the List is a gift, because you’ll have figured that out before investing weeks, months, years into a relationship that won’t, ultimately, succeed.

In our case, we didn’t scare each other off, we didn’t implode, we didn’t “ruin the romance” or run screaming into the night. We learned what we needed to know and, in the act of asking and answering, created intimacy, got to understand each other, so well that the magical state-of-being long-marrieds always tell you happens—“you just know”—happened. We just knew. I remembered thinking: “Oh, this is the kind of guy you marry!”, realizing the reason I hadn’t “just known” before was that I hadn’t been with anyone I should have married.

And so we did. Eight months later and now over 30 years.

But trust me, we aren’t magical. It hasn’t all been smooth sailing. As with any relationship, particularly a longterm one, we’ve hit some unforeseen bumps along the way, some significant. I won’t pretend we’re preternaturally transcendent “relationship experts”; we’re not. But it is true that the solid foundation we began building after we got back from Disneyland and sat around my house with our lists was the glue that ultimately held us together. It was very good glue.   

So, dear interviewer, that’s my “secret,” my advice. Do with it what you will. Or don’t. It’s all so personal. If you’re just looking for fun with someone who makes you laugh and gets your pheromones tingling, go for it, Devil may care, caution to the wind, however long it lasts. But if you seek a relationship that might have the potential of future, revel in pheromones, sure, but also ASK. Everything. All things. Every single little question you might have. If you scare him or her off, trust that it wasn’t the right relationship for you. But I promise, if you honestly and authentically get through your lists and discover there is reason to proceed, you will have put yourself in the best possible place for all the good that follows. 

Photo 1 by Korney Violin on Unsplash; Photo 2 by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

What Barry White Taught Me About Love and Other Anniversary Notes

Me & Pete_1990When I was a young girl, electric with sensuality and a burgeoning curiosity about all things lust, passion, and love, a song came out, sung by a man with a silky voice, that seemed an anthem to all three. I was working my first waitress job at the time, an Irish restaurant that had a juke box stocked with as wide a variety of music as you can imagine, and in the midst of milquetoasty 70’s selections (“Dancing In the Moonlight,” “The Morning After”?!) came… Barry White, with an undulating, unforgettable intro and that rumbling baritone crooning “I’m Gonna Love You Just A Little More”… remember?

Give it up, ain’t no use
I can’t help myself if I wanted to
I’m hung up, no doubt
I’m so in love with you, for me there’s no way out

‘Cause deeper and deeper
In love with you, I’m falling
Sweeter and sweeter
Your tender words of love keeps calling…

Eager and eager, yeah
To feel your lips upon my face
Please her and please her
Any time or any place

I’m gonna love you, love you, love you just a little more, baby….

I remember the suspense of that musical opening: the drums start it… then the keys set that iconic riff; Barry’s voice weaves in and out in that bedroom way he had… all combining to create this grooving, driving, layered paean to immutable love. I was smitten. I was always attracted to the “DrumsDude” of any band, the rhythm section in general actually.

I would play that song over and over, all day and into the night shift, swooning around “section B” like a lovesick teenager to the point that the bartenders thought I was crazy and every drunk in the room wanted to dance with me. But this wasn’t about hook-ups and flirtations; this was about LOVE, true love so strong “there’s no way out.” That’s what I wanted: to be in love with someone who’d fall “deeper and deeper in love” with me right back. I was a young girl mesmerized by romance and poetry who now had my love theme.

But time went on, music changed, Barry put out other songs I liked but none quite as well. I grew up, fell in and out of love more times than my mother appreciated, and learned that the kind of passion Barry rhapsodized about wasn’t easily found. I still believed in it, didn’t give up on it, but stopped holding every relationship to the standard of “no way out.” I always seemed to find plenty of ways out… as did they.

Until I met him. Pete. The man I married, the man who, 24 years ago on this day, told me, by virtue of everything he was, everything he gave me, and everything he promised on that wedding day, that he was, indeed, so in love there was no way out.

This time it looks like love is here to stay
As long as I shall live
I’ll give you all I have and all I have to give

No, those weren’t his vows – I’m still quoting Barry here 🙂 – but in the ensuing 24 years he did give me all he had to give, which was every joyful moment, every event, triumph, and memorable experience you could imagine. But life being what it is  – meaning, we weren’t living in a love ballad – we also hit some walls that were so damn hard I thought our heads would crack. His almost did. And those were the moments when “no way out” felt more like a sentence than a promise. We ebbed and flowed, ran away and came back; sought and looked and learned in every way we knew how and, somehow, some way, ended up full circle, back to where we started… back home. Where we healed and evolved and let go and forgave until we knew, once again, no doubt, “this time it looks like love is here to stay.” A vow coming full circle as well.

I’m sure you realize there’s a wink in how I’m framing this story, a clear understanding of my sweet, youthful naiveté in believing love could be defined by a ballad sung by Dr. Love. But still… certain ideas nestle, certain sensations and feelings become part of your cellular memory, and even seemingly trite words and melodies become connectors to grander ideas. And, to this day, whenever I hear “I’m Gonna Love You Just A Little More,” I’m back at that juke box, swaying to the beat, eyes closed and heart filled with longing, believing in life and passion and those “tender words of love.”

And today I celebrate the man I married, the one who spoke those tender words so long ago and speaks them still. Happy Anniversary, darling. Wherever we’ve been, wherever we’re going, know I’m always gonna love you, love you, love you… just a little more.

Thank you, Barry White…

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Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

The Lesson Of Long-Term Marriage: What’s Better Is So Much Better Than What’s Worse

Twenty-three years ago today I got into a car with a very handsome man dressed in blue pants and a white shirt, drove a couple of hours to a courthouse in the very bucolic town of Mt. Vernon, Washington and, during the lunch break of a local judge, and in the presence of the bailiff and court secretary, married the man to whom I am still married today. The bailiff fired off a few snapshots from my then-cheesy 35mm camera (pictures I, years later, Photoshopped to the excellent results below!), we had lunch at a nearby cafe where a bottle of champagne and a slice of pecan pie with a bride & groom atop awaited us, then we drove north to Vancouver to spend three days at the Pan Pacific Hotel as our rainy, wondrous honeymoon. It was perfect… and when people ask if I ever regret not having a wedding, I assure them I still think it was perfect, to this very day.

Wedding day sepia 4 triptych

There is much to be said for weddings done right (I covered a few of those HERE), and certainly the topic of marriage is a deep and many-layered one (in The Warmest Chord my own heartfelt perspective is offered), but on this anniversary, from where I sit many years beyond that glorious Pacific Northwestern day, currently miles away from my stoic, stalwart husband who continues to deal with the ramifications of brain injury, the message of marriage I have to share is a different one than I had 23 years ago.

It’s a stronger one, one built more on wisdom, resilience, commitment and compassion than wild romance and youthful lust. Though, don’t get me wrong; I’m all for romance and lust, revel in it whenever it presents itself (which, as most of us would attest, is never enough!), but life teaches that any long-term relationship survives within an unpredictable mix of emotion and events… and the way we respond to both. And the longer I live the more I realize, while I may not be able to predict events that come flying my way (damn that unpredictable universe), I can do something about how I interpret, respond to, and learn from those unfolding moments.

Love is a funny thing, too. It keeps you attached and aware of that other person; sensitive to their needs and emotions, impacted by the events of their life that can overlap your own. Sometimes those intersections are lovely, sometimes they’re… challenged. As any couple knows who’s dealt with illness, adversity, injury, or any of those kinds of unexpected events that knock us off our feet  – a job lost, a disease diagnosed, a family member’s death; a brain injury – marriage can become about endurance and tenacity, a balance between attachment and detachment, even an ability to let go when needed to allow life to reorganize into some different while you’re away.

As the wife of a husband dealing with brain injury, I’ve learned about that part of being married. I’ve learned (as I wrote years ago in Love In the Age of MTBI) how circumstances can change and impact a marriage, make it more complicated and mercurial, shake it up in ways that can both take your breath away (and not always in a good way) and make you realize how strong your relationship really is, strong enough to endure the dark corners stumbled upon repeatedly and sometimes without warning. When pain episodes strike, when the walls go up and the lights go down and you realize plans will change, warmth will take a holiday, communication will be backburnered in lieu of necessary isolation and silence, it’s then that you face the reality of what you and your chosen one created back on that magical day, years earlier, in a courthouse in Mt. Vernon…

The tether. The bond. The connection. You can pull apart because you have to, because you both need time to regroup and recalibrate, but you never stop feeling the connection. The love. The sense that you are family and you will get through this to a happier time, a better time.

And while away, if you’re smart, you’ll take the opportunity to pursue your own “vision quest.” You’ll pay attention, listen, learn, and remember that thoughts impact reality; you’ll readjust your own view of life to get stronger, more compassionate and loving… to him and to yourself.

And if, during that time, an anniversary pops up, you’ll pay attention to that, too. You’ll look at that person – from wherever you are – with all the love you feel, all the belief you have in what’s good and right, and you’ll … celebrate another anniversary. Another year of marriage. Another worse endured for all that is better.

Because what you find when you step away, when you take that breath, and look at the reality outside of pain and the adversities life throws at you, is that what’s better is so, so much more than what’s worse. Worse, you can overcome; better, is the life you’ve created and will continue to create. That’s the lesson, the true gift of a long-term marriage.

Happy anniversary to us!

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Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

The Warmest Chord: Ten Things I Know About Marriage

I grew up in an era when Joni Mitchell’s declaration that “we don’t need no piece of paper from the city hall” seemed just about right, and the very idea of eschewing the shackles of conventional marriage was thrilling to us wild children of the times. Who needed contracts and rules and vows and all that other restrictive, limiting nonsense when we were so freeeeeee? And after all, if you managed to stay together without the bonds of marriage, wasn’t that even more of a testament to how truly committed you were? Love…that’s all we needed to keep away our lonesome blues.

But we did, didn’t we? We ultimately got married. Some of us older than younger, but we got married despite lyrics to the contrary. Which compels the question: why? It’s a fair question. In the last many decades since that heady time of sexual freedom, we’ve become a society of multiple divorces and cyclical re-marriages. We keep getting married despite apparent cluelessness on the topic but, frankly, it doesn’t seem that marriage has all that much to do with whether or not people stay together. Maybe Joni was on to something.

Marriage is on odd institution, oft-times just the fantasy idea, the romance dream of white gowns and handsome princes, frothy hoopla, large tiered cakes and even larger bills for the various parental units involved. Weddings can run the gamut from authentic celebrations of love and commitment, right up to the overpriced free-for-alls that set Pops back a second mortgage and conclude with the bride vomiting on the honeymoon duvet while the groom counts big bucks earned during the obligatory “money dance” set to the slightly hackneyed Al Green chestnut, “Let’s Stay Together.” Cynical, perhaps, but let’s face it, while I’ve seen and participated in some amazing ones (and you know who you are!), weddings have become an industry, and sometimes the whole “why we get married” part of the equation gets lost in the hullabaloo.

Me… I eloped. My old man and I went out and got ourselves a piece of paper from the city hall,  21 years of keeping’ away the blues. Well… there have been some blues, some kick-ass blues, actually, but still… we’re here. Amazingly, still here. Happy Anniversary to us.

And what have I learned in these last 21 years? What great kernels of wit and wisdom can I pass along as one of the wise old-marrieds?

Truth is, whatever wisdom I might have to offer, there are plenty of others who’ve had completely different experiences and will likely be far wiser than I. My marriage has been less a long and winding road than a roller coaster ride, so odds are I may have a remedy for motion sickness that won’t apply to those who’ve managed to avoid the bump and teeth-grind along the way. Or maybe it will; maybe every long marriage has its own wild rhythms that require deep breaths and even deeper soul searching regardless of the particulars. So to the question, what do I know? Only my own experience. And on this day of my 21st anniversary, allow me to put my very uncultured pearls into list form as a nod to this day and the man I chose in the grand institution of marriage:

P&L_Country1. Make sure you fall in love with someone who can ultimately be your friend. By your 21st year that friend will likely mean more to you than any lover ever could. And if you’re lucky enough to still have a buzz with each other at that point, you’ll be fully aware that six-pack abs, a full head of hair and the chiseled jaw of youth are all quite fabulous and chemistry-inducing as a starting point, but ultimately can’t shake a stick at that friend who knows all your physical and emotional sweet spots and loves you despite the outward lessening of your previously-held vixen status.

2. Make sure you marry someone who can be a good mate. Very different criteria than a good boyfriend/girlfriend/lover. It requires things like stellar work ethic (a good job and the wherewithal to keep it), admirable responsibility (like a solid sense of the point and purpose of saving money), age-appropriate skills (can pack own bag and knows how to run the dishwasher), initiative powers (able to plan a trip or wrangle a loan officer). The list goes on. You get the idea.

3. Don’t marry a boy-man or girl-woman. While you may want to raise a child at some point, you don’t ever want to raise a mate.

4. And if there is a plan for children, discuss ad nauseum prior to sending out “save the dates.” Make sure you’re not only on the same page, but the same paragraph, sentence, and word. Ascertain potential partner’s aptitude for managing all aspects of small, irascible human beings. Decide early on exactly how many (open for later discussion, but still decide), and be very receptive to stupid, trendy names brought to the table to argue over and hide from the family.

5. Be a metaphoric animal tamer and get every freakin’ elephant out into the middle of the living room to have at ’em. Discuss and clarify politics, sex, religion, race, family of origin, morality, mortality, gender politics, parenting philosophies; who expects what from whom on any given matter. Get the old boyfriend/girlfriend confessions out of the way (ALL of them), make sure you agree on how much to share on Facebook, and if there is a YouTube video floating around that bears some explaining, do it now (didn’t apply to us but, oh, I’ve heard some stories…!).

6. Be very clear that the most important and essential emotions on the table are— and will always be—love, empathy, joy, and compassion. Although fear of heights and strange aversions to disposable razors do bear some consideration.

7. Honor and integrity are non-negotiable, self-health habits a must, addictive behaviors are deal-breakers (unless the habit is Pinkberry or those amazing coconut shrimp at Pho Tien Long).

8. Have an unassailable sense of humor about pretty much everything. If you had a silly character who won your mate’s heart during the early days of hot sex and easy laughter, make sure that character sticks around for the less whimsical years when a good laugh can save the day. These characters, like you, only get better with age.

9. Speaking of age, LOVE the aging process your mate is/will be going through, presuming you get to 21 years. It can be a brutal and self-negating process and there is nothing quite like looking at your partner on a day when he or she is feeling particularly heinous and saying, “you still look amazing to me.” Because if you followed Items 1-8, I guarantee, they will still look amazing to you.

10. If you do have the misfortune of falling in love with someone to whom Items 1-9 don’t apply, have loads of fun for as long as it lasts, but DON’T marry them.

Beyond these ten, I think we marry and stay married to the person we do mostly because we cannot imagine life without them. Because no matter what accidents happen, what brain injuries occur, careers sputter, asses widen, money eludes, or disappointments pile up, that person is the one you want to endure with. Fight the good fight with. Wake up to in the morning even after a night of sorrow and confusion. They give you a sense of place, of foundation, of home. The “institution” that marriage speaks of is real and tangible to you because being married to this person feels like something concrete and physical, a place you want to live. Because however love may change after 21 years, the way it reinvents itself in each new moment feels as urgent and powerful as the first heady incarnation. That’s why.

And since I started with Joni, let me end with her….”He’s the warmest chord I ever heard.”

That’s why I’m still married to my particular old man. Items 1 – 9 and he is, and has always been, the warmest chord I ever heard.

Wishing you all one as warm.

l__p_in_loveHappy Anniversary, Pete.

 Lyrics from Joni Mitchell’s My Old Man.

Photo of Joni Mitchell @ Wikimedia Commons
All other photos courtesy of Lorraine Devon Wilke 

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Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.