A good marriage is where both people feel like they’re getting the better end of the deal ―Anne Lamott, Joe Jones
I married Steve Barbaria on June 30, 1979. I was 21 and he was 23. It’s fair to say that we were children and that we didn’t know what we were doing, but we did it anyway. Is that lucky, or what?
We committed ourselves to each other for our entire up-and-down, peaks-and-valleys, in-sickness-and-in-health, for-better-or-for-worse life. We believed we knew what we were getting into, and we were partially right. We weren’t wrong. It’s just that there’s been so much more. Like I said, we were young. We thought “old” was 32 and 34.
12, 775 days and nights and the spaces in between. That’s 35 years. Our folks have all been married 60 years plus, so we’re just beginners.
This is how little we knew about real life. We hyphenated our names. Both of us. Yeah, that was kind of a silly decision. The marriage though, that’s worked out quite nicely.
It was just the two of us for ten years. Then we had Katelyn, and six years later, Alexandra. The four of us for 24 years, and now it’s just the two of us again. Our quarter century of parenting together has been remarkable, and I have (almost always) been grateful to have him as my partner. There was the time he was away and I was so exhausted I fed the girls refrigerated cookie dough for dinner, but as long as he doesn’t know, we’re all good.
Then there is the part about owning a design studio together, which is pretty much how we’ve run our careers. That’s been a little trickier, but it’s also held us together, with the same goals and challenges, the same path. Sometimes I feel like a marriage shouldn’t have to withstand so much pressure, with deadlines, hiring, firing, making coffee and the judgment calls that show up every day between 9 and 5. We have had a staff to separate us, and now a wall, but we’re still together most every day. Our careers have been entwined, which has made individual movement challenging (sometimes impossible), but it’s nothing a little counseling and creativity couldn’t overcome. I want to work with the best and the best partner just happens to be my husband.
There were years when it didn’t feel blissful or romantic, but there were always enough moments of connection that we made it through. Sometimes they were very small moments, but they showed up exactly when we needed them. There’s a lot to do when you’re raising a family, growing a business, navigating a few recessions, striving to maintain a sense of independence, remind yourself that you’re an artist and a writer, be healthy, and be present. Something has to give, and once in a while it was us. That’s just the truth of it. But in between all of that, it’s been fun. It’s been really, really fun. He makes me laugh, and I am always delighted when I can make him laugh. He’s always up for an adventure and has a few more waiting for us.
A while back I said, “You know, I think I’m going to like growing old with you.” Steve said, “Sorry to break it to you, but we’re already old… it’s not going, it’s doing.”
I am still learning things about Steve. Just last week he told me that in Little League his positions were pitcher and first base. How did I not know that? Or that he would willingly wear orange, green and purple striped shorts…to work? By the way, it’s a great look on him. We’re now entering new territory, with the empty nest and aging parents, retirement looming (so close), and I am honestly surprised that we seem to be even more connected than before.
That’s the thing about marriage. There’s still more to learn, more to do. If you do anything for 20 years, or 35 years, you should be really good at it… even a master of it. Marriage… there’s always more to work for.
I do know that our relationship has provided me with stability and strength, and the inspiration to explore where I can go, what I can do, and how I can create. Almost everything big in my life, I have done with Steve by my side. And if he wasn’t by my side, he was on the sidelines, taking care of our home and the studio, so I could continue my journey. He’s smart and sexy and kind. He’s an amazing father and an awesome son. He makes people feel comfortable and secure. He’s patient and balanced. He knows how to fix things, and he can draw anything. He maintains our bikes and our cars. He brings me fresh lettuce in the winter and tomatoes in the summer. Also, he has great legs and he’s a really good kisser.
Someday he will probably be pushing my wheelchair, or I will be pushing his. Hopefully that’s 35 years from now. We’ll look back at this time and think, “What did we know? We were in our fifties, we were just children.” But we’ll know we were lucky, and that lifelong love is worth the work.
For now, I’ll count the days, and my blessings.
Photo by Kim Tackett. Sweet heart in the sand by Steve Barbaria. Cayucos CA