For my wife Angel, on the event of our 9th anniversary

It's rare that I write about Angel here, or even marriage, but I'm not sure why that is. (Could there be one part of my life that I subconsciously like keeping private?!) Honestly, it's probably the one part of my life that's been an unequivocal success. Not in the schmaltzy Hollywood 'everything is fine when you're in love/happily ever after' kind of way, but marriage to Angel has, without question, made my life better than it would be otherwise.

We grew up together in Ohio, but we actually had quite different upbringings, with quite different personalities and issues to work out as a result. When we went through college dating at a distance, I think that the thing we learned and lived into was that a relationship can survive really significant differences, as long as both people are committed to making sure the other person is supported and satisfied with the direction that life is taking. There's a sort of paradoxical mutualism that only works if both people are willing to put the other person ahead of themselves. I think we've both been there from early on, and as a result we've both invested more in each other than in any other part of our lives, and have managed to develop a relationship that has let each of us do significantly more then we would have been able to on our own. Does that make sense? We're much better together then either of us would be apart. We have each others' back.

Another key, I think, is that we've used big challenges as a way to strengthen our relationship together, rather than pursuing our independent goals. I think maybe the most crucial day in our relationship was Christmas, 2000, when I surprised Angel by proposing to her, and she surprised me with a ticket to visit her for a month in Australia, where she would be going on exchange. The proposal was big, but at some level I think the ticket was just as big. Her trip to Australia was huge at the time: having grown up in small town Ohio and never left the country, we both knew that it was going to be a transformative experience. Frankly, I was really worried that she'd be changing in ways that would pull us apart, but I didn't have the money or guts to buy a ticket to visit her myself. After she bought the ticket, I even argued with her about the amount of time I'd stay - she said a month, I argued for a week because I was worried about making money over the summer. She won, as usual, because she was right, as usual, and that trip ended up changing the direction of our lives. If she hadn't bought the ticket, I'm guessing that travel, and probably politics, would have been a sore point in our relationship at this point. There's a decent chance that we would still be in the Midwest, and that we'd be feeling stagnant and vaguely dissatisfied with our lives. Instead, Australia precipitated a major change in our worldviews, and a subsequent move to New Zealand that was even more transformative. Our new forays into the field of marathoning, and my career shift into healthcare, are almost logical extensions of our impulse towards taking on major challenges to see what we can accomplish together, expecting that the process will improve our lives and our relationship.

I think the other real key has been that we've both been willing to make sacrifices to support each other through individual challenges. I have to admit that Angel has probably made far more sacrifices for me then I've made for her, which always seems to be the way. When we were in New Zealand, she worked to support me through a Masters Degree that ultimately didn't add much to our life financially, while also holding down the fort mostly on her own at home while I obsessed needlessly about my grades and thesis. And while she was in school for her Masters Degree, she managed to keep enough work hours to keep us on top of bills while I worked in low paying jobs trying to get a foothold in a career field that I ultimately flamed out of. She was one of the only places where I found real emotional support as I was going through that flameout - which negatively affected her more than anyone else, I should add - and now, once again, she's supporting me as I go back to school to (finally) put myself in a position to make enough money to contribute something beyond the bare minimum to the family budget.

On my end, it is true that I've done a lot of pride swallowing for the sake of our marriage. We moved to Seattle (rather than somewhere that I had a job opportunity waiting) in order for Angel to pursue the UW's Nurse Practitioner program, which she hadn't yet been admitted to, and I spent two years post-masters working in a warehouse because my job prospects were so limited here. And I've forced myself into a (potentially lifelong) more domesticated role than I ever really envisioned (or wanted) because it makes sense in our situation, and because it's stupid and misogynistic to think that the female in a relationship should take care of things at home when she has a much higher earning potential then the male. I feel like my 'sacrifices' though have really just been partial, bumbling and imperfect adjustments to a situation that Angel has set up to vastly improve our lives. I'm just sort of along for the ride, trying not to get in the way too much.

And geez, 9 years of marriage, 13 years together total. 8 different countries. Multiple religious and career paths. Getting fat on BBQ in Kentucky to running Marathons in Rome. Angel cleaning pus out of wounds in Middletown Hospital to going to meetings at Washington's Attorney General's office. It's been a lot in our young lives, and I'm not sure what magic has made it work. I love my wife. I think she's hilarious, courageous, and admirable. I've seen her accomplish everything she's decided to, and I think she can do whatever she wants. As a friend has said, I think 'she's pretty much a superhero'. We've worked hard, and we've been lucky to have found each other, and we've been committed to making this thing work to our advantage and doing awesome things that will become good stories when we're old. It's been a great run, and I just feel lucky to have been a part of it.

I love you honey.

Love always,



Stephen said…
Congratulations, you two! You both make the world a better place individually ... and together you're even better. Happy anniversary!