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State of marriage address

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By Nancy Kennedy

While out for our semi-regular Sunday drive, as I flipped through the radio stations I asked my husband what kind of music he liked.

That's the kind of questions you ask on a first date, not after 34 years of marriage!

I'm not sure what that says about the state of our marriage. You don't even know what kind of music your husband likes?

Um, not exactly, although I have a good idea what he doesn't like. I can rule out heavy metal and polka and most music recorded after 1979.

Probably if I made him a CD of stuff he likes I'd include some Chicago and Jefferson Airplane (I know he likes Grace Slick), maybe The Who or The Doors. I think he likes ABBA and the Bee Gees, but I'm not positive.

I also still have to ask what he wants on his sandwiches, mayonnaise or mustard. A wife should know these things.

Lately, we've been having an on-going, lively discussion. He's collecting scratch-off cards from our favorite local restaurant. Throughout May we can use the cards to try to win a 60-inch flat screen TV.

In my opinion, that's way too much TV for our house and it would mean getting rid of something - and I've told him that something can't be me. I told him that at 5 feet tall I'm all the 60 inches he needs. That makes him laugh and he gives me props ("proper respect") for that, but he still wants to win the 60-inch TV. (Plus, he reminded me, I'm 61 inches tall, not 60.)

The other night, as we were watching "House," he had the remote and kept switching to the hockey game, a habit that makes me insane. After about the 40th time he switched I yelled, "HOUSE!"

And then I yelled, "I will never leave you!"

That's our joke with each other. We say that my ultimate threat to him is that I will never leave him. I know he'll never leave me either.

I've been thinking about that lately, and about love and how it turned out to be different from what I thought it was when I was young and dreaming about love and marriage.

Back then I thought love was an endless date. Sweet feelings and only kind words and "never having to say you're sorry" and that basically I could always get my own way.

I had to learn that real love is more like 90 percent forgiveness and the rest perseverance and adaptability and flexibility. We have to learn to forgive each other for not being perfect, for not being our dream come true, for being human.

When you're young, you don't really think about marrying another human. Most of us marry an idea or an ideal, a potential, an illusion. Who you marry on Saturday isn't who you wake up with on Sunday or Wednesday or Friday. Who you marry at 20 isn't who you're still married to at 30 or 40 or 50, if you last that long.

What you think is love at the beginning is mostly love of the way you feel when you're with that other person, but that's not love, not really. Maybe that's the start of love, the promise of it. But love doesn't come until much later, after you've weathered the daily irritants and the everyday blahness and the long stretches of dryness together and you've found a way to stay together until the sweet feelings cycle around.

You adapt and bend and stretch to accommodate the other person so you don't break. You forgive and learn to ask for forgiveness and you refuse to leave. You refuse to take the easy way and you choose to stay and argue about in-laws and money and 60-inch TVs, and you work at giving up wanting your own way.

You clean up the mess the other one leaves and you wipe away each other's tears and listen to old jokes and keep one another's secrets, and you keep asking the questions that you should know the answers to but don't. Because the answers keep changing, and people keep growing, and so does love.

Some people say 34 years is a long time to be married to the same person, and it is. It's also not long enough.