My husband, Tony, and I are going to be celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary this month. It's been a wonderful time—all of it, the beginning, middle and still-middle.
A Look Back
The dating was amazing and my wedding day, though not without drama (we were blending families), is still the happiest day of my life; I remember every single detail. Getting used to each other's habits and friends naturally ebbed and flowed in and out of each other's space. The conversations—I should say, disagreements—about bringing our children together and disciplining them were, to put it mildly, intense. Having conversations about having more children was mixed, and telling him I was going to have a baby was a surprise to both of us, more than once!
Hearing for the first time the baby's heartbeat feels like a miracle. Seeing your child for the first time on the sonogram and saying to one another how beautiful the baby is, even though you can barely make out the face, is an indescribable moment. You then move on to try and distinguish what is or is not between those tiny little legs. The whole pregnancy, the mood swings, the fascination with the fact that human skin can actually stretch that far is amazing and a very personal journey.
It can also be difficult! Trying to have sex when you feel you're a mountain—because you are!—is not pretty. The delivery room stories are something that will make for great fodder after you come home and the memory stays with you always!
All in all, having children dramatically changes your life and your relationship forever. You are never the same, you never feel the same way about a lot of things and you begin a lifelong vigil of worrying over everything! Tony and I have seven children altogether, so I'm in a constant state of flux! (Tony has three from a previous marriage and I have two, plus we have two daughters together, Alexandra and Arianna.)
Get Cristina's secret to a happy, long-lasting marriage
In our marriage, like most, there are good and bad times, angry times and emotional highs and lows. We have four beautiful grandchildren, one with a congenital heart problem who has had three heart operations—scary, awful times. We've been in emergency rooms with our kids for either broken bones or concussions from sports activities, falling off swings, falling off a mountain, falling while snow and water skiing, walking into coffee tables, falling up the stairs (yes, up), falling out of bed in the middle of the night and operations to remove objects such as nails and straight pins from between toes.
We have signed autographs, casts and at least eight pairs of crutches, now in our storage bin as souvenirs. (Why am I saving these?) Then there's our "emergency room" at home for broken hearts or broken spirits, pictures of the parade of dogs and other critters who have found refuge in our home and dined at our table, the school activities, the parent teacher-conferences, vacations, college entrance exams (that nearly did me in!), different jobs and job titles for both Tony and I, and the corporate dinners (no, that nearly did me in!). There was also dealing with self-doubt, loss of parents, deaths, births, bitter disappointments, sickness, picnics, bike rides on the beach, arguing in the car, catching up with each other over a latte and a freshly baked sour dough baguette with sweet Irish butter and homemade jam, huge holiday dinners, birthday celebrations, dinner parties for family, friends and business associates, picking up pieces of someone's life other than your own, helping others by getting out of your comfort zone, making a difference in someone's life that miraculously transforms yours, meeting new friends and nurturing old ones. I've learned that it's about understanding the yin and yang of a relationship by being strong for Tony when I have to be because he is feeling vulnerable and also having the freedom to expose all the deepest, darkest parts of my soul when I fall apart—and still feel safe when it's my turn to be a mess, all this while standing, sitting, sleeping next to my soul mate.
When someone announced that they've been married a long time, the question I always hear asked is, "What is the secret to a long and happy marriage?"
I find it to be an odd question. Is there actually an answer? Is there a secret formula to live successfully with someone who you are not related to for more than a one-third of your life? There are many answers given with great conviction, and there are many "secrets" people cite. Here are a few:
Listen to the other person
Never go to bed mad
Agree to disagree
Have separate bathrooms
Let her have the remote
Like the same things
Work at it (my personal favorite)
Can any one of these truly be the reason for a lifetime of togetherness?
If you ask me that question, I would simply answer: "There's no secret. We just are.
We're together because we have a deep spiritual connection that, frankly, I don't even question. We don't analyze it, we don't pretend that it is something it is not, we don't think about it, we don't consciously "work at it." We laugh, we cry, we argue, we love our family and friends, we make love—all the wonderful and not-so-wonderful things we experienced as a couple only makes the bond stronger. We live our life, together. We are.