What I’ve Learned After 36 Years of Marriage

This week my husband and I celebrated our 36th wedding anniversary.

I asked him if things had turned out the way he expected. Has marriage been what he thought it would be?

He shared that it was actually better.

You see, he had a pretty bleak attitude about the future when he was younger. In fact, he will tell you he didn’t expect to live this long. That’s a whole other story I won’t get into here. Suffice it to say, he’s changed a lot since then. But the difference in his perspective back then, and today, most certainly explains his response to my question.

When I thought about the same question, I was surprised by what I discovered.

I realized I didn’t really have any expectations. I didn’t think so much about the future back then.

We married young—I was only 19 years old—and we just knew we wanted to be together, forever. But it’s not like I had this grand plan or detailed vision about what forever would look like.

As we talked, I realized I was living a very present life, 36 years ago.

I lived in the moment. I did what made me happy. Yes, I was responsible. I had a job. I was going to college. All with the expectation when I graduated I would be qualified for a more fulfilling, better paying job. But that was the extent of my planning.

It wasn’t as if I had this grand life plan.

Thinking back about this makes me realize I was actually living pretty inspired back then. We didn’t have full support for our decision to marry, because we were so young. But I knew in my heart it was what I wanted, and I didn’t care if others didn’t agree. I was going to do it anyway.

We never sat down to calculate if we could afford to be married—we both went straight from our parents homes to our own apartment. We just did it. And you know what? It all worked out.

We put me through college.

We had financial struggles, but we survived. And we learned a lot. About life. About money. About love. About making our way in the world.

As I sit here today, striving to live a more inspired life, I’m finding I want to be more like that me from 36 years ago. Someone who followed her heart. Did what made her happy. Didn’t worry about what other people thought. Didn’t worry so much about the future.

We’re now looking at making another major life change together.

Potentially selling our home and relocating across the country to begin a new adventure. While I plan to keep working, at least part time, Louie plans to retire. He may pursue his art and photography. He may work. He’s not sure. He just knows he’s done doing what he’s been doing for the last 40 years.

I’m finding it a scary proposition.

I’m worried about whether or not we’ll be OK. Do we have enough money? What if we run out? What if our investments go south? Will we like living somewhere else? Will we be OK moving away from our families? A million questions…

It’s interesting contrasting my mindset 36 years ago, and today.

None of those worries entered my mind as a 19-year-old just embarking on life as an adult. Perhaps because I had my whole life ahead of me. Plenty of time to correct any mistakes. Plenty of time to work and make money.

Yet now, at 55, I’m finding I’m approaching things more cautiously.

I’m more worried about making a mistake I can’t undo. Perhaps its from years of conditioning about how life is supposed to work. You work all your life, and save and invest for retirement. You retire when you turn 65. But whose rules are those? How many people do we all know who never even made it to 65 years old? Or those who retired at 60 or 65 and died shortly after?

Rewriting the rules.

Who says we can’t rewrite those rules if we’re inspired to do something different? After all, there are no guarantees for any of us. Whether we’re 19 or 55. We all have just today. And we hope plenty of tomorrows. So if we let fear stop us from following our hearts, where are we then? What will we potentially miss out on? What is the cost of that comfort and safety?

I’m inspired to live more like I did at age 19.

To live life fully. To go for it. To plan just enough, but not let fear stop me from living the life I’m feeling called to live.

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