My wife and I have just celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary. We gave one another a gift of a short trip to the North Island of New Zealand where we toasted one another, took long walks and had a wonderful time. But that wasn’t the only anniversary present we gave ourselves.
Before I tell you about our other present let me tell you a little about us. I am 65 years old and this is my second marriage. Eve is 69 years old and this is her third marriage. We met at the end of 1991, two ex-pat Americans who had both lived in Australia for a long time. We fell in love in April 1992 and have been together ever since.
Falling in love for us, as it seems to be for most everyone, was an emotional kaleidoscope. Every colour of joy, appreciation and fun filled every busy day. And, of course, we couldn’t keep our hands off of each other every busy night. We had our allotted three months of sex fuelled euphoria and then started the slow, bumpy and complicated process of building a relationship. That’s a process that never ends, but I think we’ve managed to negotiate our way through the rapids pretty well. We like and love each other and I think we’re both happy with who we’ve become and proud of the relationship we’ve nourished for all this time.
But, and of course there’s a but, things have changed over the years. While our sexual relating has always been good, it has become a lot less frequent. I found that I liked making dates and planning sex in advance. It suited me and meant that we would make time, enough time, to be sexual with one another. It was good but rarely spontaneous. And over time it tended towards once a week or once a fortnight or longer. I felt that somehow it wasn’t enough, that we should be having more sex. But if I wanted more sex all I had to do was ask for it – Eve would almost always smile and say yes. And if Eve wanted more I would jump at the chance. So it looked like we were getting as much as we wanted.
Does any of this sound familiar? It seems to me a cliche that relationships, good relationships, tend to follow this sort of pattern. There are books about it. Courses you can take. Lots and lots of suggestions about how to spice up your love life. So I don’t think we were alone in this. And who’d expect anything else from an “old” married couple?
The present we gave ourselves didn’t start out as a present at all. It was just a thought. While talking with Eve one night I was struck by the familiar feeling that more sex would be a good thing. I said so and off the top of my head said something about how good it would be to have sex every night for a while. I remember thinking that doing it for a week would be good, but I guess I wasn’t very clear because Eve heard it as a month of sex.
Somehow, without thinking too deeply about it we agreed to try. So as to make it less of an obligation we agreed that we at least talk about sex each night so that even if we weren’t sexual we wouldn’t pretend we’d “forgotten” about our agreement.
On January 30th, at Chateau Tongariro, New Zealand, we celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary. We toasted one another, took long walks and did one more thing that we’ve done every year on our anniversary. We read our marriage vows to one another. It’s something we starting doing as a way to see how we’re going; where we’re living up to our vision and where we’re falling short. It’s also a way of recommitting to our relationship.
Two lines from our vows jumped out at me this year. One was a vow to be responsible for “our mutual sexual fulfilment”. Not something you often see in wedding vows, but I think that’s mostly because of a reluctance to discuss sex publicly. Even if we hadn’t explicitly said it I think it would have been an unspoken part of our vows. It deserves to be.
The other is to “remain open to the possibility of our relationship”. The line is one we copied from someone else vows, but we liked it. It’s a promise to not settle, to not put up with, and to not give up on what might be possible in our relationship.
Our present to each other in January 2014 was to have a month the best and most sex we have had in our 20 years of marriage. We have been adventurous, imaginative and playful. Not every night, but nearly. We found that we could make love when we were too tired. We found that we could make love when we weren’t really in the mood. We found that it was always good and got better as our month of sex progressed.
Being married to Eve has been an extraordinary adventure and deeply satisfying for 20 years. Our gift this anniversary has been to show ourselves and each other that there is always more if we remain open to the possibility of our relationship.