We mark time in increments. There are seconds, minutes, and hours for short periods of time. Days, months, and years help us think in terms of longer collections of those short periods. Anniversaries note an annual occurrence of a special event, whether hard or joyous. A collection of these annual remembrances signal longer progressions in time.
Wedding anniversaries get those most attention because they suggest a hopeful moment in the past that renews each year as two individuals make their way in the world as partners. Though not all marriages survive to be remembered annually, those that do celebrate both the joys and struggles of those previous days, months, and years.
Kerri and I mark one of those such days today. Thirty-two years ago we announced to one another, along with friends and family, that we would be there for one another the next day and every day after. While many attach the emotion of love to weddings, which may be an accurate description if we understand love beyond attraction, I have often thought of that day as an affirmation of my respect for Kerri. I do not think that I fully understood it that day, but my love for her transcended attraction. Our models—both sets of parents—were deeply committed to one another and had shown us how to show up in a marriage, even on tough days. I realized later that was what respect meant in marriage. The vow mattered more than my particular needs or wants. I tell couples during weddings they ask me to perform that marriage is less about the wedding and more about showing up to the marriage every day, even on days you don’t want to. Respect one another to do that, and if either person cannot do that every day, then the marriage is broken whether or not the couple decides to divorce.
The odd part about an anniversary between Christmas and New Year’s Day is that we rarely celebrate the day beyond saying “happy anniversary” to one another. Three children and lovely extended family Christmas celebrations have taken precedent over anything we do with one another. I don’t think we have marked our marriage as much by anniversaries as by the daily reminder to be present to one another, through bright joys and painful losses, in each year we have been together.