I’ve been holding back on writing this post since I originally got the idea to write it when my wife and I celebrated our 16th wedding anniversary back in April. We posted a picture on facebook of us just kicking back at home and I spoke about what I thought the “secret” to our marriage was. It ended up generating quite a few responses. I’ve wanted to elaborate a bit on that but I’ve held back because I didn’t want to sound like some schmuck giving out marriage advice.
I’ve always found it absurd for one married couple to give marriage advice to another married couple. People are different; where they come from, what they’re motivated by, who they look up to, who/what they’re influenced by, etc. What might work well for one couple may not for another.
Marriage advice? Keep it to yourself, please.
Now, here’s our story.
When I started my video production business 7+ years ago, my first gigs (like most videographers starting out) were weddings. Shot a few of them for my company and also shot many a wedding for other event companies and my favorite part of the wedding reception were the wedding toasts. You know, the part where the best man and maid of honor gush over what an “amazing” couple the bride and groom are, how they were just made for each other, how enviable their love for one another is.
Oh, and then the parents (if they’re both still married) and grandparents (if they’re both still alive) grab the mic and share their marriage “secrets” with the young couple; “Always listen to each other”, “Say ‘I love you’ to each other every single day”, “Never ever go to bed mad at each other” and my personal favorite, “Remember, kids, a successful marriage is hard work!” I love that one but more on that later. Now back to me and Mrs. Perez.
As of 2014, Mrs. Perez and I have been married 16 years. 16 really good years. Oh, and we didn’t exactly get off to a smooth start. My daughter was already 6 months old when we decided to get married (mostly pressure from our families), I was making barely $25k/year working in sales at a small catering business in the Bronx, my wife (who was on disability for a kidney transplant she received 7 years prior) wasn’t working and we ended up having to move into her parent’s house on Long Island after we tied the knot because I couldn’t afford a place of our own. As for the honeymoon? All I could afford was a weekend stay in chilly Montauk, New York, at Daunt’s Albatross Motel (which is still there today).
Then things really got interesting.
My wife’s transplanted kidney failed a few months after we got married (less than a year after my daughter was born). She would go on to spend the next nine years on dialysis. During that time, however, my career began to blossom and I landed a rather nice paying job as a sales manager in a large family entertainment center on Long Island. We were able to buy our first house (I loved that house) but after three years at my sweet but highly stressful job, I ended up on the losing end of a power struggle and was fired.
After a few months of searching, I received a comparable job offer from a multi-acre family entertainment center in South Florida so we ended up selling our house (did I mention how much I loved that house?) and relocating to Fort Lauderdale from New York, leaving our families and friends behind.
Florida. Yeah, I know.
Less than a year later, Mrs. Perez was diagnosed with a large aneurysm in her heart and had to have her aortic valve replaced back in New York (thanks, Dr. Oz!). My wife then received her second kidney transplant (a few years after her heart surgery) right at the same time I decided to start a video production company. A hobby will always just be a hobby unless you take action, right? Right.
Oh, and then the rising real estate market in South Florida suddenly tanked; the home equity we were hoping to hold us over vanished. We ended up burning through our finances and all our savings. And just last summer, my wife’s aortic valve had to be replaced yet again in New York’s Presbyterian Hospital.
Sounds like a Alejandro González Iñárritu movie, no?
But here’s the thing, we got through all that. Our marriage stronger, our family stronger. And it could have easily gone the other way. Health issues, relocation, plummeting finances – these sort of challenges have left many a failed marriage in their wake.
So how did we do it? What was our secret? Dumb luck.
The right two people got married, that’s all. We didn’t know it then but we sure as shit know it now. And that’s not to say we’ve made it the whole way through yet – we’ve come a ways but we’re nowhere near the finish line; there are more challenges to come. We both know that.
And as for the whole “marriage is hard work” thing? Rubbish. It ain’t that marriage is hard, it’s that life starts to really suck right around the time we get married (early-late twenties). You know, right around the time we’re trying to pay off our college loans while working our asses off climbing up the corporate ladder (or trying to launch our own business) so that we can make more money so that we can buy a nice big house with a nice car in the driveway in a really nice neighborhood and buy really cool shit at Ikea and send our kids to private school.
That’s usually the time when you get stuck with an overworked asshole of a boss (or you find out that you suck as the boss of that business you started that was gonna allow you to retire at the age of 42) and your 3-year plan to save up for a house turns into 7 years living in an apartment and your first kid is born with autism and your wife now has to quit her job to be a full-time mom and your finances take a hit and the nice house with the nice car in that nice neighborhood and all that cool shit you were gonna buy at Ikea seems like a stupid dream now.
Let’s just say our lives become more complicated right around the time most of us get married, yes?
Life makes us work.
With that said, I don’t feel I’ve ever worked a day in my life on my marriage. Life can really suck ass sometimes but my marriage is where I go to escape that. It’s where I find solace, peace, happiness. Are we really expected to punch out at our “job” (which a majority of people hate) and then punch in again to work when we get home to our spouse?
I don’t think so.
You’ll hear people say about their jobs that when you love what you do, it isn’t work. Shouldn’t marriage be the same thing? It is in this house. Why? Because I married the right person. And it wasn’t because I was smart – just lucky.
And here’s the really stupid part about the whole thing: nobody knows it on the day they get married. The day before life starts to show you how malicious it can be. The day before your wife’s kidney fails and she has to go on dialysis for the next nine years, the day before you get fired from your job, have to move to another state (Florida!), have to watch your wife get the aortic valve of her heart replaced twice, start a business, lose your whole life’s savings…
And I know this is gonna sound as corny as hell but besides the few days my wife was still too groggy from the heavy dose of anesthesia she received from her surgeries, I can’t remember a single day where we didn’t laugh together. Not one.
There’s no marriage secret for that, that’s just dumb luck.
Through it all, we’ve seen our daughter grow to be a beautifully cynical young lady (daddy’s girl, God help her), seen my wife receive a perfect match of a kidney after her doctors just about ruled out any possibility of that ever happening (seven years since her transplant and still going strong), seen my business grow each of the past seven years, even winning a few film festival awards along the way, all the while realizing that long stays in the hospital and not having money couldn’t break us…
And did I mention we’ve laughed every single day?
Dumb luck. That’s the secret to a successful marriage. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Like us on facebook and you’ll make us really happy; we’re not sure why, though, but studies have shown that people who like our facebook page are 37% cooler than people who don’t…
Great post, Dan. We talked a bit about this when we last saw each other in the city. It’s inspiring to hear you say that you consider yourself lucky considering the wicked twists and turns that life has taken for you and Mrs. Perez. There’s a lot of truth in what you’ve written. You have to play the hands you’re dealt, and you cannot control a lot of what you get… except with whom you play the game of life. It’s obvious to see that the Perez family is a fortunate one!
It’s not so much that you have to play the hands you’re dealt – I (or Mrs. Perez) could have easily abandoned the relationship and found happiness (perhaps?) elsewhere. It’s more that the hand we were dealt made us realize who we are and how much our marriage mattered.
You & Mimi are just getting started and I hope, when the fire comes, you both find yourselves feeling lucky in 15 years – you’re both good people and we’ll all sit down for those black beans Mimi promised me next time we’re in NYC 🙂
You may be right. I really appreciate you telling how you reached your conclusion and how you got to this point.
Your story is amazing and engaging. Maybe some day I should tell mine. Short version? I’ve been married multiple times. Needless to say, there were issues with all of the previous marriages. There are a myriad of things I can say about my current relationship that I could not say before: We were friends first, then became romantically involved later. We (knock on wood) have not had an argument. We’ve dealt with medical issues, grown offspring (hers since I have none), projects, and so on with grace. We deal with personal and interpersonal issues in a real and immediate way…consistently. We believe in spontaneous and organic responses to each other and the world around us. We treat each other with respect and support while doing the best we can to avoid any co-dependency. Wow! I really enjoy being able to say that. Of course, I owe a huge thanks to my beloved wife who has been an awesome example and teacher to me in the process of making this a reality.
So, I’m really grateful that you told your story and your truth. I honor it. And I’m grateful that your sharing invited me to notice my own truth.
Great to hear you’ve come into a relationship that seems to be working out. Did previous marriages prepare you for this new relationship where you changed who you were or did this new lady accept you better for who you are now? Curious about that.
Glad you enjoyed the post and thanks for also sharing on twitter and for your comment 🙂
You’re so welcome. My appreciation of your post is real, so that’s why!
Good question: The answer is both. A “perfect storm” of sorts, I guess. I’ve done a lot to adjust my attitude and I connected with a woman who is very conscious as well as a great match for me. Thanks for asking.
Hoping you hit the nail on the head with this one 🙂
I think you mean “Stan”. And I *have* hit the nail. 🙂
As you know, my wife and I didnt exactly have the standard wedding story, but after 15 years of marriage I can say that I love her now more than the day I first said “I do”. I can also say that we have had days where we did not laugh, we have gone to bed angry, we have had our share of tough times and arguments.
I do believe though that a good marriage does take work (not in the sense that you need to look at it as a job), you need to work at not letting the stress of life seep into your marriage. You have to work at communicating when one of you has a problem….. we make a point to communicate instead of just letting an issue blow over and forget about it (it always manages to return). We also make a point of making time for ourselves without our kids. Family time is great and we love our kids, but one day they will move out and if we dont enjoy our company now, it will be alot harder too later. Our faith is at the center of our marriage as well. I live for my wife and she lives for me. We all have our “secret to a good marriage”, I am very happy that yours is working for you and hope you and yours have more years of laughter ahead of you.
You and Flor have def gone well beyond what anyone of us would have predicted 15 years ago, that’s for sure 😉
Dealing with life takes work – it also reveals who we really are and that’s what happens when a relationship is dealt challenges. Me and Mady just happen to deal with things in a way that doesn’t (hasn’t yet) displease(d) the other. That’s the dumb luck part more than anything.
Wishing you both all the best!
33 years. We took vows and meant them (and still mean them). We’ve always liked each other AND loved each other – and, yes, we laugh every day. We’re two very flawed, yet oddly compatible people. I think that’s what every successful marriage is!
We’re all flawed – the question is are we compatible? You eventually find that out if you stay married long enough, yes?
Glad to hear you’re one of the lucky ones 🙂
Really, really super story. I never knew you’d been through so much when I first harassed you during a Twitter chat a few years back. I totally agreed with you, but you were so adamant! I had to poke at you. It was like you were begging for it! Sorry! (Not really.) (Not at all.) (Nada.)
Much as I mourned the loss of two marriages due to failure…each was heartbreaking for me. I dreamed the dream, you know? Got married too young (19) because I was so in love. Etc. Etc. Almost died of loneliness when it ended.
Then made a ridiculously stupid mistake and married someone who was a bad person. I’ll NEVER know why. I was blinded by infatuation. Disaster.
At the time, I didn’t think I’d ever find anybody to love and who loved me back.. But when the loss and pain started fading, I realized that I’d learned tons of things about what I needed in my life.
And though I dated, and had some crushes, I didn’t rush into anything. I thought long and hard before I got involved with someone. Made one mistake. And finally, the right guy came at the right time.
My dog had just died. I was devastated. And here was this caring, loving individual who was NOTHING like I’d always imagined my man would be. Not intellectual, not into funny, and he didn’t play games or cards!!!
But he understood that my dog had been the mainstay of my life, even though I loved my teaching job. And that was what I needed.
We’ve been happy for almost 20 years now, and hope to continue for another 20, IF we’re lucky enough to live that long! We both have health stuff, and probably won’t, but wouldn’t it be cool if we did? (We’re in our 60’s.)
The farm economy oddly got GREAT when the big recession hit, and he got cancer. Couldn’t farm anymore. Debtor’s prison for us both??? But no. The farm sold for far more than we ever expected, and lo and behold…we bought a house at a cheap price at the lake I’ve always loved since I was 7 years old. We have enough to live on, with my teaching income.
So I’m sitting here now, reading Mr. Perez’s post, and just 30 feet from the water. It sounds delicious. It’s the sound I would recall from old times with my family, and would try to imagine to help myself to go to sleep during the stupid, secretarial jobs I hated in my young years. Because I hadn’t finished college.
So when the heartbreak began to fade, I finally I did go back, and get my teaching degree, which was what I’d always wanted to do, but kept not finishing (twice) because of men I loved (#1) or thought I loved (#2). In those days, things were different for women.
Now I can hear the water music any day of the year, and there is someone to count on ’til death. I always know that it can and will end, because we’re not young, and have health issues. I hope I am gone first. Don’t know if I could be the one left. Another lesson?
But life is good. Life is very good. I’m politically oriented, so the wars and turmoil are upsetting, as well as the deadlocked situation with our government. Yet at this time of night, sitting near the lake and the music, I thank the stars that I’m not (at this time, maybe someday) in the midst of the wars, and love what I have.
My dog is next to me, though my guy is away seeing to his dad.
I am a lucky, lucky person. I love my work online with the kids who can’t read, I love my home, my dog, my guy. And I love the fact that despite being partially blinded and somewhat debilitated with back surgery and eye strain and a lot of pain on my remaining eye, making it hard to teach online…
I love life. And I think that’s what it’s all about. Seizing the moments that are beautiful. You wrote a beautiful and evocative piece, Dan. And I’m glad, because it got me out of my creating a teaching program for emergent readers who fail at school obsession** 24 hours a day, and back to the few things in life that truly, truly count.
I think I’d forgotten that.
Now, I’m ready to irritate you again. Whew! Let’s go at it!
Your Child Will Read
**I don’t know how to use Adobe Captivate, but I’m learning. But extremely slowly. I’m not good at Apple Keynote, but I’m trying. I’m starting now with VideoScribe…and I know nothing. But I’m trying. And this all makes me very happy too. And I need to master them for the kids who fail in school, and get no help. I teach differently, and know how to solve their issues.
But I was forgetting my real life. And that’s a bad thing. So thanks, kid.
What a story. Reading it, it made me sort of realize that getting to know who we are first certainly improves our “dumb luck” chances when it comes to a relationship. I think you came to realize who you were and what made you comfortable and found that with someone else.
If anything, your story makes it clear that it’s never too late to get “lucky” in life, yes?
Thanks for sharing…
Oh, and don’t start none, won’t be none on twitter, ya dig? 😉
I can dig it…
Dan, getting to know myself first before choosing a life partner was the most important part of making a marriage work, in my experience. It may be very different for others, of course.
First and second husbands: brilliant, charming, charismatic, gifted (one in music, one in film,) handsome, women flocking around always, funny, interesting side talents.
But those things didn’t make life easy for a wife. In fact, it made it impossible, if one wanted to maintain any sense of self.
Afterwards, at 40, I had no more desire for brilliance, didn’t care about charming or handsome, because I’d had more than enough of that.
I wanted someone with a good soul. Who could put up with my teaching obsession. My admitted reading obsession. And my very, very blue down times. I’m not easy, myself. :/
I looked over in a pizza parlor one night and said said hello, because I always do, to anybody who looks lonely.
And after we chatted for a while, he said the words he’d dreamed of saying all his life: Would you like to sit at my table?
Luck? Maybe. But unlike every other night of my life, when I just got in my car and drove to get dinner when I was hungry, I walked around the house for two hours trying to decide. The Mexican place, or the pizza place?? Which? Which? Which?
I couldn’t figure out why I was delaying, when I was starving! But still I couldn’t decide—it was so important that i get the right meal that night Wha’???? Finally I decided on pizza, took off and arrived there.
And that’s why we were there at the same time, a booth across from one another. Two hours earlier, and we’d have never met.
I don’t have any true faith as most know it. But damn! It was more than serendipity. Why the sudden indecision for the first time ever? And for TWO HOURS?
Life rocks. And it’s a continuous mystery to me. I hope one day I find out how this all works. 😀
Although I must add, Buddy probably has it all figured out. (I had a Buddy too, and her death was the one that threw me into such a black hole that I did that weird dinner thing, and met Bob.) Who can figure?
He said how many days had it been since she died? And I said, “Three months.” And he didn’t laugh. <–WINNER.
You’ve got quite a story. Life seems to shine down on us more than shit upon us, we just gotta make sure we’re ready for whatever it throws us, even if it’s a slice of pizza, yes?
Oh, and when you get this whole life thing figured out, do invite me (and Mrs. Perez) over for some pizza – I’ll bring Buddy, too 🙂
I love this post Mr. Perez. That is all and man look at that fool with hair 😉
Damn you, Esposito 😉
I just love this Dan. Thank God for dumb luck.
Great post Dan!
Dan, I have never been married. Everyday one of my “brilliant” friends tell me how “lucky” or “smart” I am for being single. I had the opportunity once, but couldn’t imagine myself laughing enough with him and ultimately decided not to settle. I didn’t want to be In a marriage like most people are, fighting and putting up with each other. I wanted what it sounds like you have. You two are “home” to each other. Well now I am 46 about to be 47 in a few weeks, and believe me there is never a day that goes by that I don’t send my prayer up to heaven/god/my family angels and pray to have an opportunity be lucky and find someone who I can laugh with everyday. Reading your story, gives my a bit more faith to keep praying at a time I was about ready to simple give up. Many blessing for you and your family.
You only need to scroll down and read @OnlineReadingTeacher:disqus’s comment to see that it’s never too late to get lucky. Don’t change who you are, don’t give up and keep your fingers crossed – you never know.
Hoping for the best for you 🙂
Dan, I enjoyed reading your post. Whenever I try to talk about what makes my 17-years-and-counting marriage awesome, I feel like words are inadequate. Like you, I also believe how marriages function is as varied as the people in them. Mostly, we (too) feel enormously lucky! After so much time, we have built something that is bigger than the two of us as individuals and it makes all the struggles of life that much more navigable and easier while at the same time making life bigger and better. Congrats, you lucky dog!
Sounds like you’re just as lucky, no? I know it sounds simple but when the two right people get married, it ain’t so much work. The divorce rate indicates that it doesn’t happen all that often.
Nice to see you here 🙂
Lucky? Yeah, like won the lottery lucky! 😉