It was Christmas morning while away on vacation, we were planning to eat a lovely Shabbat meal together that evening. Our steaks were waiting to be cooked when all of the sudden my husband, whose only job was to pack the kitchen, realized he had forgotten to bring any salt.
As a way of avoiding the upset that I thought might ensue, I jumped up and said, “I’ll go on an adventure to find some.” It sure beat staying home in that moment. You see, he is a gourmet chef and salt is salt. There’s no way you can make a yummy steak without it.
I drove away from our rented vacation home and thought, “There has to be a hotel or a restaurant open catering to all Christmas/Jewish orphans.” I saw a couple standing at their mailbox down the street. I said, “Excuse me, you seem to appear to live here….I am in desperate need to find salt.” The woman turned around first and said, “What kind of salt?” Just then, her husband turned and said, “Lisa!” And I said, “Mark, Oh My God, this is fantastic.” He is my work neighbor in San Francisco. He said, “Come to our house – we have lots of salt.” I went there and left with three kinds of salt, pate for our dog, and a serious appreciation for my marital magic. Together we create things like this all the time. It is our salt and pepper partnership: a marriage made up of two very different people whose differences create a perfect pair.
On the outside, it looks like we have very little in common. I am more extroverted. He is more introverted. He wants to stay in. I want to go out. He is a late bird, I am a morning person. He prefers quiet. I like music. He wants spontaneity. I like plans. I like snuggling into soft blankets. He can’t touch them with a ten-foot pole. I do laundry. He does pans. He has daddy duty is in the morning. Mine is in the afternoon and/or evening. We are incredibly fortunate to have other hands on deck as well. I am simply highlighting our smaller differences. Another BIG difference: I want to run. He wants to stay. We end up in the middle. And married. We continue marrying our differences. It’s amazing and wonderful we have made it 15 years.
How have we stayed married for so long? We are both deeply passionate. And we are both extremely committed to ritual…..we observe Shabbat, and a beautiful ritual called sacred dating (I happily share this in the work I do). Note: ritual is about intention and progress vs. perfection. Our commitment grounds our marriage and highlights the reason we are so connected. This is where our similarities show up.
For years, I have argued, fought, begged for change. My loneliness would consume me. Then, recently, it dawned on me that my gratitude would serve me better than my complaining about our differences. I said to my husband, “I am frustrated with how our disconnection seems too BIG to get through.” He said without missing a beat, “I know exactly what you need to do: everyday think about five things you love about me and watch what happens.” I went to my iPad and drew exactly how I felt: Grrrrrrrrr-attitude! I was feeling super cranky and knew I was the only one in charge of my attitude. I started creating daily gratitudes called “grrr-attitude.” Believe it or not, I started feeling much more connected to what I love about my husband.
He is an incredible chef. He cooks up our history and delivers it through meals. He tells stories. His nourishment is so delicious but he insists on cooking alone; it is his craft and his art. On the other hand, I want us to cook together like the couples in Food & Wine magazine. No way – No how. And, in the end, it’s worth it. In 15 years of marriage I have eaten fantastic gourmet food every meal of every weekend. I am more and more grateful.
On my side, I cook up experiences and deliver them through adventures. Our daughters often end up going on separate adventures with each of us. I have heard our family style called ‘very unconventional.’
Acceptance and compassion weaves throughout our nest. That, infused with a hell of a lot of humor, is what keeps us strong. It’s only recently that I think I am really getting to know my husband. Our spiritual practices inform and complement one another. I said long ago I never wanted to be with a spiritually devout person. When we agreed to that, we were unconscious and simply wanted to get married. I don’t think people even know they are unconscious. When you are told “marriage is work”, I believe it’s when you start to get conscious about all the ways you want to change your partner which you were unwilling to face for fear of not getting married.
When we go away together, we dive into connection. We are alone together, rested, and we breathe life into our marriage.
Through my growling and tantrum, I found my way back to the love of difference: his male to my female, the freedom we both need to be ourselves in our partnership.
This does not in any way ignore the loneliness one feels in a marriage laden with such differences. This may even be seen as an attempt to justify the sadness. All of that is true. And our dance through acceptance and understanding results in a truly healthy marriage. We are coming to terms with our differences and constantly re-commit to find the connection however we can. That may mean through food, love of nature, ritual, or raising our daughters through our common values. I guess I wanted it all. Over time I have discovered that there are many ways to have it all and from many people. It need not only be my spouse. I guess I stopped trying to find a single story that could describe us, and began to delight in our unique connection. This is our real glue. Finally, I am celebrating the ‘&’ in our difference. We are truly a salt & pepper marriage. Our very different selves join in a committed and generous partnership filled with LOVE.