What I’ve learned from 20 years of marriage

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Wedding 2
Our wedding day in December 2002.

grazianoIt was September of 2002, and we were driving home after my cousin’s wedding, a bibulous affair that left sand on our tongues and dull throbbings behind our eyes. But we were still newly in love, and that alone remedied our hangovers.

Liz was driving while I manned the radio, stopping on a station when I heard the long wistful notes of the harmonica accompanied by a piano at the beginning of “Thunder Road.” I glanced at Liz—my girlfriend at the time—and she smiled softly.

At that very moment, I was moved by a paroxysm that nearly took away my breath. Maybe it was the music, Springsteen’s assurance that there was “magic in the night” while conceding he was “no hero,” but things suddenly seemed clear to me.

I wanted to go “on the wind” with this woman, marry her and spend the rest of our lives together[1].

This week, my wife Liz and I celebrated two decades of marriage while our daughter[2], who’s home from college for a few weeks between semesters, and our son, a senior in high school, emptied our cupboards, rolled their eyes and usurped the bathrooms as the products of our union.

And with all of this nuptial wisdom now under my belt, I have arrived at one indubitable nugget of wisdom, a single unshakable truth: Marriage is hard.

In fact, I might go as far as saying that marriage has been the hardest thing that I’ve ever done.

Going into marriage, the couple realizes that the odds are not necessarily in their favor. Although the statistics are somewhat disparate, there is roughly a 50 percent chance that any marriage will end in divorce.

Screenshot 2022 12 30 7.16.41 PM
Ten years in, loving life in Provincetown, 2012.

Meanwhile, maintaining a marriage requires the types of life skills that aren’t necessarily intuitive—patience and compassion, compromise and selflessness and, most importantly, forgiveness.

In others words, to make a marriage last, both partners have to be willing to eat a certain amount of shit[3].

And even this doesn’t guarantee that the relationship will remain sustainable. People— hopefully—change as they get older and gain new experiences, and sometimes couples grow apart, due to no fault other than the complexity of the human condition.

My wife will also attest that our marriage has experienced multiple tempests, and we’ve both had lawyers and locksmiths on speed-dial at numerous points. But maybe part of what keeps us together is a mutual acknowledgment of the tenuousness of our marriage.

Still, after 20 years of marriage, there are no guarantees that our wedding rings will remain on left hands. Shit happens, and there’s still more shit to eat.

But I couldn’t think of anyone with whom I’d rather sit down and share that meal[4].

A little over two decades ago, while returning home from a wedding, moved by a Bruce Springsteen tune, I decided that I wanted to run away with the woman driving and spend the rest of my life with her.

So far, I’ve succeeded. Happy Anniversary, my love[5].

20 years later
This is us, 20 years later.


[1] What I wouldn’t give to be able to harness a small portion of the blind passion and idealism that once flooded my poet’s heart in those days.

[2] My daughter will be 20 years old in June. Do the math. It’s not my finest Catholic moment.

[3] If you’ve figured out how to navigate marriage without this, please write a book. I’ll be the first in line to purchase it.

[4] Seeing that we’re going out to dinner soon, perhaps I should ease up on the scatological metaphor.

[5] Unfortunately, Liz came down with the flu on the day of our anniversary so we still haven’t had the opportunity to celebrate it properly.


About this Author

Nathan Graziano

Nathan Graziano lives in Manchester with his wife and kids. He's the author of nine collections of fiction and poetry. His most recent book, Born on Good Friday was published by Roadside Press in 2023. He's a high school teacher and freelance writer, and in his free time, he writes bios about himself in the third person. For more information, visit his website: http://www.nathangraziano.com