1998/2018: Whatever 20/20, Day Ten: Spouse

This one is easy: I’ve had the same spouse the last 20 years, and if I’m lucky I’ll have the same one twenty years from now, and if I’m really lucky I’ll the same one 20 years after that, too. If I have the same one 20 years after that, there’s probably been some amazing breakthrough in the aging process, since then I would be 109. But if I am, and there is, I hope that I would have the same one, too.

That said, 1998 was a very significant year in our spousedom, because this was the year that Krissy was pregnant with Athena, and the year we stopped being only spouses and became parents as well. No matter what your relationship is as a married couple, adding a kid to the mix changes things, and it was a reasonable question about how a child would change how we related to each other.

It turns out we did pretty well with it (I mean, so far; Athena turns 20 this December). Part of that was because we did what we already always did with each other, which was to talk about it — what our fears and concerns and expectations and hopes were for this whole “we’ll be parents” thing. After all, we had several months to prepare and be ready to support each other.

As a result, I think parenthood made us better spouses. We better understood each other because of our expectations about child rearing, we trusted each other to take the lead when one of us needed a break, and we relied on each other to otherwise share the load of helping another person make their way into the world. Whether we were great parents is something you’ll need to ask Athena about, but in the matter of being husband and wife, it worked out pretty great, and gave us a deeper appreciation for the other. I’m not saying it works that way for every set of spouses (or that every set of spouses should have kids). But in 1998, a new child was a thing was going to change our relationship to each other. In 2018 I can say it absolutely did, and for the better.

Parenthood is of course not the only event that made its mark on us as spouses over the last twenty years. Moving to Ohio in 2001 was another — when we moved, Krissy didn’t have a job lined up and I was not entirely sure that I would be able to sustain my freelance relationships when I didn’t live in DC or have relatively easy access to NYC, which were the two hubs of my freelance work. Krissy had her family in the area but I didn’t have any of my own set of friends. It could have been a stressful switch in our life. But again we did what we always do: talk and plan and rely on each other and find ways to have each other’s backs. We got some breaks in there, to be sure (like my freelance clients not caring where I lived, and Krissy getting a job that promoted her seven hours into her first day because they immediately realized her worth to them). But knowing we are there for each other matters, then and now.

I can give you more specific examples, but at this point I think you probably get it. The John and Kristine show runs on communication and trust and love, always has and hopefully always will. I realize that there are very few couples who wouldn’t say that they trust their spouse and tell them everything and hold nothing back, quite obviously; it’s what you’re supposed to do. And hopefully people do! Because it has worked for us. And also, yes: in fact, I trust Krissy and tell her everything and hold nothing back from her.

Because why would I? It turns out (and anyone who has met Krissy will confirm this for you) that Krissy is smarter, wiser and better grounded than I ever was and have ever been, and having someone like that in your life is huge if you’re someone like me. Aside from being someone I can rely on for advice and grounding, she’s also been someone I have learned from, and to model some of my own behavior on. Many of the things people have said they admire about me, I got from watching her do them first, and then taking the time to incorporate them into my own personality and outlook. I give Krissy a lot of credit for helping me to become a functional grown-up, basically.

Krissy, is, bluntly, the person I admire the most in the world. She is the person who I think of when I wonder what action to take, not only in the sense of “what would Krissy do” but in the sense of “is this something I would be proud to tell her that I did.” I may or may not ever do something based on the first of these (she is not me and I am not her), but I can always rely on the second as a guide. Moreover, she the basis and foundation of any success I have had since I met her. There is not a day I do not acknowledge and appreciate all the ways, small and large, that her presence in my life and her partnership with me has made my life materially and existentially better.

And what does she get out of me? Well, she’s the best person to answer that question, of course. But with that said, and with full acknowledgement that usually this is the place where someone like me writing something like this says “I don’t know what she sees in me,” I think there are a few things I do bring to the table. Krissy is good with what’s directly in front of her; I am good at thinking several steps out. I think fast and I am good in a crisis. I am deeply loyal. Weirdly for someone both creative and lacking in a real job, I have always made good money and have never been stupid about having it or keeping it. Finally, I have a moral center. This is not to suggest that she doesn’t (oh, she does), but to suggest that she doesn’t have to spend a lot of time worrying about whether I do.

Also, I see her: she has never had cause to doubt that I value her, and that I know her value, not just for me, or for our relationship, but in and for herself. Krissy is easy to look at — she is, without exaggeration, one of the most physically beautiful people I’ve seen in my life — but there is a difference between being looked at and being seen. I’ve seen her since our first date in 1993, when we had our first real talk and I realized there was a whole lot more to this person sitting across from me than the fact that she was visually stunning. I still see her, and continue to find more to see in her, every day.

Plus! I make her laugh and am also her lifetime designated driver, which are not small things, either.

Ultimately I think a major aspect of our success as spouses is simply that we are complementary on many process things and in agreement on many moral and philosophical things. There are things I can’t do she can do (or that I can do, it’s just she does them better), and vice versa, and on a day to day basis, that makes things work. Deep down she and I have similar a similar outlook on what defines A Good Life, and on existential basis, that also makes things work. I think this a useful combination for spouses to have in a general sense. I think most people are better off with someone who sees the world similarly and have skills that make them a good team.

I don’t think it’s a secret to anyone, either who reads me online or who knows me in real life, that I’m besotted with my wife; if upon meeting you for the first time in real life I haven’t shown you a picture of her within five minutes, I’m off my game. I get moony and giddy when I’m out with her in public, too, as again anyone who’s seen me with her in public will tell you. What you don’t know is that I kind of do that when we’re by ourselves too. I tell her on a better than daily basis that I love her and that my life is better with her in it.

Part of the reason I do that is, because, well, it’s true: I do love her and my life is better with her in it. I’m not exactly a taciturn man; I’m not one of those people who thinks that just saying that sort of thing once, or every once in a while, is sufficient. I think people like to be reminded of something like that on a regular basis. I’m happy to say it. And of course, not just say it: I try to do both the little and big things that make it clear that the words are not just words.

And then there’s the other part. One day it’s very likely that one of us is going to have to leave the other, and that actuarially speaking, that person is likely to be me. What I believe about the nature of life and the universe leads me to conclude that the time I have with Krissy now is all the time I will ever have with her. If I’m wrong, I plan to tell her and show her how much I love her for the rest of eternity. But if I’m right, this time together is what we have. There is no point, then, in not loving her flat out, full volume, as much as I possibly can, right now. There is never a time while we live together that I want her to feel or believe that I love her any less than entirely, fully and completely. I don’t want her ever to doubt it, or to lack it, or to miss it while we’re both alive. I want to love her so much that if I do have to leave her, the echoes of that love will sustain through the rest of her life. That she knows she was loved, and seen, and that she made my life, and the life we had together, worth the living.

That’s what I do, and have done these last twenty years, and before then too, and intend to keep on doing, for the next twenty years, and the twenty after that, and for as long as it lasts. Our lives have changed, and will change again. But this one thing, I’m happy to keep the same.


46 Comments on “1998/2018: Whatever 20/20, Day Ten: Spouse”

  1. Little weepy tear of emotion…

    I lost my best friend 5 years ago, and haven’t even wanted to replace him. You are right, love it up every day

  2. I love this! I am glad that you both found each other and that you found you have enough in common for a strong foundation and enough different for supporting each other. It’s a joy to see someone communicate deep and enduring love for their partner and their family. I also wish you 20 and 20 more and…enough years.

  3. I was married for 15 years then divorced for much longer. I am not envious or jealous of you and Krissy, but I am ferociously wistful. Glad for both of you.

  4. This is beautiful, John. You two remind me of my parents, and there is no bigger compliment I could give. They’re in their 60s and still very much in a day-to-day kind of love. I have always respected how you speak about your wife on this blog. Here’s to many happy years together!

  5. While reading that heartfelt post, I kept thinking of Jason’s Isbell’s song “If We Were Vampires” about his marriage and his wife:

  6. So how’s the progress on that new Harlequin Romance book you’re writing? ;-)

    Seriously, well said. Our best wishes for 60 more wonderful love filled years!

  7. We’re just a little further down the road in our marriage — past the 25yr mark — also with one twenty-something child, and my better half is also a very pretty lady (then and now) and a me a guy who knows he’s lucky to have her hang around with the likes of me for that long! And I had to LOL at that “lifetime designated driver” thing…we have kind of the same arrangement…not officially, but I know that when we go out to eat, she enjoys a glass of wine or two with dinner more than I do, so I always settle for the marañon drink or the kalamansi juice or whatever other interesting ethnic non-alcoholic drink I can find on the menu.

  8. I’m betting Krissy would agree with every word of this.

    Beyond how wonderful it is to have such a great marriage, Athena is so lucky to have grown up in a family with such mutual love and respect.

    Many more years of happiness to you and Krissy!!

  9. Such a great tribute to your marriage! It was a year ago today that I ran into you at the Chicago O’Hare airport, and it was because I recognized Krissy first. Lol. I’ve seen her picture here enough that I turned around at the food court and said, “Oh my god, you’re Krissy Scalzi.” I still laugh at that. It’s apparent how the two of you value each other from your posts here, her photos, your words. I hope you’re together for all the time to come!

  10. What a lovely tribute to your wife and to your marriage. Good for you, sir. I share your philosophy about the time you will have together, so let me wish you many more happy decades to come.

  11. What a wonderful tribute!

    I’m lucky to have my wife Anne Marie in my life for many of the reasons that you (more elegantly) mention. I wish that more men had your wisdom.

  12. Well, shoot, Scalzi. That was lovely.

    Thanks for sharing that. I am happy for you both and wish you many, many years of happiness to come.

  13. What I believe about the nature of life and the universe leads me to conclude that the time I have with Krissy now is all the time I will ever have with her. If I’m wrong, I plan to tell her and show her how much I love her for the rest of eternity. But if I’m right, this time together is what we have. There is no point, then, in not loving her flat out, full volume, as much as I possibly can, right now.

    THIS. This is exactly what I believe, and how I strive to treat my partner. The whole essay is good, but that bit just jumped out at me because it’s perfect.

  14. ]I’m pretty sure you’re actually underselling how awesome Krissy is. I *know* you’re underselling yourself.

  15. Well, hell. That second last paragraph had me crying. Your marriage sound lovely for you both. I hope you continue to be as happy as you are now.

  16. Congratulations to both of you! I hope you’ll more decades together… FYI… is there something wrong with your Twitter posts? I’ve been able to see them, but not today..

  17. If you were a character in a WW2 novel or movie , you’d be the soldier other soldiers asked for help writing love letters to their own wives and girlfriends back home. Because you’re really, really good at it.

  18. That was beautiful (as we all know). I, personally, hope to find someone who I feel that way about, and who feels that way about me – to the point of demonstrating it through our mutual daily actions. Bringing more love to the world is such a wonderful thing.

    P.S. Here’s hoping they achieve that aging breakthrough thing!

  19. That was most beautiful. It’s what I was looking for and thought I had. Ah well.

    Here’s to an eternity of love, growth, discovery, and wonder. Blessings on you two and three.

  20. I appreciate the way you talk about both Krissy and Athena–neither blowing smoke nor airing dirty laundry, and being really straightforward and specific about what works well (and, sometimes, where there’s friction.) What you’ve chosen to share with your public is a fantastic model for relationships and parenting. Thanks.

  21. Totally happy for you! You have a magnificent wife (and daughter who looks very much like Krissy!!) and I wish you every happiness for the next 20/40/60 yrs :)

  22. It always brings me joy to witness two people who love and appreciate each other. Sometimes you can tell by the way they look at each other, sometimes by the way they hold hands. Sometimes, you read the words of a man who is already adept at expressing himself in the written form, and he tells you just how much he loves and appreciates his wife.

    Thanks, John.

  23. BTW, the “20 years later” picture is awesome. (I think I just put this comment elsewhere in the wrong place.)

  24. “Is this something I would be proud to tell her that I did?” is such a fabulous guiding principle. It combines common sense, decency, and love in such a beautiful way. You are lucky to have found Krissy and she is lucky to have found you.