The email that changed my life

Ten years ago today, I got an email from a young idealistic editor who wanted me to write for him. The job didn’t work out, but two and a half years later we were getting married in upstate New York on a beautiful fall day. It was, without a doubt, the best decision I ever made.

When we learn about love as children, we hear a lot about romance and sparks, undying devotion and soulmates. Finding a partner is framed as fate, not a choice. But I wish someone would have taught me the truth: that figuring out who you’re going to spend your life with, if that’s something you want, is more decision than destiny.

Most of us will have multiple relationships in our lifetimes, sometimes with not-so-great people. We can’t help who we fall in love with, but we do choose when to stay and when to leave. Who to build a life with and who to move on from.

My husband was not an obvious choice for me when we met. I was 28 years old, my life well-established; he was just out of college and sleeping on a friend’s couch. He was cerebral and idealistic, I was more emotional and jaded. We don’t communicate the same way: He’s from a family where things are implied but not said, my Italian-American roots mean we say — sometimes scream — everything.

Yet it worked, and we chose to be with each other.

There have been as many hard times as happy ones. We spent our first wedding anniversary in a neonatal intensive care unit, looking at our preemie daughter, hoping the day would bring good enough luck that she’d breath without assistance from a machine. We have sat in the same room unable to talk to each other, the air thick with tension and disappointment, trying to sort out how to live with each other in the aftermath of unexpected trauma.

Sometimes you have to choose to be together more than once.

Still, there has been no greater gift than my husband. Not because a relationship or one person can solve everything, not because I’m incomplete without a partner. But because my life has been made better by him being there.

I have a daughter, now healthy, we both adore. Last month, after he and Layla spent an afternoon in the biting cold making a snowman, she feared their creation would be lonely. Instead of coming back inside to warm by the fireplace, he stayed out another hour and made a snowdog and a snowcat. He always goes the extra mile, even with frozen fingers.

I’ve written more, and better, because we’re partners in work as much as we are in life — I know he’d say the say the same is true for my impact on his career. It’s fun to figure out next steps together, to have not just a best friend, but an in-house mentor. (Especially when said mentor is quite handsome.)

We make each other the best versions of ourselves.

In the grand scheme of things, ten years is not a long time — nor does years spent together mean having all the answers. This past summer my parents celebrated their fiftieth wedding anniversary, and I know they’re still sorting out how you share your life with a person day after day, year after year.

I think, in the end, you just choose. And I’m so glad I did.

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