In the second year of my MBA program, I put on my black jumpsuit and headed to the end-of-semester dance party to celebrate the completion of grueling exams and papers. At around midnight, I asked a handsome guy to dance, not knowing how this simple gesture would alter the trajectory of my life. Jacob was getting a master in architecture and I had never seen him before around campus. He decided to crash the party after listening to the music waft up to the fifth-floor windows of the Architecture School drafting lounge. We were laughing and goofing around with exaggerated dance moves when Jacob ripped his pants. He pulled off his magenta sweater and swiftly wrapped it around his waist, a dance move that was embarrassing and hilarious at the same time.
It was the ‘80s and, as the party was winding down to Donna Summer’s Last Dance, I asked him to walk me home. That’s when we learned that we lived on the same street, in the same building. As we entered our lobby, we discovered that we were actually neighbors, although we had never met. I lived in apartment 6D and he lived in apartment 6F, diagonally across the hall. Such a New York story!
I showed him my apartment brimming with potted plants, shelves filled with my cherished books, and brightly colored Marimekko prints adorning the walls. He showed me his living room which was sparsely decorated with a soft gray couch from Ikea, a circular table with two directors chairs, and stunning pen-and-ink architectural renderings in plate glass leaning against the walls. As I admired his drawings, I asked, “Why are they on the floor instead of hanging on the walls?” He answered in a way that took my breath away, “I spend hours at my drafting table sketching day and night so when I come home I want to see open space.” I was intrigued.
We met for lunch the next day to continue our conversation. I had only met one other Canadian before and I thought that architecture was a cool, creative profession. We went to a funky café on the edge of the Columbia campus where I tasted an organic fig for the first time. Although this wasn’t a date, I was really enjoying time with my new-found neighbor. During these early days, Jacob proposed spontaneous “theme outings” including an exotic foreign film followed by a meal in a restaurant that had some link to the movie, or going on a mystery drive.
Fast forward, we were married 20 months later, and that was 38 years ago. The funny thing is that the person who my husband is today is the person who I envisioned myself marrying all those years ago. It just took a couple of decades until he became this version of himself. And I’m quite sure that the same is true for me.
On the surface we’re rather different. I’m extroverted, he’s introverted. I’m a quick start, he’s more methodical and considered in his approach. I love to belt out ballads and Broadway show tunes, he prefers classical music. And, over the years, we’ve learned to appreciate these differences and to be “open to being open” to expand our repertoire and appreciate things more. However, our core values and actions—the things that matter the most—were and continue to sustain our relationship. Our family circumstances and stories are divergent: His parents immigrated to Canada after the Holocaust, I’m a fourth-generation American. However, we both value family, a sense of God and the belief that there’s something greater than ourselves guiding our lives, and that our purpose in life is to lead a life of purpose. To matter and make a difference to others.
As a Positive Psychology practitioner, I’ve learned that having a positive relationship is the most enduring factor in determining one’s wellbeing. Here are a few things that have strengthened my marriage:
- Learning to have a sense of humor in good times and turbulent times, it’s hard to be stressed out when your spouse is making you laugh.
- Assuming goodwill, especially when things don’t turn out well, instead of going into the blame game.
- Supporting each other along our individual paths. Such as me leaving my career in advertising and marketing to launch a nonprofit and, 12 years later, going back to school to earn a masters in Positive Psychology, plus spending a few years writing my first book. And Jacob in deepening his painting classes and commitment to his art while also pursuing Torah classes on Zoom and in person.
To celebrate our anniversary, we’re spending a week at the ocean in Miami Beach reading good books, going for long bike rides, swimming before the sun comes up, and just being together.
I’m sending you strength and love.
Soaringwords is the power to heal.