The Two Rooms of Marriage
Seventeen years ago I got off the phone with my cousin, who was telling me about this great guy. And who should call next? This great guy.
“Hi! Do you know who this is?”
“It’s Henri. Are you doing anything tomorrow?”
“Yes you are, you’re going on a date with me!”
Bravado. It liked it. It made a nice change from all the wishy-washy actors I had been dating since moving to Los Angeles. I was 25 and not looking for anything other than my break into television.
He was 32* (we’ll get to that later) and not used to being ignored.
Our first date was at a Mexican restaurant (on St. Patrick’s Day) and I asked him if it was ok if I ordered a $14 meal. I was used to dating starving actors. He was used to dating gold diggers, so he said, “I love you.”
I knew he was older than me and when I asked him his age he said, “Guess.”
“You’re a good guesser!”
But then things he said months later just didn’t add up. He said his sister was three years older than him and then later said she was turning 40. I’m not very good at arithmetic but I do know that 32+3 does not equal 40.
“You lied to me!” I said, punching his arm. I was ticked!
“I didn’t lie. I said you were a good guesser; I didn’t say you were right. Would you have dated me if you knew my real age?”
“Well then I’m glad I lied, because I think I’m falling for you, Lisa.”
At the six month mark I knew that I loved him and that he was the one. It took him two years (and me breaking up with him on an airplane) before he proposed.
It seemed as though we were either madly in love or breaking up. Yes, we were that couple. When things were good they were very good and when they were bad they were horrid.
But mostly they were good.
When we were first dating I surprised him for his birthday with a lesson to fly a helicopter.
Then for my birthday he took me paragliding. We did so many crazy things together just on whims. Like this one time we went to San Francisco and rented this little race car and zoomed around town with goofy helmets.
Another time we flew to Italy and I got into a fight with some random stranger in a bar, in Spanish, and Henri’s draw dropped. Mine kind of did too because I guess the only time I speak Spanish is when I’m drunk and in Italy.
In 2002 we were in New York City and he took me on a horse and buggy ride through Central Park. There was snow on the ground and the driver started going off about his recent divorce.
“Man, don’t ever get married. It’s the worst thing ever.” He continued grumbling for most of the ride until the horse stopped for some pedestrians to cross, Henri got down on his knee and said, “Lisa, would you be my wife?”
“Yes!” I said.
“Oh f*** me!” said the driver, and then, “Hey everyone! They just got engaged!!!” He turned to us, “I’m going to get so much business today! Merry Christmas!”
New York, New York by Frank Sinatra was playing at the outdoor ice skating rink nearby and everyone cheered for us. We played that song again at our wedding and everyone made a kick line like the Rockettes.
Well, not everyone. My father died of kidney cancer before we were married. I found out after the fact that Henri had spoken to my dad, told him that he loved me and would marry me some day.
Henri’s mother had died long ago from cancer as well. We joked that his mom and my dad would be cracking jokes about us from heaven.
Life was busy. There was work and marathons and fundraisers for cancer research. And then three years later the birth of our first child, Rylee Brianna.
“Lisa, she’s beautiful!” he said and tears filled both of our eyes.
Then two years later our son, Henry (the 5th!) was born with hair so red my grandma from Ireland would have been proud.
We moved to Texas, started a business, got busy with our kids. I gained weight, then lost it, then wrote two books and somehow ended up on a reality TV show.
For a time things were rough. Our marriage didn’t seem like fun, it was more like work. A friend suggested that I read this book called The Love Dare and I’ll never forget one analogy given in it and it’s this:
There are two rooms in a house. One is filled with all the bad memories that happened in your marriage. The hurts in black and white pictures hang on the walls. The angry words echo against the walls and become distorted like shattered mirrors on the floor. Times you were carelessly mean to each other pile up in a dark and neglected corner.
That room is real and it exists; it doesn’t mean you have to visit it every day.
There is another room. It is filled with all the good memories in your marriage. Like the fact that he takes the kids to school after a leg day workout when I’m sore and want to go back to bed. And that he’s a way better cook than me and an awesome father and knows how to make my kids give the biggest belly laughs ever.
There was the note he snuck in my suitcase I carried with me to film “American Grit,” telling me how proud he was of me, and how I kept it under my pillow along with a picture of him and the kids. There was the time he dried my tears as my mother lay dying and the time he pushed me to go for that promotion because he believed in me more than I did in myself.
The more time I spend in this room, the deeper I fall in love with this man. Each day we add new memories, decorating the room with small acts of kindness, shared laughter and love of our children and life together.
The other night he handed me a card and I was very confused. It was a surprise trip to St. Croix! I had wanted to go there for our 10th anniversary but we just didn’t have the money.
“Why? And why now? We don’t have the money for this!” I said.
“Lisa, we’re never going to have enough money. It’s never going to be the right time. And if I get hit by a dump truck tomorrow I’d hate myself for putting this off.”
Seventeen years later (thirteen of them married) and this man can still surprise me. I can’t wait for the next seventeen.
Happy anniversary, Henri!
Lisa Traugott is a Mom’s Choice Award winning writer, fitness blogger, wife and mom of two….and Original Cast Member of AMERICAN GRIT, starring John Cena, on FOX!!!
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