Because marriage is an ever-evolving experience, we constantly shift, change, love harder, love less and, in some cases, start over. In It’s No Secret,The Times highlights couples who share thoughts about commitment and what they have learned about themselves and each other along the way.
Who Jamie Cat Callan, 64, and Bill Thompson, 65.
Occupations She is an writer, he is a retired scientist
Their Marriage 12 years, 7 months and counting.
The couple married June 25, 2005, at the Ely Center of Contemporary Art in New Haven. Three years ago they bought an 1820 farmhouse on 50 acres in Valatie, N.Y. They have six children between them.
In 2006, Jamie Cat Callan wrote an essay for the Modern Love column about how she met her current husband. Now they have been married for more than a decade.
When Ms. Callan met Bill Thompson in 1994 she had been divorced for six months, had a 10-year-old daughter and had just moved to Connecticut from Los Angeles to take care of her mother. “I was in a desperate state,” said Ms. Callan, whose book, “Parisian Charm School” (TarcherPerigee) was released in early January. “My first husband wasn’t much help with child support. I had no money, and my mother was dying from cancer.”
Still, love happens. “I got a job as an adjunct professor at Fairfield University,” she said. “Bill missed the first class because he got lost. When I turned around during the second class, he was sitting in the front row. There was something about his face. I was instantly smitten.”
Also divorced, Mr. Thompson had five children from his previous marriage. “I only had one and that’s a big difference,” Ms. Callan said. At the end of the semester, Mr. Thompson transferred to Wesleyan.
From 1995 to 1998 the two stayed in touch. There were phone calls, movies and dinners. One night when he hugged her goodbye, “something had changed,” she said. “That’s when the love affair started.”
Five years later, Mr. Thompson proposed at the Olympia Tea Room in Westerly, R.I. “My daughter left for college, his children were on their own, he was no longer a student and had gotten his Ph.D.,” Ms. Callan said. “The time felt right, things had progressed to a point where we both felt we were ready.”
Ms. Callan: With a second marriage, you come with a lot of baggage. I’ve learned to be more patient and accepting. We’re careful to never take each other for granted and to be very aware of this thing we’re creating. I didn’t do that with my first marriage. With marriage comes all these distractions. Work, kids, a house. This time I’m mature enough to step back and make sure I take care of this marriage, and this relationship. Bill and I are also very conscious of how things can go wrong.
In my first marriage, we had a date night and it didn’t stop us from heading to Divorceland. I think that separates romance and love from the rest of life. What you’re saying is that you’ll take six days for granted and then have one special night.
The other danger with marriage is becoming the same person and losing your essential differences. This isn’t a business, it’s a romantic relationship. We make a cognizant effort to weave that romance into our everyday life. I call him handsome or Dr. Thompson — it’s sort of formal and sexy, and he calls me gorgeous. We stop to hug and be physical. We make ordinary, everyday things special. He makes coffee and brings it to me in bed, and every night I set up the cups and the can of espresso for him.
I’ve learned it’s not the grand gestures; it’s the ordinary things you do to make someone feel special that matter.
Mr. Thompson: Experience teaches you a lot. There’s a desire to make more of an effort the second time around. I’m a different person, too. Less anxious, more confident, more knowledgeable about life.
What I know with Jamie is to stay connected to the person you’re with. You have to communicate, which means you need to learn to listen. If you’re focused on getting your point across, you’re not doing either of those things. I’ve learned to acknowledge my frustrations, and that they will pass. With Jamie I know there are ways to get past those frustrations. She has a rare happiness about her. She gets excited about things. That’s contagious. I’m very down-to-earth and antisocial by nature. I’ve learned to appreciate our differences and celebrate that.
Twenty or 30 years ago it would have been a bone of contention if someone didn’t see the world the way I do. The important thing is to come back to how much we appreciate each other.
Our lives really come together at the end of the day. One of the ways I show love is to cook. I usually make dinner, and I make us each a cocktail. Jamie likes a sidecar; I’m more of a beer or gin and tonic person. It’s a little piece of love I give each night, I look forward to making it. It’s a bit of a production to make, so to me, it’s like giving her a small gift. We sit, have our drinks and watch the sunset. We take in the moment of satisfaction and appreciation, and think, How did we get so lucky?
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