After several marriages (three to be exact), the American journalist and writer Nora Ephron concluded, “It’s always hard to remember love — years pass, and you say to yourself, was I really in love, or was I just kidding myself? Was I really in love, or was I just pretending he was the man of my dreams? Was I really in love, or was I just desperate?”

Ephron is not exaggerating. She is not being pessimistic either. She says love might be the glue, but we need more because even glue gets used up.  

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When I was younger, I would ask older couples their secret to a long-term marriage. I kept getting the same answer: patience and pretend you’re deaf.  

And they added — you might not always get what you want in life, but hopefully, you get what you need. 

Now, marriage might or might not be what you need, and that’s okay 

But if you do enter into a marriage (or long-term relationship), bear in mind the following: it’s an arrangement more like a Roman clef — a collage of real-life events embellished with a thick veneer of fiction. 

You must enter a marriage with your eyes wide open, not shut. Forget about Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Snow White. There is no such thing as a Prince, Princess, or Queen. That is too much expectation to put on a person. 

And don’t wish for a love that burns. There is no longevity in that. It consumes itself, and then it’s gone. To last 20 years, love has to bend, twist, and flow. 

As I write this, Harry Styles blasts through my earbuds, singing, “We are not who we used to be.” No kidding, Harry.

Marriage, like life, isn’t static. It changes and evolves

Marriage never stays as that initial watermelon sugar high.  

The best parts of marriage are not that first burst of passion (the “I can’t live without you” thing) but the day-to-day. That coffee you share in the morning, the political discussions no one wins, and the home you built together.   

Porque, cambia, todo cambia. 

So, after 20 years of it, what do you say to the face looking back at you in the mirror? How do you recognize the girl who fell madly in love with the boy (or girl) in the reflection of the woman you have become? 

Don’t fret. The image staring back at you has weathered the perfect storm we call marriage and morphed into a survivor, an accomplice, a fellow traveler. 

The girl has moved from a cliched love-sick amateur to a woman who can handle a tangible relationship. She has trashed the pretty Barbie-pink love dreams of her youth. 

Then how do you rewrite a love story if you can be honest with your partner? 

After 20 years of marriage, this is what I would say.  

First, I need my space and room to breathe. Can you see the first book, “A Room of My Own by Virginia Woolf” on my bookshelf? 

Second, you don’t own me and never will. Love isn’t ownership. Let me live beside you — walk along beside you — and we will each find our way and hopefully meet in the middle. 

Third, words are important. Choose them with care. Do not take me for granted. Tread lightly.  

Fourth — and this is important — I am not here to be your mother or your nurse. My ovaries don’t come with a homing device for your needs, your lost socks, or whatever it is you may be looking for at whatever time. 

Last but not least, blind love is a fleeting customer; companionship lasts forever. Yet, to survive 20 years together, demand a room of your own that you can lock from the inside.