Today is my wedding anniversary. Alan and I have been married 33 years. The time has flown by. After all these years he is still my best friend, my partner, my lover and my rock. I remember our wedding so clearly. We had a civil ceremony and were married by the federal judge before whom we had just finished a three month trial with the head of our litigation group at the time, Bob Cutler. Alan and I had been living together, but had been so circumspect about it that although we told Bob and our family and friends knew, no one else knew we were dating. In fact, opposing counsel were shocked, as was the judge. When the trial was just about over and all that was left was the jury charge (closing instructions to the jury) and jury deliberations, we were at the wedding of a friend of mine and saw the judge and her husband there. They were also friends with the bride and her family. I knew that like us they too had originally met at work, as young lawyers in the Wayne County Prosecuting Attorney’s office, but now she was a federal judge. We went up to their table and asked the judge if she would marry us in two weeks; that we wanted a vacation after the long trial and figured it may as well be our honeymoon. She was shocked we were dating – she said she thought Alan had done a nice thing as a friend to accompany me to the wedding given my hectic schedule in trial. She said she prided herself on knowing when someone was dating, even if they tried to hide it, but we had done a great job of seeming to just be friends. I told her at the time that because our firm had a nepotism policy that included married couples, and that under that policy one of us would have to leave the firm once we were married, we had been very quiet about it. We also had been close friends before dating, which helped maintain the fiction.
Our wedding was small – just immediate family and a couple of friends who had invited themselves, along with the judge and her husband and Bob and his wife. We had never been part of a civil ceremony but it was beautiful. It was held in the federal courtroom where an old courtroom from northern Michigan had been rebuilt, with beautiful marble and hardwood. It looked like a chapel. Our friend Kathy was the judge’s law clerk. To start the wedding she pounded her gavel and stated that “The matter of Marilyn Peters and Alan Greene is now called.” We wrote our own vows, and each told each other that we were each other’s best friend and would remain so. We both cried during the vows. Afterwards, we had a small dinner at Lelli’s in Detroit in their upstairs room, an old time Italian restaurant that later burned down. We were serenaded by the accordion player. We left a couple of days later for the Caribbean where Alan taught me how to snorkel and I learned about the amazing life of the ocean that one could see in the coral reefs.
When we returned, the head of our professional personnel, Lloyd S., met with us, reminded us of the firm’s nepotism policy, asked us why we could not just live together. That was funny coming from him, as he was a very traditional and old line blue blood. He then asked if we wanted to ask the Board of our law firm to make an exception for us. We, of course, said yes, and asked for the reasons behind the policy, so that we could make our argument why it should not apply. He told us the policy was intended to prevent favoritism or perceived favoritism. We reminded him that we were second year associates, that neither of us was in a position of authority over the other, that we could not help each other get greater compensation and that the reasons for the policy simply did not apply in our case. While we waited for the decision of the Board, we then argued over who should leave the firm, with each of us saying we would leave and the other person should stay. Alan reminded me that our firm at the time was ahead of many firms when it came to women lawyers, and so I should stay. I told him that while he was right, that did not mean that he should leave, but that instead, I should explore my opportunities and that whomever had the best opportunity should be the one to leave. We also both were taken to dinner by the opposing counsel in our three month trial and both offered jobs at their firm, for what they promised would be more money. They said they had no policy against married couples. This all became moot when Lloyd told us that the Board agreed with our argument and would make an exception to the policy so that we both could stay, under the condition that if either of us sat on the firm’s compensation committee as partners in the future, we would refrain from discussing or being part of the decision making on each other’s compensation and bonus. We readily agreed and could not even imagine being in that position. The funny thing is that a number of years later we each sat on the compensation committee at different times, and each had to leave the room when the other person’s compensation was being discussed. I have to admit it did frustrate me that I could not advocate for Alan getting more bonus and pay, not because I was trying to enrich us but because I truly believed he deserved more. While we were the firm’s first married couple, we have not been the last and since then we have had a few married couples. We remain the ones who have been there the longest.
Because we love working together and living together, we both have told each other that we did not take opportunities offered to leave the firm to stay with each other and to continue to practice law together. When our kids were young, we went on lunch “dates” at least once or twice a week because once we came home, it was so hectic with the kids, homework, getting dinner ready, etc. While we were often teased about our lunch dates, neither of us cared, although when I inadvertently called Alan “honey” during firm meetings, he was not happy. It was our opportunity to spend time just with each other. We have also helped each other out on our cases; something we could not do if we were in different firms. Clients get the benefit of our counsel without often knowing it, because we will run ideas by each other during lunch or at home, on our supposed off time. Some people say they cannot imagine working with their spouse. I cannot imagine not working with Alan.
The feelings I had for Alan the day we married have only intensified over the years of our marriage. He is an amazing partner. He is a wonderful father, and is just as caring with our kids as he is with me. I remember watching him with the children of friends before we had our own. He would make up wonderful stories that mesmerized them, play the guitar, or juggle for them. They loved it. I knew he would be a great father before he became a father. Many times over the years I have counted my blessings that I met and married him. I knew pretty early on that he was the person I wanted to marry and with whom I wanted to spend my life. I have told my daughter more than once to find someone like her father; that she could not do better. Alan remains the love of my life.
Happy Anniversary to my husband, my partner, my friend and my lover. Here’s to many more years together. While I wish you did not have to deal with my cancer diagnosis and the effects of that diagnosis, while I know that this diagnosis brought home your greatest fears given your mother’s loss of her battle with cancer many years ago, your sister’s three year battle with Hodgkins disease and your dad’s prostate cancer, you have been steadfast in your love, your care and your support. I raise a symbolic glass to life and love with you. L’chaim, my love!