A Successful Marriage Is Never as Easy as A, B, C

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In his 20s and early 30s, Eric Sirota was a single physicist who lived alone and often felt like Victor, the solitary scientist in Mary Shelley’s novel “Frankenstein.” Mr. Sirota, who also composes musicals, even began working on one inspired by the Frankenstein story. “The message is that everyone deserves a chance at love,” he said of his interpretation. “You have to go find it and nurture it but it’s something people are entitled to, and it makes them better people.”

His own search for love was an endurance test: He estimated that in the 1980s and early ’90s, before internet dating sites even existed, he went on 110 dates, most of them blind and so uninteresting, he thought about science experiments during them.

“I wanted someone who was exactly like me, who thought like me,” said Mr. Sirota, 58. “I now know that would be easier, but incomplete.”

When he met Cara London in 1991 at a crowded singles event aboard the Intrepid, the aircraft carrier docked in the Hudson River, he didn’t recognize himself in her at all. Mr. Sirota is meticulous, mathematical and alphabetizes everything; she was a “flighty artist,” she said, who was mystified by physics and had never alphabetized anything in her life. At the time, she lived in an Upper East Side apartment with a Westie named Rocky. He disliked dogs, and cats too. They had almost nothing in common but liked each other immediately.

“Love is a force of nature a physicist can’t explain,” Mr. Sirota said. “You can’t apply logic to it.”

Their wedding, which took place less than a year after they met, was highlighted in a Vows column on July 12, 1992. Now, more than 25 years later, they have not grown more alike, only more tolerant. “I don’t think there’s a day that goes by when we don’t view the world differently,” Ms. London, 56, said.

They live in Flemington, N.J., in a house overflowing with her oil paintings and pastel drawings; Mr. Sirota has numbered and cataloged each piece.

When their two children — Julia Sirota, 22, and Craig Sirota, 20 — were growing up, Ms. London would sometimes turn the kitchen into an art studio and forget about making dinner. Mr. Sirota, who has been a research scientist at Exxon Research and Engineering (now ExxonMobil) in Annandale, N.J., for more than 30 years, would just order takeout for everyone. He is also the one who makes sure the fire extinguishers in the house are working.

“I think marriage is constantly choosing to be a team. It’s a conscious decision — this is a priority,” Ms. London said.CreditMark Makela for The New York Times

“He’s technical, and my abilities are much more hands-in-the-dirt kind of thing,” Ms. London said. “I’m the one bringing home the animals, adding more pets, much to his consternation. He’ll say, ‘What? This wasn’t what we planned!’”

She added, “We have things we don’t see eye to eye on but there’s never been a doubt that overall, we are a team. I think marriage is constantly choosing to be a team. It’s a conscious decision — this is a priority. This is home base.”

Over the years, Mr. Sirota has continued working on “Frankenstein,” now the official title of his musical. In fact, as Julia and Craig got older, it became a family project. While some families work on puzzles together, the Sirotas huddled around the piano, revising “Frankenstein.” “I needed to find Cara, get married and have children so they could help me with the lyrics,” Mr. Sirota said. “My daughter did a lot of the editing. She said, ‘You can’t have this verse, it’s heteronormative.’ I said, ‘What?’”

At one point in the musical, an older couple warns a younger one about marriage. “All days won’t be so sunny,” they say, and, “His lips won’t always taste like honey.” Also: “Young bride, the man whose ring you wear will one day start to lose his hair.”

After many years together, Mr. Sirota and Ms. London agreed, the real stuff somehow becomes the romantic stuff. “You grow to love the imperfections,” Mr. Sirota said. “In fact, the longer and longer you are in a marriage, the less you even want perfection.”

The Sirotas are empty nesters now (“We can eat anything, anytime!” Ms. London said), and “Frankenstein” has found a larger audience. After a short break for the holidays, performances of “Frankenstein” resume Jan. 15 at St. Luke’s Theater on West 46th Street in New York and continue every Monday night.

In recent years, Mr. Sirota said, their marriage has entered new territory. Each year seems to bring a strange mix of graduation ceremonies, opening nights, college acceptances and funerals, of “congratulations and condolences.”

In 2011, Ms. London’s father died of brain cancer and last March, Mr. Sirota’s father died of Alzheimer’s disease. Toward the end of his life, he could not remember the names of his children but he could perfectly recall the lyrics to his favorite songs. Whenever Mr. Sirota and Ms. London visited him, they would all sing together. “With gusto,” Mr. Sirota said.

After Mr. Sirota’s mother died in 2015, he found a stash of letters she had secretly written to him when he was a teenager. In one, she outlined — more like conjured, it turns out — the type of woman she hoped he would marry.

“It described Cara,” he said, his voice cracking with emotion. “If she had to invent a daughter-in-law, it would have been Cara.”