IN THIS TOGETHER ◽ MARRIAGE
“So it’s not gonna be easy. It’s going to be really hard;
we’re gonna have to work at this every day, but I want to do that with you.
I want all of you, forever, every day. You and me….every day.” Nicholas Sparks
Now I know I normally save my little blurb or quote for the end of my articles. But sometimes, especially when you’re well past your editor’s cut off and you’ve already scrapped two pathetic attempts, mixing things up just a little might just push you forward and put the words on the paper that make a little sense. I hope. So here are my musings for today. Buckle up.
If I am going to be completely honest, some days, being married is hard. Most days are great, and lots of days are comfortable and comforting. But some days….some days are awful. I always thought that this was something that I had to hide. I grew up never seeing my parents disagree. I never saw my friends’ parents argue. Even as an adult, I didn’t know that my friends who were in long term relationships had days when they’ve considered making a run for it. I guess it’s one of those things like the dishes in the sink and laundry piles. You want to sweep it under a rug to project a pretty picture to the outside world.
I get it. I feel you. And just in case there is any question here, I’m not talking about dangerous and/or abusive situations. (If you are in one of those, you’ve got my FB info right here, so send me a message and we’ll get you to a safe space. You are not alone. You are enough. You are valuable. Period.)
What I am talking about are two humans, trying to figure out how to live together in wedded bliss while simultaneously trying not to lose their minds. We’re imperfect. We’re selfish. We’re annoying…all of us. My husband and I have experienced the gauntlet of issues in our 15 years together and with our extended families and friends. We’ve been through loss and grief, joy, health fears, births and deaths, broken bodies, broken hearts and broken minds. We’ve been through some of the highest of highs and what felt like the lowest of lows. And most of the time, we have been able to weather these things together, he and I against the world.
However, there are other days.
There are days where we’ve let little annoyances fester unspoken. Ones that started as basically nothing, but over time, built into a big something. And once the avalanche starts, it’s can leave a pretty rapid path of destruction in its wake. We all have those stories. Something related to the human condition, I guess.
Now, we all know how dumb we are in the early stages of a relationship. Everything is so new and squeaky clean. It’s full of romance and butterflies, our brains are flooded with dopamine, and we can’t imagine being anything but blissfully in love with this beautiful person we’ve chosen. Fast forward a few years….add in job stress, money stress, kids stress (whether that’s having them or not having them, wanting them or not), social injustice, mental health struggles and then wrap it all up in a nice pretty global pandemic bow, and we have yourselves a recipe for meltdown. One day, we’re daydreaming of walking down the aisle to Canon in D or the ever trendy Etta James, then we blink and suddenly find ourselves lying in bed, listening to the brain rattling snores coming from this person we’ve have pledged our life to, wondering if we can claim an insanity defense if we were to actually smother our partner with a pillow. And to top it off, we can’t even remember the last time we shaved our legs, much less felt those same goosebumps we did after our first date. It happens to the best of us.
Even the couples that look like they have this special secret ingredient that the rest of us mortals long to have….yeah, you know the ones. I promise you that if they were honest, they could recount stories of times when they were far from picture perfect. It’s because while God created us for connection and communion, we are also still messy and imperfect even without adding an extra set of baggage to the mix.
But what makes us keep going? Why would we keep drudging through the bad days when we don’t feel at all “in love?”
My mom always told me that love is a choice. I didn’t really understand this until I’d been married for more than five minutes, but there are days where we have to work REALLY hard at our marriage. I personally blame the entire rom-com movie industry, Christian “romance” novels and Disney princesses. They paint this easy, gentle, fun loving picture that just sets us up for the letdown of unrealistic expectations. If you want the truth, I was so unprepared for what marriage was going to be. I had zero idea how to deal with conflict, misunderstandings, when to speak up and when to shut up. I thought it was supposed to be easy. But it wasn’t. Some days it still isn’t. But the thing that has given us reason to push forward with each other instead of running far, far away is the fact that even though he still gives me the shivers, we are friends before we are lovers.
My husband and I met in our early 20’s at an airport in New Jersey. After I finished being grumpy about getting stuck alone in Newark after dark, we became friends. We would banter back and forth, arguing over football, and talking about our favorite TV shows. He’ll tell you that he knew I was special from the moment he met me. I’ll say he thought my spice girl hair-do and flippant sarcastic attitude were intriguing, because he couldn’t just woo me with his long eyelashes and big brown eyes. We’ll agree to disagree, but either way, he was right (do NOT tell him I said that! He’s reached his “I’m right” quotient for the month). We WERE special. And for years after that meeting, we would talk on the phone, picking up every silly conversation wherever we had left off.
Those years getting to know each other from a distance (Louisiana to Lubbock) without any other expectations really helped to build our foundation more in friendship than hormones. But our friendship has carried us through the dumpster fire portions of marriage. And there have been some. We’ve gone through times that neither one of us could see a way out. We were tired. We were hurting. We were broken, both as individuals and as a couple. We did not feel “in love.” Sometimes we didn’t even feel “in like.”
Choosing to love each other - even when we didn’t like each other - saved us more than once or twice. As well as choosing to fight even when we wanted to quit saved us again. Not because we necessarily wanted to all the time, but more because…
We were invested in our friendship.
So when things get mundane or hard or busy, remember the person who made you laugh too loud in the middle of a fancy dinner, or left your favorite candy on your nightstand after a tough day at work. Remember the person who pushed you to stand up for yourself when you forgot how to and be proud of who you were and are and will someday be. Find him/her again. And even more importantly, be that person again.
And when we do, and the friendship that holds it all together remains, we can find the spark that’s been hiding in the dark, waiting to come to life.