I don’t write about marriage very often, mostly out of respect for my husband’s privacy. He didn’t sign up for this blogging stuff and is a more private person than me. Also, the times when I’m most tempted to write about marriage are usually times I just want to rant about my husband’s faults and failures (of which he has many – as do I). I’m either feeling slighted, taken for granted, or wronged in some way, and I want to state my case, not just to him, but to the world! Now… while that would be tremendously satisfying in the short run, and garner me much tea and sympathy since you’d only be getting my side of the story, in the long run I believe it would spell disaster. So I generally stay quiet here.
But there is something to be said for sharing that ALL marriages go through tough times, that no marriage is perfect, and that even the most consistently wonderful and nice people are capable of being mean, hurtful and passive-aggressive. We all have unhealthy ways of “dealing” in our relationships.
I am NOT perfect. For one thing, I learned early on in life to not express my “negative” feelings (or even know that I’m feeling them!). You know what I mean. Feelings like anger, disappointment or hurt – the bad ones. Of course they’re not bad, they just ARE – but expressing those feelings is an invitation to conflict, and conflict is terrifying. As a result, I’m not much of a talker. My husband, on the other hand, thinks by talking. One of his greatest frustrations with me is that he hardly knows what I’m thinking. I am still a mystery to him, which is sometimes thrilling but other times downright infuriating. One of my greatest frustrations with him is that I always know exactly what he’s thinking, even when I wish I didn’t.
Next month we will be married for T W E N T Y years. For some people that may be a drop in the bucket, but for me twenty years is a LONG time to be working at something. After twenty years you’d think we’d have each other and this “marriage thing” figured out. Nope. Not even close. And it gets harder when you have children, because not only will you have the disagreements that normally crop up when two people try to live together, you’ll also have disagreements over parenting style/decisions – a new hard area for us as our oldest child is now deep in the pool of adolescence.
We’re still learning how to maneuver around one another – to know when to grant space/come close, when to push/comfort, when to talk/listen. We’re often not on the same page which makes it difficult too – one of us needing space when the other wants to come close etc… There are SO many ways to fail. And so many times we do. It’s amazing to me that we haven’t figured out better rules for disagreeing and for resolving our disagreements. I mean, yes, we have certain basic ground rules – no physical violence, no shaming, as much as possible don’t be nasty in front of the kids, and unless it’s REALLY bad, even if we’re still angry, we will sleep in the same bed (that’s a huge hot button for me since my parents slept in separate rooms for years). One of the good things about our relationship is that after a rough patch we often come together and talk about how we can do it better “the next time.” Because there WILL be a next time. Perfection is unattainable. There is no perfect marriage, because there are no perfect people.
So why stay together? Why exhaust ourselves working so damn hard at something we know we’ll never get completely right? I can’t answer that for you – I can only answer for me. For me it’s about love, but it’s also about commitment – not for the sake of the children, or what religion dictates – but the life we have built together. It’s not always pretty but it’s ours. We’ve been through A LOT, and for each battle we come through, that means we’ve just made it through even more. Shared history is powerful. And those vows we made when he and I stood at the altar and before God and our loved ones? Yeah those. The “worse, poorer, sickness” parts. Marriage isn’t roses, candy and romantic walks on the beach every day. True, it’s hard for a marriage to stay together without loving acts of kindness and tenderness – and if you find no happiness at all with your partner it may be time to free yourself (I know, I was divorced a long time ago) BUT… to expect sunshine all the time is just too much – too much pressure on you, your spouse AND the institution. Again, no perfect marriage because no perfect people…
I’m writing this because I just had a really bad three days with my partner. There were moments when I thought I was just too emotionally spent to break the ice, could see that both of us were “digging in,” and wondered how we’d figure out how to travel over this big bump in our relationship. But the thaw has come, kindness is returning, and we’re talking, thank God. Sometimes waiting is the key – waiting for those HUGE emotions to ebb – waiting and *showing up.
* I give credit where credit is due – for more on “showing up” you can read Glennon Melton at Momastery here – she’s phenomenal).