Most of us don’t enter into marriage with eyes wide open. In fact, love sometimes requires that we look at our partner with a squint, or at least blink every once in awhile. When I married my husband I wasn’t blind to his shortcomings, my own faults or our many incompatibilities. That being said, I did tend to take a pretty sanguine view of how we would deal with these difficulties. Now that reality has come along and stomped on my rose colored glasses, I have one question: what happened to my “happily ever after”?
Now before you scoff at my naivete, hear me out. I am not talking about the “happily ever after” you see in movies. I knew that the prerequisites to a good marriage include the ability to fight fair because you will fight, to overlook those little irritating habits since we all have dozens of our own and to be able to say “I’m sorry” and “I forgive you” on a regular basis. I knew marriage didn’t mean perfection. What I didn’t realize was just how hard it could be despite the love you have for each other.
It turns out that love isn’t all you need. (Sorry Paul and John.) Marriage also requires time, communication, money and sex, among other things. And no matter what I do we always seem to come up short in one category or another. I have heard, and believe, that marriages go through seasons. Except instead of spring, summer, fall, and winter you get newlyweds, newly parents, “What the hell have we done?” and “Why did I ever get married?”.
My marriage seems to pass through a different season each week depending on how much money we have, talking we’ve done, love we’ve made and time for ourselves and each other we have managed to scrape together.The hardest part is, everyone around me makes it look so damn easy – the loving looks, tender caresses, Facebook photos, status updates and on and on. When I see these displays of affection and declarations of love I silently begin to question my own relationship.
If everyone else looks so happy and together all of the time, then why aren’t we? Is this just a shitty season or is our marriage doomed liked 50% of marriages in the U.S.? Is it supposed to be this hard or are we doing something wrong? Is something wrong with my marriage because the moments when we occupy the space of “happily ever after” are too few and far between?
I think the only honest answer I can give to this question is yes and no. Yes there are things wrong with my marriage. There is impatience, frustration, exhaustion, communication gone awry, anger and sadness. These things are part of my marriage. But other things are too. There is love, patience, humor, loyalty, sharing, learning and growth. It is a mixed bag and it is up to us to sort it out.
I am beginning to see my marriage as a kind of garden. In the very beginning we tilled the earth and planted seeds and everything looked perfect. It was so full of promise. Anything could and would be. But now that our plants are sprouting up, weeds have crept in. Some because we were too lazy to pull them, others because we didn’t see them until they had already taken root. Now we get to decide how to react. Do we deal with the drudgery and never ending task of pulling out the weeds or do we throw up our hands because our garden obviously isn’t “right”?
That is the lie – that my marriage isn’t “right” because it is imperfect, and hard and sometimes downright infuriating. I have come to understand that love doesn’t mean a continuously happy marriage. It doesn’t mean 80% good and 20% bad, or some other magical marriage ratio. Love means work. Exhausting, fulfilling, crazy hard work. It means weeding the garden because you believe in what you planted and built together, even if it looks messier than you expected.