“I just don’t get it. I hear all the stories but it doesn’t quite add up. Tell me, why is marriage so hard?”
A much younger me sits on the couch sandwiched between two girlfriends, us three being completely vulnerable with an older, wiser, trustworthy friend. Single, but very much in love and soon-to-be-engaged, I truly want to understand what no one else can seem to adequately explain.
If you love the someone — the right someone — you just work it out, stick it out … right?
This friend in particular has a reputation for being a truth-teller, and I am eager to hear her response. I lean half-forward, ears perked, anticipating whatever wisdom she may impart.
She pauses, eyebrows furrowed, looking up at the ceiling, her jet black hair cascading at her shoulders. Moments pass. We sit in silence while she gathers her thoughts and prepares what is sure to be a profound, Tweet-worthy response.
“It’s when,” she begins slowly, “your husband goes downstairs to get a bowl of cereal and he doesn’t even ask you if you want one,” she replies finally, with indignance.
I sit waiting for the rest, but there is none, and I can tell from her expression she.is.not.joking. And my younger, naive self does not know how to respond, doesn’t want to show disappointment, is 100 percent clueless.
A bowl of cereal? Really?
* * *
Really?! It occurs to me (randomly in the shower this morning) that we have been loving each other for a while.
My how time has changed us both. Changed our love.
We moved from friends to fiancés to forever. We learned each other’s quirks. Married each other’s faults. Promised to stay put no matter what.
We travelled extensively. Bought expensive gifts. Spent whole weekends walking hand in hand through the park, downtown, uptown, at dinner, at the movies, in bed.
Then we had a kid and life got hard. Love got hard.
Romance evolved from spontaneity and flowers and forget-me-nots to washing the dishes and doing laundry and making home cooked meals. I love you’s were replaced with tired, sympathetic stare contests at the end of each day. There were days tempers flared and exhaustion won. Hormones made me crazy.
The superficial faded without warning and strangely, we didn’t miss it.
We saw the worst of each other. Had our first argument. Drove each other crazy.
And I couldn’t help but wonder if it was this hard for everyone.
* * *
“What’s the best part of being married?” a younger friend asks me one day.
I smile at her knowingly, seeing so much of my younger self in her. Curious about what’s on the other side of her current life stage. Inquisitive. Wanting answers.
She waits for my response. I know it will disappoint, but I am honest anyway.
“It’s being truly known. Being completely honest about who you are — flaws and all — and knowing you’re loved anyway.”
She can’t possibly understand.
But I do. Wives everywhere do. I experience it when my husband gazes longingly in my direction on days I look a hot trashy mess. When I’m freaking out about something small like the house being a mess and he patiently listens and tries to unpack the molehill I've made into a mountain. When I get frustrated and rant at him for not meeting my every expectation and he prays for me instead of pointing out all the areas where I fail in retaliation.
And I wonder if it is this good for everyone.
* * *
“One day, you’ll just hit a wall. You’ll wake up and look at your each other and think to yourself, ‘You? I married you?’”
We are young and in love and in the middle of marriage counseling, fingers entwined sitting closer than close on a couch, listening for the wisdom that's supposed to help us keep this train on the tracks.
We share goo goo eyes, then seconds later give our marriage counselors the sidest of eyes. They are friends so they know us well and we trust them. But surely, they don’t know “us.”
We have never argued. Ever. Not even a cross word in two years of dating. Loving each other is … well, effortless.
“One day you’ll hit the wall. We all do. And you won’t be able to explain it. But you’ll know.”
Thankfully, we are not there. But I’m not as naive as I was then.
I know life will continue to change us. Change our love. Who can say what lies ahead? We do. More challenge. Greater obstacles. Neither of us knows how much time we have together, or when our journey will bring us to the wall.
When it's our time, Lord willing, we will scale it with all the grace and resilience our hearts can muster.
* * *
People don't fall out of love. They stop repenting. My husband tells me this one day, and although I'm too tired to Google the name of the very smart person who said it, (I die a million deaths by multiple tabs) it's so very true.
I'm convinced most people get married for the wrong reasons. No one would ever admit but it's true. There's no way you could possibly know what marriage is until you're in it.
You think you're getting married for love. Or for sex. Or for kids.
But what you're really committing to at the altar with your dreamy eyes and happy heart is work.
You're saying, "I do," to repenting daily. To compromise, and often. To being loving, patient and kind when your spouse doesn't deserve it. To forgiving time after time after time - even, no especially - when it hurts. To submitting to each other. To holding your tongue. To praying, a lot. To sanctification, however painful, uncomfortable, embarrassing, or horrifying it might be.
Who willingly commits to that?
* * *
"Oh, you guys are still honeymooning!"
It was the number one most annoying thing people said within the first two years of our marriage. Some, with precious nostalgia, others with resentment.
Either way, I hated it.
"Don't blame me because your marriage sucks," I lamented to my husband.
And I hate to say it, I so hate to say it, but I get it now. I still think it's stupid and rude, but I get it.
We were determined to keep our honeymoon alive, and we are still very much in love.
But marriage is no honeymoon.
It is work. Of the most rewarding kind. Because the strangest thing happens when you are showing unconditional love to your spouse every day.
It changes you. It's changing me. Permanently. For the better.