Friday, March 28, 2014

Marriage: The Good; the Bad; the Ugly

I feel like venting today.  About men.  About one man in particular.  About a particular man who's been a bit of an ass lately, IMHO.

But I'm not going to.  I'm not a huge believer in dissing my hubbie, particularly in this forum, and I hope you've noticed over the years that I don't do this.  Sometimes, like recently, it would be easy to do a little dumping and I've got a few draft blog posts on the subject that, honestly, will never be published because I'm not interested in dumping publicly about my hubbie.

But maybe it's an ok time to talk a bit about marriage.  What to do when marriage sucks.  What to do when you'd rather have your spouse stay home from the family vacation so that you could enjoy it more.

Geoff and I have dealt with our share of challenges over the years and, frankly, neither of us are a picnic to live with at times.  There was a time when we didn't know if we were going to make it; if we should or would or could be married any more.  We've gone through some ugly times.  I understand why marriages fail because we almost lost ours.  Those were dark days...and thankfully in the distant past now.

But I wish, because we're in the hindsight-is-twenty-twenty days, that sometimes I could say to people that it just might be worth it in the end to keep working on the relationship.  That there is light at the end of a very long tunnel.  That working at something without giving up can pay huge relational dividends and a surprising amount of joy.  That marriage can, against all odds and feelings, be even better than before because of the shared commitment that it took to make it work.

Now, I'm not talking about abusive marriages here; I'm not talking about marriages where addictions have overtaken relationship; etc etc.  There are definitely circumstances that I am not speaking to today, and I understand that there are circumstances where a marriage can't, even shouldn't, continue.

But it does seem like many marriages these days end because marriage is hard; because it takes more work and/or commitment and/or energy than we have in us at the time; because one's a work-a-holic and doesn't have the right priorities; because we change over time and no longer see in the other person the individual we fell in love with and committed to; because we don't feel love for our partner anymore; because we don't feel like we even have a partner anymore; because one is more committed than the other; because we're attracted to different kinds of people now; because we've fallen out of love; because life wasn't supposed to turn out this way; because there seems to be no hope of things ever getting better; because we live in an instant gratification kind of world where we are told it's ok to end it.  It also seems like when people are in their late 30s or early 40s, and perhaps going through mid life crises, that marriages are more apt to fall apart.

I lived all of those things I've just described, and many more, and I believed them to be absolutely true in my life; Geoff, too.

For folks in these situations, I sometimes wish I could say just hang on a little longer...because things can get better.  Soo much better.

When Geoff and I hit rock bottom what seems like forever ago now, I remember thinking in the lead-up to those days that we were pretty much a fait accompli.  Done.  There was nothing left.  Things seemed pretty bleak, and with good reason.  I won't go into details, because those details are best left to Geoff and me, but it was really, really hard for a very long time and we struggled.  We got help and even that counselling help wasn't enough to get us all the way through.  We just refused to consider the alternative (Geoff even more strongly than me) and, over time, decided that if we weren't going to part company, we just had to keep working at it to figure it all out.

It took a pretty long time for my feelings to come back.  In fact, in hindsight, I'd say that it was a miracle that slowly evolved between us over the course of years.  Years.  Love began to blossom again and I can honestly say today that I'm so very glad that we stuck at it and put our guts into rebuilding things because it's been worth it.  I love Geoff and he loves me.  A deep-down, committed, I-know-you-and-you-know-me kind of love.

We still have some harder days and weeks, like lately.  But they're not nearly as bad or as hard as they once were and, having worked through the worst, perhaps because we'd worked through the worst, there's now this abiding level of assurance and confidence and foresight that, no matter what, we're truly in this for the long haul and that it's going to be ok and better.  During the harder days we hold on for the days we know are coming.  Truly, I'm not sure the good days are nearly as enjoyable without the bad days that go before.  I'm not sure if it's possible to really experience abiding joy and contentment without also knowing discontent and sadness and grief.  Love changes over time, to be sure, and sometimes it doesn't exist at all, but what a blessing it can be if it's clung to and sought after and fought for.  We're coming up to our 20th anniversary this year and, knowing what we've gone through, I'm a little surprised!  But more than anything, I'm so glad that we made it.  So thankful.  I don't take it for granted.

So even in these days when I think Geoff's a bit of an ass, I have to say that I really know now, deep down, that these days will pass and that I can afford to be gracious to him in his rough patch because the next time it may well be me being the ass and me being in need of some grace and because all of that grace flowing will lead to the good days - the ones when we're so thankful that we've made it...that we're gonna be just fine...that we really are 'til death do us part.

Our kids are fortunate.  They're fortunate to have parents who climbed the rungs from the bottom and who are committed to each other.  Recently, when Geoff and I were having a simple discussion about something we were disagreeing about, my ever-anxious Matthew, who's recently become more aware of marriages falling apart, asked if our disagreeing meant that our marriage might break up.  Seth, in a surprisingly astute and amazingly secure moment, said something offhand (while hanging upside down over the edge of the couch) like "Matthew, we disagree all of the time and we're still brothers.  Mommy and Daddy love each other and they love us and they're gonna be fine.  They're just talkin' and they don't always agree on stuff."

And there was nothing more awesome-feeling than for me to be able to add, with heart full of quiet confidence, "Seth's right.  Dad and I are in this for the long haul.  Til death do us part."

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