Marriage, an ancient tradition carried forth by our ancestors, passed along the ages as a badge of honor and bestowed upon each generation as an easily attainable purpose for our own futures. We can simply walk down to the courthouse, petition for a marriage license and voila, married! It’s easy. Just a hop, skip, and a jump to “Leave it to Beaver” land… yeah right!
Growing up I watched shows like Family Matters, The Cosby’s (I know that one’s a little taboo now), or Full House, and though they touched on some real issues in these shows, I remember the family units always being strong and fully intact. The marriages were perfect, thus making way for the perfect family life type scenario. There never seemed to be those huge looming issues between the married couples which only perpetuated the lie that marriage was always amazing and simple. It all seemed so wonderful, birds chirping, butterflies fluttering, sun shining and all that. Imagine my surprise when I grew up, found the love of my life, got married, and suddenly realized my grandiose ideas of matrimonial bliss were nothing but a cruel, cruel joke.
Come to think of it, maybe I had just lived a sheltered life…
I’ll be celebrating my 3rd year of marriage this September. I know, I know, it’s such a short amount of time, what could I possibly know about marriage? What could I possibly have to complain about? The truth is I don’t know a damn thing about marriage, I learn something new every day. I don’t have a single thing to complain about, either, but not because I have the world’s most perfect marriage, I don’t. We have our ups and downs, and there have been times I thought I would be better off alone, but then again where’s the fun in that?
My husband is a brilliant, caring, loving, devoted man, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t a complete moron sometimes. He can be the most gruelingly irritating person I’ve ever known one minute, and the best man alive the next minute, but I couldn’t love him less for it. I couldn’t think him less for the silly little mistakes he makes. The reality is, we chose to be a team. When I said “I Do”, I did so fully informed. We’d known each other for nearly 8 years by our wedding day and had always loved each other fiercely.
Turns out we didn’t know anything.
The first few months were nothing but bliss. We were overjoyed to be husband and wife, and we were going to take on the world as one forever and always. But, only months into our marriage, we began to fight. We fought about the most absurd things. So outlandish I can’t even remember what we argued about, now. We spent many a night not speaking to each other, or “putting on airs” in front of friends and family. We slept separately, only spoke when necessary, and at times stopped communicating altogether. Intimacy was something we didn’t even bother with and would go days without even hugging, let alone kissing. As a couple, we had halted. We had thrust ourselves into a life living as married roommates.
This went on for a while. We would make up, fight some more, and makeup. It was exhausting. At one point I gave up. I was devastated by the fact that our marriage was nothing like those perfect marriages you hear about with the couples who’ve been married for 50 years and are still madly in love. In just one short year we were headed toward divorce. I took my wedding ring off, held it up to him and told him I wanted a divorce, that I was unhappy. I placed it on the table in front of him, turned, walked to the bedroom and closed the door. I closed it to him, to us. I laid down and I cried. A few moments passed before I heard the door open and the soft sound of his footsteps as he approached my bedside. He kneeled down in front of me, held my ring up to me and quietly said, “Put this back on your finger where I placed it a year ago and don’t ever take it off in anger again.” He handed it to me, kissed me on my forehead, told me he loved me and walked out of the room.
After he left I stared at my ring in silence for a long time. I thought about how hurt I was and how angry I was with him. I thought about everything we had said to each other throughout our various arguments. I thought about how everything that was wrong with us was his fault and that he didn’t have the right to tell me to put my ring back on – that was my decision, not his. Then I thought about how sad he looked when I laid my ring down in front of him. I thought about all of the mean things I had said to him, how unwavering I was in all of my stances, and for the first time, I only thought about him. In all of the months of us fighting, I couldn’t pinpoint a single moment I’d put him ahead of what I was feeling. I don’t think I’ve ever cried so hard as I did that night.
I learned something that night more valuable than anything I had learned before in our marriage. I learned I had married him for the best of him and the worst, just as he had done for me. I’d married my best friend. I’d spent so much time focusing on everything that really didn’t matter in the grand scheme of things that I’d lost sight of the most important thing, the promise I’d made him to always be on his team. I’d chosen him for a reason and married him for a reason, and I hadn’t lived up to my own ideals about marriage. I hurt him, and us, and I needed to own that realization if I was going to be of any use in the mending of our broken home.
I went to my husband in the dead of night, where he lay sleeping fitfully on the couch and sat down next to him. He woke, looked at me with his sad, dreary eyes, and smiled a small, cheerless smile. He opened his arms to me and I went to him. I laid in his arms for the rest of the night and in the morning we began to repair what we had both broken within each other. We began listening to one another rather than just talking. We kissed and hugged every chance we got, behaving as though we actually liked each other. We became best friends who happened to be married and kicked our roommate mentality to the curb. We remembered why we loved each other and embraced just how difficult marriage is. We found peace in the knowledge that we would never have the “Leave it to Beaver” life and discovered we rather preferred the challenge of the life we were building together.
Nearly two years later and we are still working on our marriage. I think when we realized marriage took constant work, we became happier together than we had ever imagined we could be. Though my husband drives me crazy, had he not brought my ring to me that fateful night, I would have never known how wonderful my marriage was going to be.
Wishing you endless marital bliss,