I’m often shocked when a friend shares new of their marriage ending – especially when they seemed like Ken and Barbie (yes, I know marriage has a darker side) and you thought they’d be together forever. I always think of the divorce rate statistic and how hard it is for people to stay married. No doubt that marriage is one of the hardest relationships to maintain. Since I got news of this marriage ending, I’ve started reflecting on my marriage and the areas that I think it can feel hard. And I think it’s probably a couple different things:
1) it’s a never-ending relationship. You’re in it for the long haul and there is no end date. For some reason, things with an end date always seem easier for me. I remember preseason in college… it was several weeks of multiple practices a day. Hours and hours in a hot sweaty gym. So when the days were long and practices tough, I could always look at a countdown. 15 days left. 14 days left. I knew I just had to make it that far and then the schedule would lighten up. In marriage, there is no countdown, so when I’m in a “growth opportunity” (aka fight) with my husband, I don’t get to say, well only 47 more years. As long as I’m breathing, we have to work through it.
2) it’s a combination of two people who were raised differently. He saw a different “norm” than I did in marriage and how his parents interacted probably defined how he handles challenges in marriage. And my parents showed me their “norm” which shaped how I perceive marriage to be. Neither way was really right and in fact, I can guarantee that Dean and I would both say that our parents did some things good and some things not-so-good in their marriages. But the hard part is melding our two “childhood norms” into our own “norm”. Because I wasn’t in his childhood, I really don’t know what he saw, and vice versa, it can be hard to relate to how someone handles a challenge, especially if it is completely opposite of what you saw growing up. And then you panic because you don’t like how he’s doing it, or he doesn’t like how you’re handling it and things usually escalate from there.
3) it’s a CHOSEN love. There is something different about the love between a husband and wife. I truly believe that because it isn’t a blood related love (i.e. parent/child) that it is a harder love. I feel like parent-child and child-parent love is this primal love that is so deep and just there, no matter what. But, I think that a lot of times in marriage, there are times of lust-love and then times of chosen-love. I believe it is completely normal in marriage to fall in and out of love in cycles and when you hit a low, you have to CHOSE to love your spouse, even when it doesn’t feel like love – especially when it doesn’t feel like love. We live in a culture that so often promotes an “it’s-all-about-me” attitude and that is never going to mesh with a strong marriage. I think this is an area that I struggle with. I so often get stuck in the “me, me, me” – ‘why isn’t he filling my love tank? when is he going to recognize my contributions to our marriage?’ – and then when that happens, I feel like he’s not loving me. But a marriage is choosing to love, even when you don’t feel like it’s being reciprocated.
I am thankful for a husband who chooses to love me, even when it’s not fun to love me. And I’m thankful for a husband who has committed to the long haul. I want at least 44 more years with this guy so we can hit our big 5-0!
What else would you add to the list?