Lately, my Facebook feed is becoming more and more littered with "friends" bashing marriage. Mostly it comes in the forms of jokes and memes. But sometimes, not so much.
I also get to see my single friends struggle with the dating life. Some have kids, others do not. But that never seems to matter much. They all pretty much have the same struggle, finding that right person who will accept and love them as they are.
Seeing all these things escalate on an almost daily basis has really made me think on my own relationship more. And I got to tell you, I for one am so happy to be married and not single again.
This year we will celebrate our 16th wedding anniversary. And yes, I can say that with all confidence. And here's why: We learned how to make it.
You don't make it 15+ years into marriage without a few major hurdles. Of course we had the financial hurdle. But we also had the unexpected child hurdle, the change of job/hours hurdle, and the biggest hurdle of all. The one no one ever talks about but is there. The people grow and change hurdle. It's that last one that is the one that sneaks up on you.
When you get married, you have all these wonderful notions of how the marriage will be. You have expectations and dreams. And that's all well and good, but then after a while, you start to realize it's not like what you expected at all. You aren't the same person 5 years into your marriage as you were the day you got married. And guess what, neither is your spouse. With in those first 5 years or so, someone usually has a job change. Or there may be child. You may move. Something big (maybe more than one thing) is going to happen. It's going to change the way you and your spouse relate to each other. Because no two people are the same. And you both will adjust differently to whatever it is life has thrown at you. You will adjust the way you always have. They will too. And that's not always going to put the two of you on the same page. If you both adjust differently, and expect the other one to adjust in the same way you do, and they don't, it leads to stress and tension. You will expect them to act one way, and when they don't, you are disappointed, hurt, let down. That can, and often does, lead to resentment and anger. And before you know it.... it's a major hurdle you have to overcome you never saw coming. And sadly, this is a reason for many splits. They end it saying things like "you weren't the person I thought you were" or "we've grown apart" or "you've changed", or "I am just not happy anymore".
And you know what? This unexpected hurdle, it happens over and over again in marriage. Life will keep throwing things at you. And you and your spouse have to learn to adjust together, instead of seperately. That comes from being able to be open and honest with each other. Communication is very important. It's trusting your spouse with your feelings. It's being able to to listen to your spouse and take what they are feeling and saying to heart. It's working on a solution together. My husband and I have learned to speak up when we feel ourselves growing apart. Something like "Hey honey, can we talk? I know things have been hectic lately and you've been super stressed. And I really don't want to add that, but I feel like we are starting to drift apart again. How about a lunch date next week and maybe a movie night, just us?" Nine out of ten times, the other one of us is starting to feel it too. And it's almost a relief to get it out there and make a plan to work on us. The other one time, the other one thinks the one saying it is completely off their rocker, but we don't say that. We may say, "Really? I hadn't noticed. But yeah, lets make some time for each other."
It's making time to be with one another and enjoy each other again that will help you build your relationship. After a working on time with one another, you will usually find it easier to talk to one another about what the issue(s) are. You feel close again. You trust again. And you want to work it out. But you have to make the time to make your spouse a priority first.
Another thing that we have learned, is to be able to say how we are felling without placing blame. That's a tricky one. It's one thing to say "I feel lonely these days" or "I really miss spending time with you" than it is to say "you work all the time and are never here". One way is just being open and honest about how you feel without placing blame. The other is just going to make your spouse defensive. And once they become defensive, they aren't going to really hear what you are trying to say. Try and word your feelings honestly, but carefully. Really listen to everything your spouse says to you during that crucial time you are discussing issues. Try not to take it personally (easier said than done) and really try to understand what they are trying to say and how they feel.
It's not easy. Especially the first few (read dozen) times. You will find yourself questioning your marriage a few times in your marriage. (Something no one ever really tells you when you say I do). And you know what? I think that's human nature. It's hard. It's not working at the moment. You are hurt and disappointed. Of course you'll question it. But that is where your vows come in. That's when you dig in and say "Nope! I am gonna give it all I have and we are going to work through this".
Here's a little secret: Several years ago, on Valentine's Day of all days (it wasn't planned), I asked for divorce. My husband and I were both miserable. And after yet another argument and hurt feelings, I was finally done. He refused. He said he wasn't gonna let me go. That we could work through it. And you know what? We did. It wasn't easy, but we did it. And I am so very glad of it. It was worth it.
Here is something we have learned over the years. We love each other. If we didn't then we wouldn't be hurt or disappointed in one another at times. It's because we care that we get hurt.
My husband knows me. He knows my past. He knows all my flaws. He knows what makes me happy and what doesn't. He knows what I believe in. He knows my passions. He knows my fears. We have little inside jokes that are all ours. And I know these things about him. That is what makes the fight worth it. I don't want to try to do all this again with someone else. Because the truth is, I'll find myself right back in this same situation eventually. Where one or both of us is hurt or disappointed. Where we have changed, and not together. Then what? Another divorce? Another break up? No. I refuse to do it. And so does my husband. We love one another. We want to do life together. And we know better than most, it does get hard. It does get ugly. But we are worth it. And we are happier and stronger today then we were almost 16 years ago, 10 years ago, 3 years ago, last year. We are learning how to do life together. That's marriage. Learning to do life together. Even the hard stuff. You will always be learning, always be adjusting. You will have times of hard work and hurt. And you will have times of complete and total happiness and comfort. It really is working through the hard stuff that makes the good stuff even better.
I don't envy my single friends. I'll take my marriage over being single any day. It's worth it. They may not agree. And that's okay. I still love them. ;)