Today, I’ve been married 28 years. Marriage is hard.
If you were hoping for a photo of a vase of flowers and a card and some generic platitude about “being married to my best friend” and how “I’d do it all over again” I’d suggest you move on down your Facebook feed or on to another blog. Because even if those things are true, I believe in speaking a higher truth.
Marriage is hard.
My parents were married to each other for over 50 years, until they died. Their marriage was not even remotely perfect–both were deeply flawed human beings, as we all are. There was indiscretion, betrayal and denial as well as affection, compromise and perseverance. When hurt, my mother reverted to passive-aggressiveness and closed off. My father stayed mostly passive and made mistakes. Neither really talked about it, ever.
I carry both my parent’s tendencies with me in my own relationships, because that’s what was modeled for me. But then something happened: I grew the fuck up. And I learned I can make different choices.
I found a practice (yoga, meditation) that forces me to hold myself accountable and see myself for who I am, both with myself and in relationship with others. I respect and appreciate the commitment my parents showed for each other. You don’t stay married for over half a century without some level of commitment. But I also knew I wanted something better.
“Being in love is no reason to get married,” my dad told me one evening as we drove across the lower level of the Ship Canal Bridge. I was a young woman in her early twenties, passionate and already in love with love and eager to be swept off her feet. He didn’t bother to elaborate, but his comment stayed with me.
I have grown to agree with him.
I have been head-over-heels in love with people I had no business building a life with. Being in love with someone is a great and important start, but marrying someone and staying married requires so much more.
My marriage has been wonderful, ecstatic, awful and dark. There have been times I have been hurt beyond measure and doubted if the light would ever return. Other instances, I have wielded the weapons to inflict damage and closed down just as tightly as my mother.
We are all deeply flawed human beings.
My marriage produced two, terrific children–both now nearly grown into fine young adults. If you want smooth sailing in your marriage, I’d suggest not having children. I can’t imagine anything more challenging than transitioning to parenthood, complete with two huge suitcases full of each other’s childhood baggage.
I can’t imagine anything more worthwhile and illuminating, either. Being a parent made me want to be a better person. Being a parent made me a better person.
Marriage is hard.
It’s also wonderful and valuable and fun and challenging and heartbreaking. My marriage probably doesn’t look a thing like yours and that’s just how it should be. There are fights and reconciliations and love and laughter and contentment and love and compromise and doubts and love and hard, hard work and–if you’re lucky–revelations that make you both better humans.
So, happy anniversary to me and the Mister. To celebrate, we bought a new mattress. And honestly, I can’t think of anything more fitting to commemorate the nearly three decades of waking up next to each other in our deeply flawed, beautifully human skin.