On Sunday, my husband and I will celebrate our eighteenth wedding anniversary. I write that with disbelief, not because I expected our marriage to fail, but because the years have a way of slipping by with increasing velocity.
A couple of months ago, we had a rough day. Neither of us go for superstition, but that Friday the thirteenth lived up to its reputation. It began with an argument and tears and culminated in a rescue mission when my husband had locked himself out of his car on the opposite side of the city. (A mistake I’m more prone to make than him.)
What should have been a twenty-minute drive to unlock his car turned into an hour-long trek due to an interstate accident at rush hour. As I sat in bumper-to-bumper traffic, my head throbbed, the result of my daylong efforts to stem the tears I wanted to cry.
The problem that day was multifaceted: a combination of job stress, home stress, anger, spiteful behavior, and the perennial failure to communicate. Married eighteen years and dating for four years before that, you’d think we’d have mastered the simple art of talking by now, but, no, we haven’t.
As I waited in traffic, a song I’d never listened to came across the satellite radio: “Run Away With You,” by Big & Rich. Was this written for us?
This life’s like a rip tide and we’re barely hanging on
Caught up in the worry, and always in a hurry and losing what we’re all about.
Seven pregnancies in ten years. Supporting six people on a variable income. Debt. Complacency. Busy schedules. Nothing out of the ordinary. But with nothing to do but think as I stared at a sea of bumpers ahead of me, I wondered if that’s what our marriage had become: ordinary.
I miss extraordinary. I miss that falling-in-love rush. (Nice that it comes at the beginning of a relationship to ensure all that bonding, but five, ten, fifteen years in, you could really use a booster shot.)
Having had just one night alone together (that I wasn’t in active labor) in the last twelve years made running away together sound SO good. Not that I don’t love my children and my life with them, but a brief reprieve from responsibility to just BE with my husband sounded heavenly.
I recall all the months of anticipation leading up to our wedding as I looked forward to being united to my husband in every way. The fun and excitement of sharing a bed, a home, a life. When did it turn from joy to stress? When did it be come okay to be too tired or too busy to connect with my husband, emotionally, intellectually, and physically?
Life intrudes with responsibilities, duties, and diapers. Oh, the thousands and thousands of diapers.
I went into marriage with my eyes wide open, well aware of my husband’s faults. I’m sure that he, too, knew mine. It’s as if the duties and diapers and the mortgage and the mayhem take those faults and intensify them with the heat of a thousand suns. That’s the kind of crucible life is.
Our situation is hardly unique. This Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood song caught my ear not long after the Big & Rich song above. (Yes, I’ve gone country.)
I recall a justified ribbing from friends after my then-boyfriend/now-husband and I engaged in a very public display of affection at a Sting concert early in our relationship. Let’s just say no one’s given us a hard time for PDAs in recent years.
The truth is, this worn-out, stressed-out season of our marriage isn’t any less of a marriage than the googly-eyed, PDA-filled love fest where it all began. To everything there is a season. Flaring tempers and rough patches aren’t a death knell for marriage. Marriage isn’t all about sunshine, bowls of cherries, and self-fulfillment. Sure, we all want to have great, happy, and satisfying marriages. I even attempted to share some of the knowledge we’ve gleaned over the years in this post. But marriage is more.
This post by Eve Tushnet is a must-read for avoiding the trap of thinking of marriage as something to be worked at rather than something to be lived. There are low points when you may wonder, “Did I marry the wrong person?” If you and your spouse have hit bottom, please read this encouraging post by Hallie Lord, my go-to on conjugal wisdom. (Here’s Hallie’s take on a similar theme; another reason I so enjoy her take on marriage.)
The beautiful thing about seasons is that they change. While the highs of newlywed naiveté last only a season, so, too, do the lows. But you have to endure the cold and darkness of winter to enjoy the rebirth of spring. Sometimes you’ll go through all four seasons in one day! (Two Sting references in one post. Is there an award for that?)
After the overlong Friday the thirteenth “rescue mission,” I scrambled to put dinner on the table before driving my oldest child to his first middle school dance. On the way, we talked about school dances and the various boys on whom I had crushes. On the cusp of entering his teenage years, he’s about to experience that bittersweet season of first crushes and loves that seems to me both like yesterday and eons ago.
I’d like to say that Saturday, the fourteenth, Valentine’s Day, was a smooshy lovefest. It was nice enough, but two days later my husband and I argued above the cries of a toddler. In bed. At midnight. And said things we’d later regret.
I’d like to wrap this post up with a neat bow, but nothing about marriage is necessarily tidy or neat. Instead, I’m going to steal some words from one of the characters in Stay With Me. Brash Abby is an unlikely source of marital wisdom, but she shares what she knows with her sister Rebecca:
“. . . marriage isn’t the happily ever after. It’s the rocky, brush-covered path that’ll get you there. You’re going to trip and fall. You might even take a side trail that gets you lost and confused, and you’ll have to fight your way back. Every last vice, fault, and rough edge will be exposed, but you’ll never have to travel alone, and if you hang in there, it’ll perfect you like a refiner’s fire.”
Here’s to eighteen years of a lifelong journey. There’s no one I’d rather have as my traveling companion than the man I married.