Today I have a special treat. I am going to share the secret of a good marriage. HAHAHAHAHAHA you say???? Well, ok. I can understand that. Considering I am on my 2nd marriage and that marriage can be rather tumultuous, to say the least, I get why you might be chuckling behind your hand at my presumptuous knowledge. However, I often have people confiding in me about their relationship issues (like I’M the resident expert???) and I have only ONE statement of advice that I share with EVERYONE:
MARRIAGE IS HARD WORK.
There you have it, folks. No 12-step program to wedded bliss. No sound-bite Dr. Phil-worthy pithy pointers. Just the facts. The cold, hard facts.
There is no “happily ever after” like the fairy tales, romance novels and rom-com movies promised us. Nope. Not unless you are willing to work at having your own version of relationship utopia, that is. And that equates to a daily mantra of “I will work HARD today to not shame, blame or disrespect this person I am married to”. Sounds easy, right? Well it’s not. It’s the hardest accomplishment in the world.
Like last night. When my 4 year old busted in to my bathroom right after she finished dinner, as I sat doing my business (and enjoying 5 minutes of silent peace). Smelling her hamburger breath, I realized that her dad (aka my husband) had not given her the antibiotics she is currently taking for a minor throat/sinus infection. I asked her and she confirmed that no, she had not had her medicine. Given my geo-location, I asked her to ask daddy to give her the medicine. While slightly irritated that said daddy had A) allowed her to interrupt my bio break and B) same said daddy had not remembered to give her the antibiotics on his own, I felt proud that I didn’t voice my irritation, because marriage is HARD work and sometimes (ok – LOTS of times) you have to suck it up, princess and keep your mouth shut.
Until daddy proceeds to ALSO enter the bathroom (apparently pooping is a spectator sport in our house) and ask me “Where is her medicine?”.
Now don’t get me wrong. This could in fact be a legitimate question under certain circumstances. Like, if he had just found out she was on antibiotics (he hadn’t). Or he hadn’t yet given her any medicine from this bottle in the fridge (he had). Or our daughter was at an age where she might actually get medicine in any other form than liquid that requires refridgeration (she isn’t). Or he was recovering from a partial lobotomy. Those kinds of legitimate reasons for asking such a question.
Being fluent in sarcasm as a second language, my first inclination was to spew at him “In the microwave, of course!” in response to his question about the medicine’s whereabouts. I have to admit, this is often the shape my responses take to questions of this caliber. However, mustering all the teeth marks my tongue could bear, I managed to say “In the fridge” with not a drip of sarcasm. THIS is the hard work I speak of. The daily chore of not going ape-poop crazy on your spouse for those annoying questions or habits that they’ve had since Day One, even if you truly had no idea back on Day One that on Day 2283 these questions and habits would have the ability to put you into a homicidal rage.
Of course there is more to the hard work of marriage. I could write an entire blog unto itself on the types of hard work required to make a marriage successful, but I think you get the picture. There is constant negotiation, compromise, forgiveness, tolerance, apology and commitment required. It’s hard, hard work. Every day. Not just when you feel like it, or when you are in a good mood. There is no sabbatical from working hard on your relationship, no vacation from the effort. Never mind the added stress and work of KIDS. That’s a whole additional layer of mutual hard work.
Now obviously there have to be some benefits to all this hard work, otherwise marriage as an institution would have died off centuries ago. Sheesh, just the purported extended life expectancy alone should be enough to warrant saying please and thank-you consistently, holding your breath and counting to 10 every day as required or even forgiving your spouse for leaving the patio door unlocked all night (as mine also did last night). After all – we all want the same treatment from one another. Give to get and all that jazz.
Would it be easier if we were all conditioned from a young age to understand the reality of marriage? If that were the case, the institution of marriage WOULD have died off centuries ago. Perhaps believing in the fairy tale is what draws us all in to begin with and then we are already married once the reality occurs and we have no choice but to try to work it out. WORK it out. Hard work. Keep sluggin’ away at it, day in, day out. Good days and bad days. Because just that little taste of the fairy tale we get in the initial throes of fresh, new love keeps us going, similar to a crack addict after their first rush. Continuously going back to it in the hopes that the passion fairy will revisit us.
For those who find my blog today too negative or pessimistic – have no fear. I too believe in romance and moments of passion in long-term relationships. I am just too pragmatic and jaded by experience to invest in the theory that marriage is a happily-ever-after fairy tale. It’s hard work. Worth the work? Absolutely, yes. But still hard work.