Can we talk about marriage for a few minutes? No, I mean really talk about it? It seems like there are only two socially acceptable avenues of discussion about one’s spouse that we all generally stick to:
1. Gushy endearments about how much we adore our spouse when he or she has done something impressive or kind to us. Example Facebook update: My schmoopie is just the nicest, sweetest, best looking husband with the highest IQ and largest penis ever! He came home tonight with the same flowers he brought me on our first date just for no reason at all. Feel free to be insanely jealous because your husband obviously doesn’t measure up.
2. General proclamations and piling-on regarding the entire gender of your spouse when he or she is pissing you off. Example passive-aggressive tweet: Dear Women, How about we have an emotional discussion about changing the cat litter during Teen Mom & NOT The Game next time? (Retweeted 7 times and favorited 13.)
The grit and grime about being with one person for three quarters of your life tend to get swept under the rug, until someone is getting a divorce. Once the relationship is over and done with, what went wrong and how it made everyone feel is exhibited for the masses to observe and digest. The still-marrieds seesaw between relief (Oh, we’ve never been as bad as that) and anxiety (Really, in the end that was it? It was just that one little straw that broke the camel’s back?) as they listen to the post-mortem and take notes about what not to do.
Before something catastrophic occurs the mutual marital bond of silence is pretty universally observed. It’s all about how great she is and how lucky you feel, or only occasionally, how slightly irritating they can be in a super normal-for-their-gender-role manner. Hee hee, in a funny way! Not really a bad way. We’re not getting divorced, everything is fine and dandy!
I have almost no filter and a desire to share every emotion I’ve ever felt with the universe, and I am not immune to this unwritten gag order regarding the daily strife of being married. I feel frustrated, angry, hurt and annoyed, but do I shout it to the internet world like I would about anything else? No. I keep it bottled up, because… well, I guess because I worry if I say my husband and I are fighting or ‘having troubles’ people will think we’re getting a divorce. That’s what I would wonder if someone else mentioned issues in their marriage.
Here’s my problem with all of this: Marriage is fucking hard. I know that’s not really a shocking statement (except to my dad because I used the f word). It’s not like I’m announcing The Statue of Liberty was actually modeled after a cross-dressing hooker and sent over to the US from France as a gag-gift. We’ve all heard old-marrieds admit with a knowing shake of the head, “It’s hard. Being married 50 years is really hard.” But without hearing the details and the confession of specifically why being married is hard, it’s easy to dismiss this statement as a compliment fish. Oh yes, being married this long was really difficult. Can I please have my cookie now?
But it’s not an over-statement. If anything, to say marriage is ‘hard’, and tolerating one person you may have chosen when you were young and naïve for the rest of your life is ‘tough’ might be akin to saying the Grand Canyon is ‘kind of a big hole’. That said, that comparison is really just another non-specific way of skirting the issue.
I propose we do away with this taboo and stop assuming married people who fight and have issues publicly are getting a divorce. I propose we, for the good of those who are considering marriage and even for those marrieds who feel alone in their fighting and working through of issues, be more specific about the difficulties normal, generally happy and satisfied couples experience on a regular and on-going basis. I say we be a little bit more honest about the imperfections in the way we treat each other so we can learn from each other and our own mistakes.
Thus, from my perspective, here are the top four hardest things about being married:
1. Not taking out the stress of life on my husband. It’s hard not to look for a scapegoat when things are going wrong, even when it’s no one’s fault. Jason and I have been known to scream obscenities at each other over a sick or hurt child because we’re both just so worried and without control in the situation. When life is difficult and ugly, it’s tough not to want to punch the nearest person in the balls. I should probably work on standing next to people I already hate when the shit is hitting the fan.
2. Understanding each other’s communication style. We don’t always even speak the same language and neither of us is particularly comfortable with genuine sentiment. I struggle to interpret his thoughts and feelings from silence and one word answers. He has to translate my exaggerations and dramatics (Expressed: You’re an asshole and I just kind of hate you a lot right now.) into statements he can work with (Translation: I am frustrated with how things have been going between us lately and I think we need to work on our relationship.).
3. Loving my husband as he is without attempting to change him. There are things about my husband that always have and always will make me insane. I’m sure if he wanted to, he could write a book about my flaws, too. Heck, I could write a book about my flaws. I think as a sentient human being, constantly interacting with other human beings, it’s impossible not to wonder if someone else would be more perfectly matched for you than the person you ended up with. Jason doesn’t like to read and refuses to eat tomatoes, two of my very favorite things on the planet. He bottles up his feelings and they regularly explode, quickly and in a loud rush like a shaken up pop. What if I had found someone who loves tomatoes and was not emotionally constipated? Ah, but this verbal, feeling, lover of tomatoes, would he also be a child-whisperer who kids of all ages adore? Would he be creatively talented and mechanically brilliant? Would he make me laugh and laugh with me at exactly the things I find funny? Would he put up with me and my insanity like no man ever has before? Because all of those things are a yes with Jason. You can’t Frankenstein a spouse. You take the good with the bad, otherwise you end up with a butterfly-effect and a whole other reality. In that new reality I’m afraid my husband wouldn’t have that gorgeous head of hair and it’s just not worth the trade. This is occasionally difficult to remember.
4. Not allowing resentment to build up. This is the big, bad one. Little, almost insignificant issues glom together over time to create a big horrible, relationship-stomping resentment monster. He looks like The Blob, smells like boogers and kills your desire to make up with your partner. You have to battle this bad guy regularly, forever, or he will grow too big to defeat. It’s the resentment monster I fear the most.
So… where am I going with all of this? I guess I’m just trying to say: I think everyone fights. And everyone struggles. I cannot imagine living with another human for years and not hating him or her a little bit for short-to-medium periods of time. We are flawed, selfish creatures, so to exist together is inevitably a battle. I’m tired of feeling ashamed of admitting this. Instead, I choose to feel valiant that so far I’m winning. I don’t know for sure what will happen in the future, but for now, I’m so happy to have a partner who’s willing to fight for me even as he fights with me.