Ponder this:

Monday, September 6, 2010

Life lessons: Marriage and Reality

I've been reading about a poor disappointed unfortunate who's questioning whether or not to remain married or strike out on her own with her three children. Complaints include boredom, money issues, emotional stagnation, ongoing sadness over a failed affair, whatnot.  I see my old self in her, and I've done some thinking over the last few weeks, with the following result.


What in the world do people expect from marriage? How, possibly, could a twenty-year-old marriage be the same as a first-year marriage? Would you want it to be? And, if you chose badly in that young flush of infatuation, why would you upset your whole life based on a new obsession?  I didn't get married until I was twenty-nine. I had lived enough to have begun to learn that romance is not love.  Some years later, we had a little refresher course in that lesson. Nor is lust, although certainly lots of fun, love.  And, I offer that . . . perhaps . . . in the long term, exciting and romantic love is not the most important requirement for a stable, comfortable and happy married life. Possibly I'm more satisfied than some with the stability of a settled married life because by nature I like routine.  I figure if you live with anybody for more three weeks, the thrill of togetherness pales. No longer do you delight, your heart all a-pit-a-pat, your breath short, at the thought of reunion after a hard day at work. A nice sense of anticipation, yes, some days. Other days, maybe lots of days . . . it's on to the Home Chores and a ritual of "How was your day?" "Fine." and after a few hours, off to bed. G'night, kiss, snore.  


Every now and then, you read interviews with old people who've been married for decades and they usually have some pretty practical advice. They hardly ever count gymnastic sex as one of the ultimate requirements, for example.  I like the old marrieds who say laughter is the thing that kept them together.  Laughter means nobody's taking him/herself too awfully seriously. Nothing good lasts forever, but nothing bad does either, if you're willing to laugh at it and let it go. 
I knew an old married couple who enjoyed each other's company tremendously. She was very fat and deaf and he was dapper and witty.  They would tell stories of having lived through the Great Depression, they and their eight children eating pancakes for supper every single night because that's what they could afford. Remembering, he'd say he never wanted to see a pancake again, and the two of them would laugh with, I imagine, satisfaction and relief that they'd kept going on, one foot in front of the other, for a long, long, time, and had made it to the other side.  Laughter isn't simply amusement; it's also mutual congratulation.
I like it when those long-marrieds talk about respect too. Simple courtesy goes a long way. Husband takes the garbage; I thank him. I change the sheets; he thanks me. It's good to let somebody who's supposed to do these things know that the work's appreciated.  


It is my belief that anybody who's been married more than five years has been through some kind of Disillusionment Hell, and I think that rule does not exclude people who lived together prior to marriage. The Prince gets a little rumply, the Princess gains a little weight.  The Prince fails to notice and react with warm sympathy to some welling silent tears of a sad mood. The Princess fails to . . . oh, whatever us Princesses fail to do. 
Oh, boo hoo. 
Nobody stays a Prince or a Princess forever. People are people. Life goes on. If you plan on being married in another year, another five years . . . if you meant any of that stuff you vowed (see definition of "vow") on your wedding day, then grow up, allow your spouse a failing or two, just like you do everybody else you know, and think about something else until that turns into a big fat disappointment and you can go running back to discuss it with the person with whom you swore to spend your life.


Believe me, the grass ain't no greener over there on the other side of that fence. Not once you get a real close look at it. It looks all fluffy and soft and cushiony from here, but you can bet there're sand fleas or nettles in there that, after a while, will be just as bad as what you have in your own yard. 

18 comments:

Barb said...

Nice, June! I like that you put marriage and reality in the title - if it's fantasy you're after, a good book will be less work and you don't have to finish it if it gets hard or boring. Marriage - that's a different kind of story requiring some perseverance when the meaning is illusive or the text requires some study and hard thought...

Friko said...

I agree with every word you say and therefore don't need to repeat any of it.
I'm in my second marriage - the first really was a disaster - and I would add that several qualities are of paramount importance in any relationship:

goodwill towards each other, respect for each other and a basic compatibility.

I would, however, advocate divorce for those who really make each other miserable. If, after trying your best, you cannot make it work, get out.

June said...

Friko, I'm glad you gave me the opportunity to agree with you on the divorce issue. Certainly I think no less of people who've made the wise decision to end truly miserable lives together. (And I think it's funny that the randomly chosen quote for today is "Not admitting a mistake is a bigger mistake.") If a person's living in complete misery every day, with no hope of change, that's one thing.
It's another to expect one's marriage to fulfill one's every need for companionship, humor, admiration.

Wanda..... said...

So agree with your post and all the comments, our life and marriage is...what we make it!

morningbrayfarm said...

I absolutely love this post, June. Everything you've written is perfect and so true.

Charlene said...

This is a wonderful essay and so true.

The hardest part of a marriage, at least my marriage, was living together but after five years we became our own best friends and at least for me, love walked in on small quiet feet. Then we did an amazing thing, and started a business together, and that was challenging but also wonderful to be in business with someone I trusted.

There is no way to ever tell someone how hard marriage is and there is no way to describe how worth it all the work is.

Mac n' Janet said...

Great post. My husband and I married young (45th anniversary this week) and had to grow up together. a sense of humor was essential. And wanting the other person to be happy. We are each others best friend.

Susan said...

After seven years, my husband and I met a big bump in the road and I turned on my heel and left in a huff. After three months of acting like a dang fool, I swallowed by pride/guilt, asked for forgiveness from all and went back to where I belonged. That remaining year was a bit touchy, but we made it through and I gained a new respect for my hubby, myself and marriage. We celebrated 22 years last month and I am so grateful that we came to our senses. Great post.

Betsy from Tennessee said...

Hi June, I agree with some of what you say and not with other parts... I was the first person in my family to go through a divorce--and it was the hardest decision I ever made. We got married young, had 3 kids and never had any money... The love that 'may' have been there --just left, and I'll be the first to admit that WE (neither of us) worked at our marriage. We both had to work fulltime --and just making ends meet was a task. My hubby finally had an affair with a 'young thing' to whom I was teaching piano lessons. He was lonely -and I wasn't 'satisfying' his needs.. SO--even though HE had the affair, the marriage problems were from both of us. We 'tried' to repair things --for the sake of the kids (bad idea), but we neither one ever got any professional counseling to make it work. SO--after 20 yrs., I got a divorce and moved with the 2 younger children (1st one was in college by now).

Life alone was ROUGH --but I was ambitious and determined. I was also determined not to jump into marriage again. SO--I stayed 'single' for 20 years.

When the kids were all grown and on their own, I began to feel lonely myself --and began to think about a companion to live out my life with...

SO--I moved back to TN and met my George in 2000. WOW---what a blessing for me! We fell in love almost immediately (his wife had died from cancer) and got married in 2001. It will be 10 yrs. next summer ---and I'm here to tell you that the love is still there and is greater than it was when we met. We may be on our 'honeymoon' for the rest of our lives. We both work 24-7 at our marriage.. We are best friends. We appreciate each other. We are seldom apart --and when we are, we don't like it.

We feel as if we have a special love that most people do not have, no matter how many or how few years they have been married. We do everything together and love it. This kind of love is RARE---but it can happen. Granted there are no kids to raise, and we are now both retired. SO--the stress of life is off, so to speak. BUT--for us, it is truly magic. AND--by having God at the center of our lives and doing our daily devotions everyday together, we feel as if we have the BEST marriage on the planet.

IF I had have stayed in my first marriage, I would never have known what REAL LOVE is... For me, even though I'm not an advocate of divorce, my life finally started when I turned 59 years old..

SORRY to go on and on---but I do have a great story to tell... (And my lazy first husband is still just barely making it in life.....)

Hugs,
Betsy

Betsy from Tennessee said...
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Betsy from Tennessee said...
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Joey said...

Very nice post.

sallylwess said...

This post was wonderful. You put it all so well. My prince is still a prince, but in ways I never could have imagined when I met him when I was 16. He has proven himself over and over that while he is not perfect, he is just the right fit for me. Thanks for the reminders of why the realities of marriage outweigh the fantasies we had in our youth.

elizabethm said...

I agree with you totally and I am another like Friko who is on her second marriage so I agree with Friko too! Being kind is the most important thing in my book.

Lord Wellbourne said...

Wow! Talk about a bull's eye!! Right on target.

Vicki Lane said...

Well put! I so agree with all you say-- speaking as one approaching a 47th wedding anniversary. I was 20; he was 21 -- and we'd 'gone steady' since I was 16. It shows either a dreadful lack of imagination or, just possibly, lots and lots of that useful commodity.

fiftyodd said...

Very interesting post and comments. I have been married for about 33 years, still adore my husband (though wish it was still physical!) - the old hormones let you down a bit. Had loads of affairs before I found out what kind of man i really needed - got married at 29 too. Still, it's all a bit of a lottery really. I do think my generation took their vows a but more seriously thn they do today though. I also think many of us need to play the field and not get married too young, it you want to succeed.

Floridagirl said...

Just found your blog. I love this post.