Marriage, as the saying goes, is not for wimps. But, as this writer explains, there are some tricks to be taught to help us toughen out the tough parts and get back to the joy that brought us together.
1. If neglect or abuse is present in your marriage and you are being hurt – get the hell out.
If your church tells you to stay, get the hell out of your church. Any decent church will promise you that God loves you more than any institution God made for you – including marriage and including church. If you are telling yourself that you are staying for the kids- tell yourself to leave for the kids so you do not teach them that love is pain. If you have no one to help you get out of an abusive, neglectful, hurtful marriage – start here.
2. If you are not hurt or neglected, but you’ve “fallen out of love” and so you are disillusioned about marriage – join the club. All the married people in the whole world are in the club.
Being disillusioned is good. It means you’ve stopped believing a lie. The lie is that marriage is like it is in the movies and that everyone else is having hot love affairs while you are cleaning up smelly socks and trying to get someone to actually listen to you instead of pretending to listen to you. The truth is that cleaning up socks and trying to get someone to really listen to you IS marriage. It’s less sweep you off your feet and more sweep the kitchen four times a day.
Like everything good in life- it’s 98% backbreaking work and 2% moments that make that work worthwhile. So- just get ready to sweat. Despite what the movies tell you- you’ll sweat less often in bed and more often in therapist’s offices, in front of the clothes dryer, and in line at the grocery store while the children lick used gum off the floor and you silently curse your partner for existing. I’m actually surprised more of us married folk are not constantly dehydrated from all the sweating. Seriously.
We are all trained by Disney to believe that the wedding is the finish line – but the wedding is JUST ANOTHER STARTING LINE. In light of this fact- we should quit the huge, fancy, debt-inducing weddings. When I asked my parents to help pay for my wedding, they said they’d give me a little bit and then if Craig and I made it to our 10-year anniversary, they’d give us some more to throw a big party. “THAT’s the time to celebrate,” they said. My parents were right.* Celebrate AFTER hard work, not before.
Young people: marry simply, start your life, and party later. THINK OF HOW MUCH BABYSITTING FOR YOUR FUTURE COLICKY BABY YOU COULD BUY WITH THAT WEDDING BUDGET. THINK OF HOW MUCH MARRIAGE THERAPY YOU COULD BUY. Invest in your marriage, not your wedding. Spending all your money on a wedding and leaving nothing for marriage is as irresponsible as foregoing health insurance for your baby so that you can throw her a kick-ass birthday party. It’s as backwards as circling the stadium with your arms in the air – waiting for applause before you start the race. Sweat a little, then celebrate. And don’t forget the good news/ bad news – there is no finish line. Marriage starts over again every.single.day.
4. Sex is really, really freaking confusing.
No one talks about this, which is a shame. I’ve been married for 11 years and my husband and I are still trying to figure out how to make sex enjoyable for both of us. Right now sex is a source of all kinds of confusion and resentment and shame and pain for us. But we don’t think this means that there’s anything “wrong” with us or our marriage. We just assume that our confusion means that we’re normal people who’ve been paying attention to the world’s mixed, dangerous sex messages forever and so we have some unlearning to do.