I hesitate to write too much about “doing” marriage and parenting right, because I am superstitious and am quite sure as soon as I write about it, bad things are coming my way! But, lately, it seems all around The Husband and I, couples are uncoupling and I can’t stop thinking about it. Perhaps it’s our age. Perhaps it’s the chaotic times we live in. Maybe nothing has really changed, except that social media and US magazine bring people’s business into our daily life so it is hard to ignore. Whatever the case, we sometimes feel like we’re the last marrieds standing.
Naturally, because I am an introspective freak, I have spent a lot of time concerned that I am missing something and that at any moment I’ll be added to the list of ex-wives. This is particularly funny as just a few years ago I was angling to find a way to be an ex-wife.
It’s true, when we first moved to New Jersey and I was without any meaningful employment (Raising kids is its own kind of job.) and The Husband was at work most of the minutes of the day and preoccupied by it when he was home, life and marriage were challenging.
Add to that the fact that I was home with 3 small children who were as needy as any small children will be, I didn’t really have any of my own people around and we were dead broke because we were buried in debt, and suddenly anywhere but here looked pretty attractive.
But I never left. And when we talked about it, and yelled and screamed and threatened about it, he never left either. At that time, I could say it was because it was financially impossible for me to leave and likely he was just too busy with work to make the plans. But the truth is, I didn’t leave because deep down I didn’t really want to leave and I believe, neither did he. Even in the depths of my most vibrant dreams of life on the outside of my marriage, those dreams never included another person. He’s the only one I can ever picture myself with,in good times and in bad.
So, why? What makes this marriage work? I’ll be honest, when he and I talk about it, we come up with a different reason every time, which clearly means there is no firm reason. We don’t have any rules or strategies that we purposefully employ. Quite honestly, the odds are not in our favor. We were very young when we met and still young when we married. We’ve been through some stuff in life that would have provided plenty of reason to part. We are alike in all the bad ways (see our money story) and polar opposite in times that would make it easier if we saw eye to eye. We have each grown and changed in ways I’m not sure we’d ever have predicted years ago, which could have easily led to growing apart. And yet here we are, twenty-one years from our first date and seventeen years from our wedding day and we’re still rolling, mostly merrily, along.
I don’t know why. All those nights I lay awake wondering if I am next on the breakup train, I can’t come up with one good reason why not.
Here is what I know. I love that man’s soul. I knew, even when I hated his daily presence, that deep down, the man I once loved was always still there. His essence is kind, and generous and thoughtful. Even if sometimes he seems pompous and selfish and loud, I know that is not truly his heart. So, I give him a pass or I tell him off. Either way, I don’t treat his sometime behaviors like a permanent flaw. Likewise, when I’m sad, or lazy or defeated, he knows there is grit and joy down deep inside, so he does his best to pull it out, rather than assume it’s all gone for good.
I know he is an excellent father. He is firm when he needs to be. He is silly all the other times. He is reasonable and willing to change, which his children may sometimes find hard to believe, but I see it when he comes to me to ask about how he did something, and how he could do it differently to benefit our kids more. His work ethic extends to the job of dad and it is an impressive thing to behold.
I know he can make me laugh like no other, and those times when I make him laugh? Well, there is nothing more satisfying in the world. Man, is the laughing good, and there is so much of it, who could argue with living like that?
I know that every day, we both wake up grateful for the life we have. Even in the trenches, we practiced finding the good, and that has made all the difference. Because, in him, there is so much good. So when all else falls away, I am left very, very grateful.
I always say we stick around because no one else would put up with us. He says we work because we’re the Great American Love Story (See? Polar opposites.). Whatever the reason(s), we’re still standin; willing to do the work, and laugh the laughs and dry the tears, together, and that is just fine by me.