Friday, August 9, 2013

All of the Things

There's something I need to let you in on about me. Most of you know this already, and really, if you've ever been around me for more than, oh, I don't know, five minutes you could have easily figured it out.
I'm a little competitive. And by a little, I mean Monica Gellar competitive. So, A LOT.
I really am much better than I used to be but I like to play the genetics card when I'm trying to explain it. My mother's side of the family (which consists of about 1800 people, by the way) is the most competitive group you could ever meet. My mom is at the top of that list. The woman hates to lose and I definitely got that from her.

But I don't just mean typical competitions like sports or games...

You can't open that jar? Give it.

You can't put that kid's toy together? Give it.

Having trouble untangling some cord/necklace/string of lights? Hand it over.

What's that? You don't think I can eat nine cupcakes? Watch me.

When my mom was growing up, the first year that the local little league started letting girls play hard ball she was the first in line to sign up. I really believe that the reason I grew up getting so angry at boys thinking they were better at things just because they weren't a girl is because my mom instilled that in me at a very young age. I bring this up because I also feel like it's the thing that has contributed to my deep-seated inability to accept anything simply because it's the consensus. My competitive side has produced a personality trait that almost refuses something the second everyone starts getting excited about it or agreeing on it. Any time something is popular or has any type of hype around it, I immediately want nothing to do with it. Just ask my friends how long it took me to get an iPhone.

Call it being rebellious or skeptical if you want, I just like to feel like I'm making my own decisions on what I think about things. And the more everyone is telling me how awesome something is, or how horrible it is, or how wrong or how right or how hilarious or how stupid...the more I want to disagree with them until I discover for myself that I don't.

All of this is my really long way of explaining to you how much I can't stand to hear people talk about marriage (or having children, but that's another post for another day) in a cynical way. Especially to the newly or about to be newly married. All of the stereotypical things people say about marriage can make it seem pretty bleak and seriously makes me wonder why the people who say these things are married at all.

When Bobby and I were about to get married, I had no fairy tale expectations of marriage. I knew it wasn't going to be like TV or the movies (even though we all wish it could be), but at the same time I would get really offended when I started hearing all of the "Just wait" scenarios. I know you know what I mean. And if you're having a baby, you REALLY know what I mean.
Mainly this makes me mad because I feel like your marriage is exactly what you make it. If you don't want your marriage to end up like [insert names here], as long as you put forth the effort and energy, it won't. And that's the problem. These people have accepted that marriage will inevitably make you miserable and there's nothing you can do about it. They were told this is what happens after so many years and then...they believed it. And the cycle continues.

This all brings me to my next point which is what I originally wanted to write about today. I know you're thinking, "Seriously?? You've been rambling on forever and you're just now getting to the point??" Well, my critical friend, the reason I rambled on about being competitive and hating ideas that seem to be widely accepted is because before I get to my point I really wanted you to understand how much I love being married and how this next part is in no way indicative of my being cynical or negative toward marriage. I truly believe that marriage is the ultimate team sport and well worth the effort.


Where there is one extreme that says the day you get married is the day your life is over, I believe there is also another extreme. This side says if your marriage doesn't look like it walked off of 50's television then there's something wrong with it. In the church especially, we have created an entire industry around telling people how to have happy marriages. Books, conferences, classes, podcasts, name it, we have it in regards to marriage and what a godly one should look like. The internet has only intensified the call to make your marriage better. I can't tell you how many pins I come across on Pinterest that are all about things to improve your marriage. I'm not saying this is wrong at all, I think it can be very helpful and even contribute to saving marriages.

I have, however, noticed a bit of a ripple effect. I feel like there's a mentality being created that says if we dare admit the shortcomings in our marriages, then we will be criticized for our perceived lack of commitment to our spouse. If we dare talk about how we don't always sit down and have calm, thoughtful discussions as opposed to arguments...if we have the gall to mention that we haven't had a date night in longer than we can remember...if, by some mental slip, we happen to blurt out that the romance isn't at the level it was when we were dating...well, get ready for the look. Disapproving pity mixed with self-assurance is how I tend to think of it. I don't know about you, but I don't want to feel like I can't be honest and real. I'm not talking about angrily venting your frustrations with your spouse on Facebook either. But I don't feel like we're doing the ones coming up behind us any favors by pretending like it isn't work. 

I will never forget talking to one of my best friends almost a year after she got married. I remember so vividly her saying, "I'm mad at all of my married friends. No one told me it was this hard. Why didn't anyone tell me how much work marriage is?"

So here I am, as a woman totally in love with her husband, without cynicism, yet with total honesty, telling you, young, not-yet or newly married person...


If you want it to last forever, anyway, it is hard.

It is NOT ALWAYS hard, lots of times it's down right fun, but it has its fair share of rough patches. It takes extreme self-sacrifice, pride-swallowing, and tongue-biting. It takes more introspection and self-examination than just about anything else you will experience in life. It takes effort. Like I said, this is all if you want it to last...if not then apathy is the quickest way to head for a downward spiral.

Life DOES get in the way sometimes and occasionally it will feel like it's too much work. Your preconceived ideas of what a good marriage is will tell you that if you really loved each other then it wouldn't be so difficult. But can I please tell you that's a lie? It's a lie that has woven its way into our society through the entertainment industry and feels like truth...but it's a lie. Just look at the divorce rate in this country if you want proof. The truth is that anything that's worth something takes work. Sure, every once in a blue moon two people find each other and they go through their whole marriage with almost zero conflict, but just because yours doesn't look that way doesn't mean it's not meant to be.

For example, Bobby and I are both pretty strong personalities, it's who we are. Does it mean we have more things to work out within ourselves to resolve conflict than two people who are more mild-mannered? Yes. Does it mean we don't have a love story to match anything Hollywood could come up with? I don't think so. I love our story and I love that it isn't perfect. I love that it involves bickering and chores and diaper changing and bills that have to be paid.  I love that we've experienced tragedy together and are currently clawing our way out of it, stronger than ever. I love that as much as he can make me angrier than any other person in my life, he can just as easily make me weak in the knees with an unexpected kiss.

And that's all I'm trying to say here. It's ALL of the things that make a marriage good, not just the obviously good things. Because the good things are fun and we need them for the joy and laughter and memories to tell our grandkids...they're the life force that help us hang in there, that remind us of the love that started this crazy mess to begin with. But the bad things make us stronger and prove we can make it. The difficult times make it real.

So don't call your husband out on social media, but don't feel like you have to be the model couple to be relevant. We're all just imperfect people in love with other imperfect people, trying to become a little less imperfect. Marriage can be work, but it is the most worthy of investments.