Originally posted October 9, 2013.
Recently I ran across this idea of marriage:
…If your neighbors are not envying your relationship you should re-examine, refresh and relaunch it. If your single friends and relatives are not longing for your kind of marriage, something is wrong.
Sounds good, right?
Except that it is completely unrealistic and is actually harmful to married people. Well-intended ideas like this have led millions of men and women to decide that their perfectly normal marriage is bad. Could I please reveal a few truths about marriage?
Did you know that when people get married they still have to go to the bathroom? Totally true! Not very romantic!
Married people get sick.
Married people have bills to pay.
Married people have to go to jobs that take up the majority of their time in this life.
Married people get schooled by tantrum throwing toddlers.
Married people experience childbirth together. And it’s not all blood-free and clean and funny like it is on TV. It’s scary. And it hurts. And afterward there is a crying baby. For months.
Which reminds me: Married people are short on sleep.
Married people get annoyed by each other.
Married people sometimes reconvene at the end of the day in a messy house, with no clean underwear, too tired to even muster a “How was your day?”
All of this happens in happy, normal, well-adjusted, sweet, loving marriages.
We have gotten it into our heads that marriage should be a total mountain top experience at all times or it’s just a doomed failure. But, there are times when life is crazy and the two of you are just trying to survive the chaos.
Marriage also goes through lots of phases. There are the we’re-cohabitating-and-not-killing-each-other phases. In solid, strong, healthy marriages.
It’s so sad that we have let Oprah’s relationship experts and 20 year old girls on Facebook and romantic movies convince us that the only kind of love that’s acceptable is the one that has all the neighbors envying you. The truth is, we could all put on lots of “marriage shows” that convince people we are a certain way. In fact, I know people who’ve done it. Everyone was certainly shocked when they filed for divorce. But, follow any couple, even the greatest couple you know, for a few days, see every interaction they have with one another, and you will see what is really beautiful about marriage.
It takes a lot of forgiving.
It takes a lot of overlooking glaring faults.
It takes a lot of work and perseverance when the mountaintop isn’t even visible.
And, when you do that, when you work hard at it and love and honor and build trust and hold fast during the worst times, some people may notice and think you have a good marriage. But, I wouldn’t count on it.
Because in the real world, marriage looks like two people dealing with lots of unpleasant stuff together. It doesn’t have to look effortless. That’s not our goal. It doesn’t have to look enviable.
It’s about doing what you said you would do, no matter what.
If you do that long enough, people will notice. But, your marriage isn’t broken if it doesn’t look like a Nicholas Sparks romance every day. Let the neighbors envy the pretend marriages they see on TV. In you, just let them see that you are loving with all your might, even if that love takes the form of cleaning vomit out of the back of the minivan.
In my world, that’s true love. Jealous?