Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Straight Talk about Marriage

Someone recently commented on my blog bio that states, "I have a successful marriage of 16 years."  Why not, they wondered, write something like "I've been happily married for 16 years."  Let me state for the record that it was intentional.

Anyone who has been married long enough to get sick, lose a job, have a child, or buy a house knows this:  Marriage is not a constant state of bliss.  Instead, it is a way of life, a choice, an opportunity to be the best person I can be in both blissful moments and extremely challenging ones.  Moreover, it shows me - from time to time -- at my best, most noble self and frankly, occasionally at my worst.  I believe it was Judith Viorst who brilliantly said, "The advantage of marriage is that, when you fall out of love with him or he falls out of love with you, it keeps you together until you maybe you fall in again.Aint that the truth?

Sometimes the challenges come from the little things. I let the laundry pile up -- or worse left it strewn across the floor -- or he didn't pay the bills.  These everyday challenges are opportunities to step it up, to be the bigger person, or -- conversely -- to learn to speak our minds.  We all have our things we can overlook:  I can overlook unpaid bills but phone calls not returned activate my mind.  He can overlook any kind of mess in the house, but he needs my full attention for at least a few minutes every day. That's how he knows I care.

I think the real test is when the challenges are bigger.  I was really ill the first year of our marriage; it tested our relationship.  When my dear sister in law became suddenly ill and then passed away two weeks later, it challenged us in ways I had not thought possible.  We did not weather that storm so well;  I have always heard that death either unites or separates;  in fact I believe that loss untied us in some ways. 

As we unraveled as a couple, we bound ourselves to other things; we both threw ourselves into our work, we sought solace in other places.  In the end, it led to acts of infidelity.  This, I understand, is not entirely uncommon.  In the end, though, the thread that unravels can also be the tie that binds.  We remembered, miraculously, our love for each other; we reminded ourselves of the commitment we'd made to our family and friends when we married.  Perhaps most importantly, we each made a choice to keep our word, which at the end of the day, is the most valuable thing we have.

Marriage is not all work, but it's not all play either.  I am saying this as much to remind myself as for you, dear reader.  It is a commitment and an act of faith; it takes "faithing into." In my next post I will talk more about what that "faithing into" looks like for us.

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