When I hear of three long-term marriages ending in divorce over the span of a few days, it makes me pause. And I mean REALLY pause. The questions flood forth, and I wonder.
Why them? Why now? What was the last straw? When did they know they were really in trouble? What were the red flags? Did they try? Did they want to try? And the biggest question weighing on my mind… If it can happen to them, how do I keep it from happening to us?
It terrifies me, I’m not going to lie. The idea that once happy couples, couples that once were ready to take on the world with just their love, have reached a point that they could no longer make it work. It’s my deepest fear. And in times like these, when I sit back and reassess my own marriage, I’m reminded of some good truths.
- Maintain the friendship. There will be times when romance and passion are non-existent. But the friendship will sustain those times.
- In my experience, marriage gets better with each passing year. I thought I’d miss the butterflies and the tingles of young, new love. I had no idea that exchanging looks across a room and reading his thoughts with him saying a word would be just as euphoric.
- It is not the easy times, the happy times, the mountain tops that make a marriage strong. It’s the valleys. It’s the hard times that make a marriage stronger. The times when its painful to breathe, when you wonder if the hurt is too much, the times that you hang on to the promise it’ll get better with the tips of your fingernails, its those times that make a marriage stronger. Because when you come out the other side, see the person still there, you smile in relief that you made it.
- Its easy to compare. And a dangerous game to play too. It’d be easy to look around at what the movies, books, and society tries to sell us as love and romance. I can look at any given magazine in the checkout line and wonder why Jon doesn’t do x, y, and z for me. Never does my dissatisfaction grow faster than when I start comparing him to everyone else.
- Romance looks different for everyone. We refer to my brother-in-law, Caleb, as the romantic one. And he IS romantic, my sister is a lucky girl. But Jon’s romantic too… in different ways. He’ll draw me a bubble bath when I least expect it, he’ll show up during the work day with a Starbucks in hand, he’ll come home with sushi and a bottle of wine, he fixes most anything that has a motor. Jon’s romantic, I just have to look for it. And recognize it for what it is.
- Every husband has different weaknesses and strengths. This could easily be tied in with the comparison point above. Of course we all have things we’d love to change in our spouse. But instead of focusing on the negatives, why not focus on the positives? I guarantee it’ll not only change your own attitude, but you’ll see a huge lift in theirs as well.
- Be affectionate. Wait. Scratch that. Be passionate! My Littles are used to seeing us kiss it up in front of them. They’ve reached an age where its now gross and disgusting, which means its all the more reason for us to do it. But seriously. Grab him, kiss him until the air around you sizzles, and just wait for the kids bedtimes. And yes, even when you don’t feel like kissing, do it anyway. I’ve discovered the feelings sometimes come after the action.
- Surround yourself with other happy, content, dedicated couples. Its true what they say, you become who you hang out with. If your best friends are unhappy and miserable in their marriages, its only a matter of time before you start finding yourself discontent in your own. I’m not saying abandon these friendships, chances are they need you now more than ever. But be sure you’re spending equal time with friends who are happy and thriving in their own marriages too.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. When push comes to shove, don’t let pride keep you from doing whatever it takes to save your marriage. Counseling is not a stigma, its not a sign of weakness. It says quite the opposite. It says that your relationship means something to you, that you want to make it work. That the person matters to you.
- Celebrate the highs. When you’ve made it through a valley and find yourself loving your spouse even more than you thought possible, CELEBRATE it. Shout it from the rooftops, be obnoxious with it, with each other. Cherish it. Another valley is around the corner, of that I promise you. Let the memories of the mountaintops sustain you through the lows.
I am in no way am passing judgment on those who tried and couldn’t make it work. Not at all. I have family and friends hurting right now, and I’d give anything to take away that pain. But I certainly won’t turn down the opportunity to reevaluate my marriage and look for the cracks in the walls, to see the areas where I’ve grown complacent and where I can improve.
My marriage is the most important relationship in my life. I love my babies, more than I ever knew it was possible. But without my marriage, there is no them. And once the Littles have grown, creating lives of their own, I face a future as only Mr. and Mrs. again. This relationship that started over fifteen years ago has sustained me through many experiences, good and bad. And I will fight for our marriage with everything that I have.