“Love is patient, love is kind. It is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs…”
And then there’s marriage…
If you are married, chances are someone read 1 Corinthians 13:4 at your ceremony. It is lovely and it is inspiring, but unfortunately it is not the reality for many marriages.
After the dress is packed away, after the top of the cake has been abandoned in the back of the freezer, the honeymoon is truly over and the real stuff begins. The marriage stuff. And if you’re lucky, the parenting stuff gets mixed in there too. Ugh! Definitely not for the faint of heart. The reality of marriage.
But not my marriage, my marriage is perfect. (Insert sarcasm font!)
As a Marriage Counselor people often say to me, “Wow, you must have a perfect marriage!” My response is always the same, “My marriage is perfect – a perfectly lovely hot mess, and I hope yours is too!”
I don’t mean that in a misery-loves-company kind of a way, but rather in the let’s-be-real-with-each-other way. No marriage has bluebirds flying through the kitchen every morning. All couples face challenges – whether it’s with communication, conflict, parenting, intimacy or money. And some really lucky couples have trouble with all of the above.
But that’s okay. Marriage is not about perfect – it’s about learning. Like all of life, it is a classroom. It is a space for us to learn and grow and change, if we are brave enough to do that. The places where our marriage feels the hardest are most likely the jackpot in terms of our personal growth.
For too long we’ve accepted Hollywood’s version of happily-ever-after. That we will find one person who gets us, truly gets us, and we’ll have great sex, beautiful children, grow old together gracefully and….roll credits! As romantic as that is, it’s a fairytale and frankly I’m glad that it is. There’s no chance to grow in that model.
I don’t claim to have the meaning of life figured out, but my journey keeps me coming back to the awareness that growth is a critical piece of the puzzle. We are here to learn, to become a better version of ourselves. And marriage? That is an opportunity to learn to love in one of the most intense crucibles of interpersonal dynamics that man could ever be crazy enough to invent!
All of this growing and learning can be tough on us poor humans. Sometimes we think it would be easier to keep searching for the Hollywood version of marriage – it HAS to be out there, right?
Let’s all take a deep breath and get okay with the fact that it is not out there – and it is not supposed to be. Although we may not get the fairy-tale version of love, what we do get is a heaping serving of opportunity to become a better, more loving person. A chance to exercise compassion each and every day – starting with our spouse.
That’s right, every time your husband leaves his shoes in the middle of the family room – that my friends is an opportunity to love. Every time your wife talks and talks and talks about her feelings – an opportunity to love. The list goes on and on. I am sure that each of you reading this can stop and think of something your spouse does *all the time* that drives you bonkers.
But how often do we stop and think of it as an opportunity to grow and become more loving?
If you do? Mazel tov! Call Oprah because you are ready for your own Super Soul Sunday so that others can learn from your hard-earned wisdom! If not, don’t despair, you are far from alone.
The average couple waits 6 years before seeking help for their relationship. Why is that? We will hire a personal trainer if we’ve gotten out of shape, we’ll hire a financial planner to get our finances headed in the right direction. But we leave our marriages on autopilot – even knowing that 50% of them don’t make it.
Don’t wait until things feel unbearable, recognize when it feels uncomfortable and get the support you need. Timing is crucial when it comes to the success of Marriage Counseling. If too much resentment has built up it can be hard to create goodwill between partners and nurture the empathy that it takes to have a meaningful connection.
Let’s all admit marriage can be a hot mess and recognize that all of the amazing aspects of marriage make it well worth it. It is an adventure. It is fun. It is full of laughter and joy. And there are resources that can help during the messy times if we are willing to work at it.
So again, I will say my marriage is perfect. At times it is filled with joy and laughter. At times it is frustrating and exhausting. But ultimately it is the perfect place for me to learn and grow and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
Stay calm and love each other. And if you need help, don’t hesitate to get support. Life is about learning and marriage is the ultimate classroom. Happy learning!