Marriage doesn’t suck. At least, it doesn’t have to. It’s a shame that for a lot of people, marriage does suck. A lot of marriages are like bands that stick together despite members famously not getting along with one another. They perceive they’re somehow better together or they wouldn’t know what to do if they weren’t together. Rather than trying to fix what is broken in the relationship, a lot of band members and married persons will just build rubber bumpers that allow the union to exist while minimizing friction and exposure between the people who form it.
My marriage doesn’t suck. Becky and I have definitely gone through some periods where it felt like our marriage sucked. We still argue about the same dumb stuff we’ve been arguing about since 2002 sometimes. Despite all that, our marriage doesn’t suck because we have resolved to guarding it and making sure it doesn’t suck. We do that by acknowledging how much we can be jerkfaces and trying to eradicate those behaviors. Our marriage doesn’t suck because we work on it. Our marriage doesn’t suck because most of the time I want Becky to be happy more than I want myself to be happy, and most of the time, I think Becky wants the same for me. (It’s not all the time because I am human and mess up.)
By cutting ties with self-interest and letting that fat fish swim away, we’re left with only the interests of the other; and that provides clarity. What does that look like practically? Well, mostly it looks like talking a lot. Early in our marriage, I did a pretty sucky job at telling Becky the things I was thinking, planning and/or worried about. I didn’t think she wanted to know those things, and I believed that I was being chivalrous by shielding her. In fact, I was just leaving her feeling more and more isolated emotionally because we weren’t able to share emotions. Instead, she had just the facade of the day to engage. Becky, in many cases, did the same thing to me. She was a case study in the people who say, “Just Fine,” when they really mean, “I don’t think it can get much worse.”
Over time, it became increasingly apparent that continuing that line of thinking would result in a completely dead marriage where two strong, independent people live lives in parallel out of the same house. That would be a best case scenario, and sadly, I think that is the scenario in a lot of homes. Worst case (from our perspective at least) would have been a divorce. Ultimately, neither is healthy or productive or loving.
So, in sickness, we resolved to love one another. Our marriage was sick, and we believed love would be just the thing to make it better. Not self-love (stop giggling, you dirty-minded so and so’s), but selfless love. The kind that cares more about the other person. We started talking. Sometimes, we talk a lot (especially me). We started going on dates to restaurants that don’t have TVs (seriously, all non-sports bars should get rid of their TVs…Cafe Normandie, I’m especially looking at you). We started playing the board game LIFE (where I learned that getting a college education never results in victory). We share our hurts, our hopes, our struggles, and the funny things we found online. And guess what? It works.
Are we pros? Not at all really. In baseball terms, we’d probably be in one of the single-A, short season leagues. Maybe next year, we’ll get to the full-season minors and as we age and become increasingly more honest to one another, encouraging of one another and more intertwined and integral in each others pursuits, we may get called up to the bigs.
Sometimes marriage sucks. I hope that if you are experiencing that, you find people who will help you recognize a path forward to a place where it doesn’t have to.
In conclusion, thanks for being willing to pursue a more healthy marriage Becky. I love you. I hope your birthday week has been as fun for you as it has been for me.