Is marital bliss real?
Not really. But somehow some of us find a way to have strong happy marriages. That doesn’t they are perfect because whenever you live with someone, things just don’t always go perfectly. We’re all human. We all have faults and we also have bad days to go along with all the good ones.
I remember asking my husband if he could do it over again would he marry me. Bad question!
His answer was no.
“What? Don’t you love me?”
“Of course I love you. But you asked if I’d do it again knowing what I know now. That answer is no.”
Honestly, I dissolved into tears. He put his arm saround me and assured me that he was still very much in love with me.
But it did prompt a very long discussion about what goes into a marriage. From his perspective, marriage was a real sacrifice. The loss of independence, of giving up so much for me and for the children, the responsibility, and the commitment all takes it toll in so many ways.
Do I like housework?
Do I like fixing meals and staying to a budget, walking the floors with a sick child, or vacuuming?
So why did we do it?
We loved each other, the kind of love that would allow us to put aside our personal life for that other person or persons (children). I couldn’t imagine not fixing his dinner or packing his lunch. I couldn’t imagine not doing the things that I did for him because I did them out of love.
If the housekeeping fairies were to descend on the house and save me all those unwanted chores, I would have gladly allowed them to take over every disliked aspect of being a stay-at-home wife and mother.
Maybe taking a very honest look at our lives and what it meant to be married made us both understand and respect the other for what we did. And the day that he decided that he was going to clean the bathroom for me because I’d had surgery and couldn’t do it… I handed him all the cleaning products that he would need. I told him what to use on what and what order to do it. (Am I compulsive? Maybe.) He vanished into the bathroom. Hours later he reappeared informing me that he had completed the task. He also said, “I never realized what a horrible job that was or how long it took.”
What could I say other than thank you?
He never helped around the house. There was a line drawn in some sand that said the house was my job and his was to earn the money to keep the house. I knew when he came home totally wiped out and I did whatever I could to pamper him. Okay, quite simply I spoiled him. So for thirty-six years he had no idea what it took to clean the bathroom. But flip that and it would have been impossible for me to do his job.
I believe that marriage is like a porcupine ball. It’s not a single-sided thing. All those points mean something. To make a marriage work takes work and respect. Without communication there’s nothing. There has to be the ability to talk and see what the other thinks. It’s not just a matter of chatting about the Red Socks or even the moon phase. Sometimes it’s a matter of saying marriage sucks and it isn’t the bliss perpetuated in fairy tales. Sometimes it’s hearing bad news and trying to figure out how to overcome it. But at the bottom of our marriage was love. And I’m one of those romantics who believe that love can conquer everything.
We had highs and lows. Every couple encounters those speed bumps in life. Stuff happens! It’s not a matter of if but rather when. Living paycheck to paycheck? That’s when the contract comes to an end and there’s a layoff! NO!! I can’t pay the bills without an income. I can’t fix dinner without money for the food shopping. Yes, stuff happens but what we do and how we manage to get through those hard times keeps the marriage intact.
The other big problem seems to be fidelity. I never had to face it, but I had plenty of friends and a daughter who did. In my family we used to joke that my dad was very faithful. He kept the same mistress from the time he was nineteen until the day he died. I believe he married the wrong woman. But what he did was not right, and I saw my mom suffer from it.
It colored my attitude on marriage. It was the topic of discussion many times between my husband and me. I didn’t want to go through what my mom did. I told my husband from the start, if you find someone else, I’ll help you pack your bags because I’m not going to accept it. I had a few things that planted my feet firmly into the ground, and my husband knew it.
But I’ve also seen marriages break over what I considered stupid stuff. Talk! Communicate. Let him know what you think and get him to tell you. (Or vice versa.)
Just remember there is no perfect marriage. Cinderella might have suddenly found herself in a castle with a few pretty dresses, but her mother-in-law ruled the roost, her father-in-law called the shots, and she was expected to provide a ton of heirs. Women had no rights, and were considered worthless.
I’m content to know that I had something wonderful for a very long time. No, it wasn’t always perfect, but life isn’t perfect. What we had was love and that made everything possible.
Curling up at night into the arms of a lover is special. When that lover happens to be your best friend, it’s even better. But remembering that no matter what happens to separate the anger from the love is special. It allows us to continue.
“Do I get a kiss?”
“I’m still angry.”
“Okay.” Snuggle tight. “I love you.”
“I love you, too, but I’m still upset.”
“I know, but I’m still angry.”
“I said I was sorry.”
“I know you did.”
“I love you.”
“I love you, too. I’ll take that kiss, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not upset.”
It’s been twelve long years. I’ve never even dated. Am I looking? Not exactly. I figure that most people go their whole life without finding that love and I had it for almost thirty-seven years. I’m alone with only memories – memories of a man who gave up so many things to be a father and a husband. But he left behind a family who loved him.
But packed in probably every story I’ve written is a little piece of him. He wasn’t perfect nor was I. But he was honest, intelligent, and very much in love with his family and life. I made a country boy out of a city boy. He could spot and identify a bird in a tree. He could identify trees and dozens of other things that boys raised in the city never know.
Twelve long years, without him, yet he lives forever inside my head and in my heroes. I’m thrilled I had someone in my life who made life worth living. He taught me so much and stayed with me when things weren’t so great.
We talked. We talked about life. We talked about everything from quantum physics to breakfast. And we talked about writing. I miss him but he also gave me the strength to keep going. Had our roles been reversed, he’d be remarried. He’d need someone to clean that bathroom and pack his lunch.