I have a close friend who is getting married this month. I am wondering if there is any wisdom I can offer as the Hubby and I approach our 17th married year together. (I was obviously a child bride.) My friend isn't a naive 20 something. She has been through a number of her own ups and downs in relationships and life, learning a lot along the way. So I honestly wondered what advice can I offer her from the other side?
As I sat tonight staring into the flames of a bonfire pondering marriage with my head on my Hubby's shoulder (ignoring the marshmallowageddon enveloping me from smores gone wild) it became clear: There IS an "I" in marriage, and it lies right smack dab in the middle.
Over the last few years, my romantic "love can conquer all" heart has taken a beating, impacted by the stream of marriages dissolving around me.
Fifty percent of them do, my brother reminds me.
Some divorces I get, they make sense, and some leave me bewildered and confused. I am left with a sense of sadness because LOVE did not win. Because so much of my being naively wants to believe it really can.
I only know our story, and "I" definitely lies in the middle. If I share one tidbit of advice with my friend it is this: most of marriage comes down to meeting somewhere in the middle.
It involves things you would really, really rather not do. It is doing that thing asked of you, with a sigh and groan, but you do it because it makes your spouse happy. It is tucking your ego into your spanx and playing nice. Plain and simple. (No I am not talking about weird bedroom things, or dangerous or illegal things.) I am referring to touring a decommissioned missile silo command center when you are starving and ready to eat your own arm, the kids are crabby and tired and hungry and just want to go home. You do the tour, because he really wants to and you know what? It was actually pretty cool, you learned a lot and the kids thought it was amazing. It leads to watching War Games as a family and the kids actually understand the fear we grew up with; the Russians blowing us off the map.
It looks like him making hotel waffles for 3 kids and accidentally buttering the middle child's waffle, much to her utter dismay. He watches in bewilderment as she dissolves into a flailing pile of torment because on this particular day, she didn't want butter and insists him to "SCRAPE IT OFF!!! SCRAPE it off!!!! scraaaapppeee iiiiiiit offfffff.........!!!!!!" melting off the chair into the floor.
All of this occurring 2 hours after you literally ran away to run 13.1 miles. You actually PAID MONEY to run for some reason unbeknownst to him. Yet when he sees you coming down the road, cursing the stupid idea yourself, he says you are doing great with undeniable pride.
The natural tendency of a person is to want to be right or correct (and damn the consequences). We can act as stubborn as trying to move a goat from a pile of corn. Marriage is a bigger picture painted more vivid and exquisite when we practice some compromise and grace.
This is what I know. If the "I" lies on one side or the other, MARRIAGE doesn't work.
a bad Apple App bound to crash after the first update.
a strange Italian dish made with remorse and chutzpah that leaves a bad aftertaste.
I have done a lot of things for my husband that weren't on my list of "Things I would love to do!" You know what, it didn't kill me, and more often than not, some part of it created a great memory. Whatever it was, it is important to HIM, and HE is important to ME, and that is reason enough to go along with his plan. That doesn't mean I probably won't protest, complain, even use creative language to predict how terrible it is going to be... but I'll do it.
The reality is, sometimes the plan completely falls apart. Like when we found ourselves stuck at a-sure-to-get-you-killed-motel-that-still-uses-an-actual-key, we end up in a giggling fit. Laughing in the parking lot, the theme song to National Lampoons Vacation sung between us, wondering how five of us will share a full size bed.
The years and experiences we have shared have prepared us for the fact that life never plays out how we think it should. Marriage can find us in the middle of a F5 CrapStorm, on a four-wheeler, two miles from our property in a pasture. As flood waters are rising and icy sleet is falling hard and cold, we are on the only mode of transportation other than horses that can take us to our property. My husband stops, looks at me and starts laughing. "THIS! This is our life!"
We share an ability to laugh at the absurdities that are often created when we are each willing to walk through the barricades of self toward that place in the middle...
the "I" in the middle of our marriage.