This week I celebrate my three-year wedding anniversary and I'm feeling a bit conflicted. Marriage just isn't quite what I thought it would be, but then again I'm not sure I knew what to expect. All I know is that I've come to understand that it's hard -- really hard sometimes -- to make two lives coexist in a way that simultaneously honors both the individual and the couple. When you throw in the added chaos that comes with raising a family, the grass over on Single Lane starts to look a whole lot greener. At least over there all they have to worry about is themselves... and I remember that being hard enough.
When I think about everything my husband and I have been through since saying "I do," it's hard to believe it's all happened in what seems like such a short time span. In three years we've bought a home, made the most beautiful human being possible, traveled, loved, laughed and learned. But we've also cried and yelled, stormed out, checked out, lost, fought and escaped to whatever places we needed to in order to numb ourselves from frustration.
In the midst of beauty lies a good deal of strife that when in the moment, seems almost impossible to overcome. Wouldn't the struggles just disappear if I did?
But when I ask myself if leaving my married life behind is the answer, a very loud voice in my head reminds me that I would be crazy. It's true: I cherish my husband beyond words and nothing would pain me more than to go through life without him -- even if that means enduring his snoring or the way he leaves his boxers everywhere but the laundry basket. It all pales in comparison to the enormity of my love for that non-toilet-paper-replacing man.
So what then am I left to do with these cold feet? How do couples stay married for 50+ years? What is their secret to success?
Through a tremendous amount of reflection, therapy and alcohol, I now know that giving up isn't such a bad thing if you know what to give up. The biggest hurdle lies in recognizing the tendencies that we as individuals bring to the table. Often times it isn't just the marriage that needs work, it's the people as well.
If we all learned to master these few things our marriages wouldn't seem so complicated:
1. Ego: Someone once said, "you can either be right, or you can be married. You choose." The ego is a cunning foe designed to keep us from experiencing a true sense of contentment. Ego is often self-centered -- it is not patient or kind nor compassionate. It can be stubborn, inflexible and is usually the culprit responsible for blame and an inability to take responsibility for one's own feelings and actions.
2. Our stories: We all have one. Maybe we grew up thinking we were not loved, perhaps we were the bully, the loud mouth, the know it all -- the undeserving one or the most deserving one. These personality identifiers often dictate how we interact with others. When we cling too tightly and allow these experiences to define us, we cut ourselves off from the possibility of growth, evolution and openness.
3. Judgment: I've never seen a relationship succeed where criticism and opinions run rampant. Part of loving someone is learning to love them unconditionally -- for better or for worse. Marriage should be a safe haven where we feel secure enough to be uninhibited and imperfect. When we disregard our partners and undermine their decisions or feelings, we desecrate the sanctity of the union.
4. Presence: Remaining present in today's day and age is difficult -- distraction is practically weaved into the very fabric of our society. We tend to be outward seeking escape artists addicted to quick fixes and instant gratification. If something doesn't serve us immediately or go our way, we toss it aside and move on to the next -- relationships included. For a marriage to work, it requires inward exploration and patience. Nothing happens overnight.
5. Empathy: In a culture that promotes individualism and self everything -- from self-serve and self-help to single servings and self-fulfillment, it's no wonder we find it challenging to put our partners needs before our own. But marriage is a dream built for two. Loving kindness goes a long way towards living out our days as "happily ever after".
Yes, marriage can often feel as complicated as trying to understand string theory. But it doesn't have to be. With a little practice, we can pay tribute to ourselves and our relationships by learning to relinquish old habits that don't serve us well.
-- The Confessioness
A similar version first appeared on Theconfessioness.com