Thursday, July 31, 2014
Dating means that as long as things are still fun, all laughs and smiles, and no major mishaps, you're still with that person. There are concerts, restaurants, flowers, and infatuation. But marriage is a different animal. Being married means that you are in this thing together, even when things get frustrating or overwhelming. There are less concerts, cheaper restaurants, and flowers are usually for Valentine's Day or a big apology. You see, what they snuck in there in addition to that big wedding and reception, the white dress and the flowers, the cake and the champagne, was a legal document you signed saying that you two are stuck with each other. And if you used traditional vows, you even threw in "until death do you part." That's a somber realization when you feel like you have had enough: someone has to die for us to get out of this relationship. This is a permanent situation we've gotten ourselves into here.
That's when I realized that marriage is actually a life-long three-legged race. You tie yourselves together, begin a little awkwardly, and hopefully pick up speed and make a smoother run of it as you go. It starts off fun, this little game, and you look at each other and giggle. You're in no hurry to really get anywhere other than where you are at that moment, and it seems like the only thing that matters is enjoying each other's company. Then, before you know it, it's been a while and you're losing your patience with this person who is seemingly attached to you. They are slowing you down! Why aren't they walking the way you are, in the same direction? Can't they see that if they would just do it your way, things would be much simpler? This is not the way you thought this race would go--one of you pulling off to the right, the other veering left. That's matrimony, folks. The good news is that your partner is thinking the same thing, and yet here you are, still bound together. If one of you falls, the other is going to stop and help you up. They may even use their momentum to pull you forward a bit. When you're tired, you can lean on each other. And if you lose, you have someone right there with you who has been through the race, every step of the way. If you win, you know exactly who to high-five first.
It looks like fun, it can be a real challenge, and it takes some work to get it right. I think part of the beauty of the whole arrangement is that it's not easy. Most things worth having aren't easy, or we wouldn't want them to begin with. It's human nature to love a challenge; we do this to ourselves.
Sure, if you were still dating and things got tough, you could just return each other's things and go your separate ways. He wouldn't know you still sleep in a retainer even though you are a grown adult, you would be blissfully unaware of his bathroom habits, and neither of you would know the experience that is having a mother-in-law. But here you are, on this obstacle course of living, hobbling along together. There is a reason we call them a "significant other." It's because what that person does and pretty much all of their actions inevitably have a significant effect on your day, your feelings, your moods, your self-esteem, and vice versa. It can be a total pain in the rear, but at the same time, it also means that, by definition, you are significant to your spouse as well. And who wants to go through life with someone who is their insignificant other? The rest of the world can (and will) make you feel insignificant enough.
So, take a deep breath. Try to match each other's strides. When one of you is slowing the other person down, just assume that it is part of your race. Be grateful when your partner picks you up and helps you move forward in the right direction. Because running this three-legged race together beats walking the course alone. At least most of the time. Just keep stumbling forward; if you're doing it together, that's all that really counts.