Wednesday, February 19, 2014

how is your marriage?

A little while back I was out to lunch with a friend. We talked about life and kids and God and the world and shoes and somehow the topic turned to marriage. And we laid our honest cards out on the table and talked about how happy and shiny marriage seemed for others and how hard we both found it to be. It was such a relief. 

Marriage: A topic I usually keep inside as to not bash Michael or only show my side. Maybe I'm ashamed that my marriage is not what I thought it would look like. Maybe I'm confused as to why we are so bad at it. And for many different reasons- it's something we aren't "allowed" to talk about. We aren't supposed to admit when we are hurting or broken in the marriage department. I don't know why- We don't want to disappoint others-- our parents, our friends, our children. We don't want to admit we are the only ones having a hard time. But chances are- if we just talked about it- we'd realize we aren't the only ones. I don't do good keeping things inside- It's suffocating and lonely, so out truth flows. Besides we are human- not perfect, and so human we are allowed to be.

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(photo courtesy of jerry frazier)


How's your marriage? It's the one question so infrequently asked amongst even the best of friends in the deepest of heart to hearts. And suddenly it's a shock when you hear about a friend separating or divorcing. How could you have no idea? They seemed so happy I thought. Why- because she shared a picture of them on Facebook and she wasn't giving him the finger behind his back or complaining that HE NEVER PUTS THE DISHES IN THE DISH WASHER?  Or because just maybe some people post pictures so their marriage will look like what they actually want it to look like. With phrases like Here's my best friend and soul mate bringing me lunch to work. And thanking them on Facebook somehow validates the relationship more than a simple and honest thank you to their face. We get so busy making sure the world thinks our relationship well, that we don't care how well it actually is. Pictures are partial stories and half truths and then we fill in the blanks about the rest of the story because that's what people do to make sense of the world. 

Someone asked me how Michael and I have such a good marriage, especially because there is information circulating showing parents of autistic children have higher divorce rates. That study has since been debunked, by the way. I will tell you I am the very last person to offer tips on marriage. We struggle like everyone else who struggles struggle. Married life has been difficult for both of us- not put the lawyer on speed dial hard, but working on it together and separately hard. Doable hard. I'm in it for the long haul hard. I think many of us are surviving in hard marriages because I think for many of us- marriage is hard. The more you keep it inside without acknowledging it, the harder it gets. It's work and it's hard work at that. Harder than parenting on its hardest days to me.

I don't think autism could cause divorce, however I think it has the ability to enhance whatever is already there. If you communicate poorly - you will still communicate poorly if your child is diagnosed with autism. If you fought about finances before, you will fight about finances after. If your spouse is emotionally unavailable- they will not suddenly learn how to listen with empathy. Whatever your kryptonite - it is enhanced and brought to light when there are outside stresses on a marriage. You may just have more important and more frequent opportunities for any problem to come to light.

I think we make a lot of assumptions on other peoples marriage based on what we assume to be true based on the view we have. You may see pictures of Michael and I and assume its bliss based on the fact that we line up about many of the choices we make when it comes to the boys. You may assume that trickles to all aspects of our life, but it doesn't. We are wired so differently. We think and act and feel and speak different languages. I haven't been able to find a translator. 

It's fitting that on our wedding day, I had my dear Friend Susie read an excerpt from the book, The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams. 

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What is REAL? asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle? 

Real isn't how you are made, said the Skin Horse. It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but really loves you, then you become Real.

Does it hurt? asked the Rabbit. 

Sometimes, said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. When you are Real you don't mind being hurt.

Does it happen all at once, like being wound up, he asked, or bit by bit?

It doesn't happen all at once, said the Skin Horse. You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get all loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand.

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And so I guess I can say my marriage is not perfect, but it is real. Let me say it out loud, Marriage is so hard. Who knows, maybe hard is the new normal. I still believe in happily ever after. I think we are living it right now, complete with the unhappy and hard and sad times nestled in between. This is marriage, this is life.

So tell me, How's your marriage, Friend?


Love,

Chrissy

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28 comments:

  1. Oh my goodness.

    My marriage is....well. I'm getting divorced. I am the one who never really answered, who never really talked about how hard it is, and now everyone is surprised about the divorce. Whyyyyyy don't we talk about the hard stuff?? Why are we ashamed to admit that marriage is hard? Because, it's SO HARD.
    Anyway. I love this post. Love love love. So many good things. Thank you.

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    1. I think when we DO talk about hard things, it somehow turns into a competition or comparison... no matter how bad you have it (whether it IS that bad, or it just FEELS that bad to you - both are valid) there will always be someone that is going through worse, or knows someone who had it much worse, so suck-it-up buttercup... and why would anybody want to be put through that when faced with whatever poop-storm one is going through? Or some friends disappear like cockroaches in daylight when friends are having trouble.

      I hope life gets better for you, Becky!! You deserve happy. :-)

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  2. Is "pththththt!!!!" a word? :-D That's about what my marriage is like. *shrug* It could be worse, and I'm grateful that it's not. It could be better, and it makes me sad that it's not. However it takes two to tango, and it just ain't gonna happen.

    I think part of our problem these days is the "public face" we tend to put on display of what our marriage is, like you've said. It is also what the media, and movies, and God love 'em, Disney etc. tell us a marriage should be... Prince Charming and all that. And how does one not buy into the fairy tale... even just a bit. A Knight in Shining Armor?? Yes please!! And we seldom know how hard our parents or grandparents or whatever worked at their marriage to make it last 25 years... 50 years... or whatever. And all of the hardships they endured besides - the Depression, wars, health issues, stillbirths... things we don't really have a concept of anymore in today's age. Some sure, and one could make a case for the economy & wars & such, but it was a different sort of thing "back then".

    Some things I've discovered are that often the "happiest" marriages, really aren't. And some of the seemingly crummy ones, are crummy, but are at least honest in their crumminess. Knowing someone for a long time or living together for years before marriage doesn't equal a great or long marriage. And knowing someone for a short time before marriage can turn out to be a success. And age doesn't equal wisdom.

    I believe in happy ever after too... just have to sometimes look at it differently, or paint the scenery a different shade. Attitude is just about everything. If you see good, you find good... so I think it wise to take a page from Greyson's book and find something to flap about every day... :-)

    Today's flapworthy moment for me was my daughter making pancakes for dinner... from scratch & everything. Kinda healing in a way. :-)

    Have a great Thursday!!

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  3. An amazing article! Thank you for sharing and being real ;-)

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  4. My marriage is.....over. He chose drugs, going out without me and then ultimately, another woman. He made himself hard to love because he didn't love himself. I tried counseling 3 different times. Who knew he was in the midst of his affair 2 of those times.

    The divorce has been final a year, I don't know about the drugs and paryting aspect of his life, but the woman has and is long gone. All he is left with is a pile of regret and shame. Too late to save our marriage and too much damage to dream of reconciling for our young son's sake.

    Marriage IS hard. And it takes 2 people to want to stay married. Praying that you and Michael both want to work on the hard parts and bring back the joy.....together.

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  5. It is amazing how it changes when you have kids. you think you're on this great adventure together but realize so late in the game that you've stopped being together the way you used to. marriage is hard and messy. we stopped working on making it less hard. we let the mess pile up. it makes a bigger pile to sift through when you want to bring yourselves together again. communication sucks and we both keep things bottled up. I think we tell ourselves that we don't want to hurt the other person but I think part of the truth is that we don't to hear what the other persons grievances are. we're scared.

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  6. My marriage is comfortable and safe and loving. Just like my husband. As I've entered my 6th decade of life and my sweetheart his 7th, life has mellowed out.

    This is not the first marriage for either of us. Our track record was dismal. And for that reason some days early on the main reason that we stayed together was not wanting to fail again. But now I can't imagine life without him. I know that I am forever spoiled by the wonderful man that he has become and that he is truly irreplaceable in my life.

    The marriage is not perfect, but it is happy. However, if I let myself get sidetracked by thoughts of what-if and if-only and dwelling on imperfections (his and mine) and recalling past hurts, I can get restless and critical.

    Our marriage is as happy as we decide to make it. And we've both decided to choose happiness. That's not a head-in-the-sand idea, it's realistic. I'm not perfect. Neither is he. We are so very different. But over time those differences have become a complement to one another.

    One thing that has brought us together besides love of our children and grandchildren, is sharing a passion for working with special needs adults. Doing something together that we both love is fulfilling. So, although our personalities are very different, it works.

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    1. I should have added - I hope that this will be a source of encouragement for those struggling in their marriages...

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    2. This is wonderful. Congratulations to you and your husband! Your comment reminds me of my folks, who are in their 60s. My Mom has told me (as an adult) a hundred times how selfish and infuriating my dad can be. But I just smile, because I see that my mom is a perfectionist and not many can live up to her standards. My parents are perfectly imperfect, but they've learned to use their strengths to help each other, and the other fills in on their weaker characteristics. They've mellowed through the years, and for as many times as my mom considered leaving, I know now that she is glad she stayed. I used to feel bad that they were "stuck" together, and now, that I've gotten older and more mature, I realize how lucky they are to have found each other so early on in life (at 16!) and stayed together all these years. Damn hard at times, but the love between them? Rock solid now..... It's so inspiring.

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  7. Thank you for having the courage to say it.........marriage is hard. It's hard on any couple. Autism, twice by the way, was only part of what makes it hard. I've always said marriage is a job and both people have to be willing to "go to work" every day. Sometime you fail at that days assignment and sometimes you flourish, but knowing a fail doesn't get you fired is the strength we have built on for 16 years.

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  8. My marriage is enduring. With ups and downs, good and bad times, stressful before kids and stressful with kids, etc. I think ours is like most others when you stop and think about it. I'm so glad you mentioned the myth about divorce with parents of special needs kids. Our 8 yr old son has autism, and my husband helps to shoulder what he can- I home school our son and he works full time. Add to the mix a spunky and energetic NT 4 yr old, and our life is one big bowl of crazy. I agree that if you had problems before, a special needs child can really bring that to the surface. It's not how I pictured things either, but I got married at 24, and who really knows what to expect of life at that age or just how hard things can be? And, I agree, marriage is HARD. Really, really hard. We are coming up on 15 years this April, and I hope we can continue to laugh through the hard times and grow with life's changes. I say hope b/c while we are happy right now, I don't ever want to be arrogant in thinking that nothing could come along and change that. I think marriage requires vigilance and effort to get yourselves back on track. We're imperfect, marriage is imperfect, and I think we're all just trying to find those brief moments of perfect in the midst of all that.

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    1. Very beautifully said. Happy early anniversary!

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  9. Yes. Yes. Yes. Marriage is HARD! I think one of the key things I have learned along the way is that when we look at the marriages of others we are looking from the outside. We really have no idea of the struggles and compromise that are almost certainly going on on the inside. Thanks for sharing and for encouraging us to share....

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  10. Had Bible study with some girlfriends this week.. and we touched on this subject.... We discussed how "Comparison is the Thief of Joy" ... You never know what's going on behind closed doors and what you may be coveting in someone else's relationship may cause damage to yours... We all have our crosses to bear.. We need to, as spouses and women friends, build each other up.. and not tear each other down.. It's a tough thing... this thing called LIFE and especially marriage... Anything worth having is worth working at... We have been at this for 27 years now.. and I can say we've both grown.. matured... learned and loved ALOT... So let's show our kids that hard things are worth fighting for... that it's ok to fix broken things... with counseling if needed and that you're in this for the long haul (at least in most cases.. of course there are exceptions) ...

    Thanks for such a beautiful honest and soul-baring post... You, too, are loved

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  11. Totally agree. The hardest part, for me, is letting stuff go - not complaining about little things, ignoring annoyances, and simply turning a blind eye to some things I don't love. Because the bigger picture is more important.

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  12. Agree, marriage is work, marriage is hard. And here's the biggest myth buster, marriage isn't about happiness, it's about holiness. I think we all have an ideal of what it should look like and then we marry and realize how hard it really is. But hard work is always rewarding and I know I'm becoming a better more selfless person because of marriage. Just like raising kids is hard and we would never give up on them. My best friend is always asking how my marriage is and I'm greatful for that. I've had many friends I've counseled through a major bump in the marriage road. We are all just steps away from a major bump. Our marriages can't be second place. Thanks for being real and honest.

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  13. Lisa from Tennessee/OhioFebruary 20, 2014 at 12:23 PM

    Yep, you've all said it. Marriage is hard. But anything that's worth having is worth working on. People dream of, and plan their weddings, and often don't give a second thought to the day-to-day life after the wedding is over. I think one of the reasons divorce is so high these days is that people give up too easily. The first time you have a problem that seems insurmountable, you say "Forget it. I'm done!" Slow down on that decision. Talk to your partner. Communication is the big one here. And it's hard too. A lot of people don't communicate well..me included! Something that my husband and I discovered is a "talking stick." It can be anything, or you can come up with a meaningful symbollic item. But, when you are talking or even "discussing" AKA fighting, the person who is holding the stick has the floor and the other person has to listen, without interrupting, and without just coming up in their head with what they want to say when they get the stick. Just listen. It makes a difference. So many times when we fight, we aren't hearing the other person. We are just trying to get our point across. And remember, life isn't the destination, it's the journey, so don't focus on what you want tomorrow to look like. Focus on what you can make today look like! Hugs and love to you and Michael and the boys.

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    1. Also... you may find yourself sometimes wanting to hit your partner with the "talking stick" and as much fun as that sounds sometimes.. It's not allowed :)

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  14. I'm not married, but I appreciate this post a lot. I'm a single mom (never been married) and sometimes I really wish I had a husband to share the load. Not the physical stuff so much, but the emotional. When I am drained after a long week of work and going home to my Terrible Two little monster, making endless demands. I wish I had someone to lean on... That's the part I think of when I think of marriage, but I often forget that along with all the positive things, come negative too (lots of negative or a little negative, depending on the spouse!)... It is a good thing for me to remember when I am ready to date again... Does anyone have any pearls of wisdom about dating or thinking about "potential spouses"? What you wish you would have known? What you wish you would have considered?

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    1. I know I'm late to the party (blog reading often takes a back seat in my life) but here's a bit of advice that I picked up along the way: a little now shows a lot later. There were a few "new" things that my husband and I had to adjust to after marriage, but a lot of our first couple years was more of the stuff (good and bad) that we experienced while dating. (Someone who is a clutter bug--like me--is not going to keep a spotless house just because she's sharing it with someone else, and someone who is not a social butterfly--like my husband--is not going to be keen on a weekend full of activities with a bunch of people just because he now has someone to go with.)

      The two qualities I appreciate most in my husband are his willingness to have hard conversations and his stubbornness (because it means he never gives up on us). I'm not where I expected to be after several years of marriage (no kids and the sole income-provider while my husband is back in school), but I have no regrets, because while he is not perfect, he is good company (except while getting a pedicure).

      Best wishes on your journey in life, wherever it takes you! --Jennifer

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    2. Jennifer, I saw your comment on my blog. Thank you! Thank you for responding here also. I think your words are very wise and not something I had thought about! Thank you for that. Thank goodness for these blogs that bring us together and help us navigate this beautiful, unexpected life.

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  15. So I have been meaning to answer this questions for over a week, but we went to disney...which changed the original answer in my head.

    So my marriage I think is acceptable, some days I think its great and we've got it right, while others I want to punch him right in the face and tell him that he needs to do more. Before kids our marriage was pretty easy, like hanging out with your best friend and then cleaning up after them, but after kids it has become a struggle to figure out how to communicate, how to love each other, how to remember that we are friends. I think marriage changes everyday and if it doesn't then it won't last, but both people need to learn how to bend and grow and give and take.

    I'll never forget a day when I believed I was going to walk out on my marriage with two kids and start over, i had decided that if i was going to do that I was gonna rock it out and be broken-hearted behind closed doors so my kids had an awesome role model. We had went to my brother in laws wedding, my husband was the best man and I felt ignored the entire weekend, he barely spoke to me, left me with kids all alone (2 year old and 3 month old) and never once asked me to dance. After weeks of feeling alone in this marriage, that wedding, that expression of love, devotion, and commitment, showed me I was not happy and I was not going to accept this as my marriage anymore.

    The long drive home was spend on the verge of tears in silence, wondering where I would move my boys and how I would afford to do it on my teacher salary. Once we got home my husband asked "Is something wrong?" and I almost wanted to punch him in the face, I said to him calmly "I'm not going to yell in front of my children but you need to know that I'm thinking about leaving you because I am not happy in this marriage, I feel ignored and unimportant, unloved, and overall done. You need to figure out if you even like me, let alone love me cause I'm not accepting this as my marriage forever" He was not saying what I needed him to say which was I love you so much, I want to show you how much I'm just not sure how, help me be a better husband" I then just said I'm leaving for a while, I packed my a bag for the boys put them in the car and went to the beach, luckily the sun was just right, my boys were looking extra delicious, and I had a moment of time to think about just our marriage while my oldest ran in the sand free. I stuck it out after hours of tears and discussion and working...we still struggle but it definitely is better than it was.

    overall marriage has some really shitty days, but some are great and many are ok. Marriage is hard, you spoke so very true to a very difficult topic. Thanks for your honesty...I thought long and hard about my own marriage and appreciate the push to think about it.

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  16. Hi Friend :) My marriage is new, as you know. Having known & loved the man who is now my husband for almost 15 years, it is still new and challenging. We talk a lot about how our marriage has to be a priority for both of us, and it requires effort - it doesn't just happen. He is not great at communicating, I am fairly independant and let's say bossy. But, we both know this is where we want to be - together. And we are old enough to have lived a bit of life & know the grass isn't greener. I'll keep ya posted, but I think we are in this for the long haul, too.
    Love & happiness to you, sweet Momma xoxo Jennifer

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  17. Talking about parting with someone you cherish really hurts, especially if you thought it would last. However, if you’re only trying to work things out just for the sake of being together, then it no longer is a healthy relationship. Soon, you’ll realize that the respect is no longer there. It’s better to get hurt today, than to find yourself not feeling anything anymore.

    Lynette Mcguire

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  18. You provided a lot of valid points, Chrissy. People are so caught up in letting the world know how perfect their marriage is, when in truth, marriage can be a lot of things but perfect. The imperfection of a relationship can show how much a couple cares about repairing internal damages, instead of avoiding them. Let's be honest, we all make mistakes, and to be with someone, who accepts our flaws and see that we are just diamonds in the rough, makes a marriage real, if not close to perfect. Thanks for sharing that! :)

    Jim Wright @ Sherwood Couples Counseling

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  19. I admire your attitude and deep insights about facing difficulties concerning marriage life. Although I could feel the atmosphere of your struggle as a mother of a child with disability, you still acquire positive thoughts about your family life, and that is so admirable. Hardships and problems normally exist to make every relationships grow stronger. Anyway, I salute you for loving and valuing your family so much. Thanks for sharing that, Chrissy! All the best!

    Joanne Krueger @ Kurtz And Blum

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  20. No marriage is perfect. Some people are liars. The problems start when those who are having real, regular problems believe the lies of pretenders.

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