I come from a family who has treated divorce kind of like car buying. One of my parents has been married the same number of times as the number of arms an octopus has. Another has been married the same number of times as people in my immediate family. I’m on my second marriage. Yep, it’s true.
My first marriage was one of convenience. I was pregnant and dropped from my parents insurance. I knew he was cheating on me, but I didn’t know about social services so I married him for insurance. He continued to sleep with other women while we were married, stopped working so that I could support him and Styles on my own, spent my money on drugs, and eventually left me for another woman. The day I confirmed he was cheating was a crazy day. I felt every emotion in the book, quite literally every emotion in the book. He had been emotionally abusive towards me and was neglectful of Styles when he was in his care while I worked, and I desperately wanted out of the relationship but I didn’t have the cajones to do it. I was a chicken liver, for one, and I didn’t want to have a divorce under my belt at the ripe young age of almost 23.
Five years later, I married Kyle and he really was, by all accounts, my prince charming. We had known one another for a couple of years before dating, and he was so good with Styles. He was also ambitious, intelligent, and had life goals. He seemed exciting and happy and I could see us having great adventures together.
As soon as we got married, things got tough – really tough. I was pregnant and put on bed rest for three months. He graduated college and started a job that took up a lot of his hours. He was subsequently let go from that job 4 months after Madilyn was born and he took a job in Savannah, GA where he lived without us, and us without him for 3 months. Once we moved to Savannah, we bought a house, found out we were pregnant with Grady, and he worked. A lot. I was in the throes of postpartum depression and he was gone when we woke up in the morning and didn’t come home until we were in bed.
We were both angry and overwhelmed and experiencing things in our lives that the other person couldn’t comprehend. There was little to no communication and we rarely ventured out of the house together.
We moved to Raleigh a year after Grady was born and he drowned himself in his job as the Bar and Lounge Manager at The Umstead Hotel & Spa. His hours were late and when he was home he was sleeping. I found my own life there and threw myself into working out and blogging. It was that very typical, roommates with benefits scenario, but even the sex was routine. It was something I had to do to keep my man happy. It wasn’t intimate or loving as much as it was, let’s just get this over with because it’s a chore no more pleasurable than scrubbing the toilet. Not to say it wasn’t good, it’s just that it was one more thing on the list of things I needed to do to be a “good wife”. God knows housekeeping wasn’t my forte so I had to make up for it somewhere.
We went on dates and we put smiles on and took pictures to plaster on Facebook, but they were merely wallpaper to line the lonely walls we had both put up.
Kyle lived all up inside his head and I occupied myself with friends and trips to visit family. When the job in Florida came along, I was anxious to get closer to an area where there’s “more to do” – like fry in the sun with sand stuck inside every orifice imaginable – a blast.
The move was hard for me. I became depressed again but Kyle loved his job so his newfound happiness gave me hope that we had crawled out of the hole that our marriage had become.
It got better and then worse again and then better and we had good days, but they were always marred with arguments that neither of us could diffuse no matter how hard we tried. Then it got really bad and I thought it was the end, I wanted it to be the end. And then I realized I had stayed for 6.5 years for a reason. I loved this man who I didn’t see very often and who I argued with constantly, but why? Because he has all of the qualities of a man I want to spend the rest of my life with, and he has great potential to be even more amazing and to learn to have fun and to LIVE his life – a life that includes me and our three beautiful, smart children. A life of yes, a life of happiness. Potential. Love. He had potential and I loved him, so I made the difficult decision to stay.
These are the stories you don’t hear of very often. You hear of marriages gone bad and ending in divorce. Or marriages turning into friendships that end in divorce. You hear of infidelity and how it results in divorce. You hear about people who have been married for 41 years and can’t stand to be around one another. You hear about it and you see it, and when you’re first getting married, you never think, “That’s going to be us one day” because you have hope that whatever it is you have with this person is exactly what the world needs to spin properly on its axis, and you think that your love is strong enough to get you through the bad times, and every time someone thinks that, they’re dead wrong.
Marriage is muddy. It isn’t all fun and games. Having children is often like living in an abyss where you don’t see light at the end of the tunnel and you’re just floundering around in the dark looking for that lost sock and cleaning up bodily fluids that make your nosehairs singe, and you’re just waiting for life to find you in the darkness. Marriage is a series of peaks and valleys that you are always either approaching or climbing or leaving and you have to get to a headspace where you realize that no matter where you are in your journey, you have to choose love, and continue to treat love like a verb – an action – because just being there isn’t always enough.
You don’t hear about the stories of people who reach the brink of divorce and decide to stop, see one another and decide, “No, I chose you for a reason and I want to do this thing with you, even when it’s dirty.” You get married and make promises to love one another through rich and poor, and sickness and health, and bad and good and then you experience poverty, illness, and just really bad times and you pull back and find yourself and your marriage broken.
It’s not the end. Brokenness doesn’t mean that it’s trash, it means you have to find the superglue somewhere in your junk drawer and start gluing the pieces back together – both of you, working on this puzzle we call life – together.
Because in that brokenness is beauty, and a relationship that can be stronger, happier, made up of two people who are better than they were before they walked into that valley. Forging through those times can help you climb and summit the next peak so that along the way when you encounter the scary things life throws at you, you have a best friend and partner at your side, cheering you on when you need them.
Marriage is hard. It’s a full time job, every day, where you have to stop and see one another and think to yourself, “What can I do for this person today to let them know I love them in a way THEY understand?” We all feel love a little differently from the next person and it doesn’t make it wrong, it makes it interesting and difficult and beautiful and chaotic.
The next time your spouse says, “I don’t feel loved by you.” or they plea with you to love them, listen to what they’re saying. Help them. LOVE them the way they need to be loved. Then tell them what you need and remind them that even though you’re both war-torn and weary and separated by miles and miles and years upon years of pain, that you choose them and that you’ll put on whatever armor you have to put on in order to make it out of the battle with them at your side.
You thought they were worth it at one point. Figure that out again, see your spouse.
Because truly, a marriage comprised of two people who are willing to truly see one another again, and work hard every day to make a life together, is a marriage that can withstand the test of time and come out the other side happier, stronger, and ready for the next crazy adventure.
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