Marriage isn’t easy in fact it’s tough. As the studies consistently show, half of all marriages end in divorce, and those that don’t are the marriages where the couples roll their eyes and wait for death to part them. Is marriage really so terribly miserable, difficult, and hopeless?
As a child I got a lot of my cues about life from television. My parents, happily married, certainly could wrangle up a few arguments a year, but for the most part were contentedly hitched. So television gave me other views of matrimony. From I Love Lucy to The Brady Bunch, Newhart to Family Ties, I immersed myself in TelevisionLand trying to understand the nuclear family and my place in a one-day marriage. Lucy and Desi fought, but they usually found common ground by the end of the half hour. Mike and Carol Brady were so happy to have found a mate in one another after their respective spouses died that they always seemed very appreciative of one another. They didn’t always see eye-to-eye, but marital discord was not a major theme in that show. Bob Newhart used his wickedly dry sense of humor to interact with his TV wife Joanna. And the Keatons on Family Ties were so in love that on a very rare episode when they fought or struggled, I’d get physically sick about it! As I grew up, television couples, no matter how cute they were when the show premiered, became cynical and ended their once-happy unions. As a young married woman I loved watching Mad About You and could identify with some, not all, of their trials and tribulations. I was absolutely distraught, however, to learn that the writers had the couple divorce for the series’ finale. Two people who were so in love wound up divorced albeit fictional people on television. Were there no happy endings even in TelevisionLand? Is marriage obsolete?
As I grew, I witnessed more true-life events; friends’ parents divorcing, my parent’s friends divorcing once their children became adults, and those who chose not to marry at all. It was all enlightening and at the same time quite confusing. I married young for my generation. I was twenty and my husband twenty-three when we tied the knot some eighteen and a half years ago. By then we’d been together more than six years. By all means we shouldn’t make it. We were children when we got together. Most believed we’d grow apart and divorce before our fifth year anniversary. We hit hazardous road bumps along the way. We suffered tragedies and heartbreaks, yet we still remain committed in our marriage. We have epic arguments and disagreements. We have different interests at times, but we try to maintain some that are the same; common bonds to connect us. Still, there is no fairytale ending. We work hard, daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly, to keep our marriage intact. And, as much as we love one another, it is vastly difficult. It is easy to see how some with less history, less commitment, and less passion simply part ways after saying “I do” because it is easier to do so than compromise, change, and work things out.
Marriage is ebb and flow, great passion and great anger, getting along and fighting, spending time together and rarely speaking. If done right these aspects can all be incorporated into a marriage without the marriage being in any danger of ending. But the work is making time to communicate. To stand up to hurt feelings and get passed them. To trust in the love and loyalty of one’s mate. Couples are, after all, two independent people who decide to share a life together, and, in some cases, raise children together. The expanded family offers even more opportunities for stress, lack of communication, and hurt feelings. For marriage to endure, priorities must be set that keep the marriage healthy and intact. Compromise, meeting halfway, and connecting are all vital for marriage to survive and indeed thrive.
I’m no expert nor do I portend to be. I am merely someone who has been in a monogamous relationship for the last quarter century. I am someone who reads a lot, listens a lot, asks a lot of questions, and values her marriage above all else, yes, including the children. That doesn’t mean they aren’t priorities, because they most certainly are in their dependent years. But I know I am raising them to leave home with the understanding that when they leave my husband and I will still have a thriving relationship. That is a relationship that is tended to throughout the children’s lives, not only once they’ve left the nest. And, like the rest of you I presume, I fall far short of the ideal. I make mistakes, usually the same ones over and over again. I take my spouse for granted. I forget to communicate, and I become unbalanced. But instead of throwing in the towel when confronted with strife, I am working toward fixing the problems, working in tandem with my spouse to get back on track. I will not be a statistic. I will not let "writers" or anyone else deny my marriage a chance to grow and endure. I am a part of a couple, a married couple, and I intend to stay that way. Others may be disillusioned by marriage, but I know I’m better as us. There aren’t many who will make their fiftieth or higher anniversary between people who marry later in life and those who simply give up. My husband and I have a great shot making those milestones as we married young and simply don’t give up on each other or the marriage. Difficult to be married? Yes. Frustrating? Absolutely. Highly rewarding and worth every downside? You betcha. I choose marriage.