Hard is interesting word. Like many words its ambition is greater than its ability.
Hard can be used to describe a range of experiences that span the gamut from a math problem to basketball tryouts to childbirth. And as you can imagine, the word hard doesn’t do a good job at the extremes of human experience.
I find that relationships and marriage specifically have the same problem. Words aren’t really helpful when trying to explain to other people the intricacies of relationships. No matter how articulate you are, it’s hard to properly paint an accurate depiction of the many layers that can exist in the extremes of human relationships.
I’ve been married for ~ 4 months. By no means am I a veteran when it comes to love and marriage. Because of this inexperience and rawness of a new reality, I think it’s important to memorialize my experiences as early as possible before things become so normal that it’s hard to remember the growing pains that accompanied my process.
Just a couple baseline things to get out of the way before I begin.
- My wife is wonderful and absolutely one of the best things to happen to me
- I got married in my mid-30’s
- I believe in God – a god that is personally involved and cares about my day to day experiences.
Ok, with those caveats – which of course will color and influence my worldview I can begin the process of remembering.
First off. If I was talking to a younger version of myself – I would probably try to give him an indications of how to proceed and of how hard marriage can be. I would use phrases that people tried to use to communicate similar things to me:
- “It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done and also the most rewarding”
- “Don’t let your expectations of your spouse ruin the reality of your spouse”
- “Don’t try to change your spouse, Focus on what you can – changing yourself”
What people forget to add, or can’t because the level of intimacy it would require would take these locker room or office chat’s and turn them into therapist couch confessionals – is that the things that make marriage hard (for me) have nothing to do with logic, or effort, or trying harder.
The things that make marriage hard are intangible and insidious in the most growth-producing way. The pain of having your spouse angry at you for a couple hours is agonizing in a way that nothing else can be. Because this is your one person in the world – and if your emotional make up is tilted toward worrying you can create whole timelines of fabricated endpoints that end up with you divorced because your wife didn’t like the way you put (or didn’t) the trash can bags back.
The weight of “forever” also adds a hefty emotional punch to even the most mundane actions. You can begin to wonder how you’ll deal with a behavior that you used to find charming, but that is now so irritating that you wonder how you’ll make it through the next week, let alone the next 40-60 years.
It’s the strength of these emotions that can lead to wild reactions to small arguments and depending on your “virgo-ness” trying to control or “manage” your spouse.
What no one tells you is that , often the answer in these situations is not to double down on action and planning.
Instead the answer can often found in the opposite course of action.
“Anybody who decides to get married – should hold on lightly to their idea of themselves.”-Chima Ike. (My cousin)
Often our (read: my) issues with our spouse stem from identity issues or expectations that are deeply rooted inside of ourselves.
Instead of externalizing to your spouse, take a look at the desires inside of your heart that make a certain course of action seem to be the only appropriate one. What experiences have you had that make you so sure that your way is the only way forward?
A question that I’ve found to be helpful when I’m about to enter a discussion is:
“How important is it that I’m right in this particular discussion?”
For me this helps me to contextualize an argument or discussion and remove some of the emotional weight that marriage can tempt me to bring.
The other thing that is helpful is remember that your spouse can be trusted. That they are not out to hurt you nad that the things that they do that do hurt your feelings are not on purpose.
“Don’t ascribe to malice, what can be better considered ignorance” –Author Unknown (maybe me?)
Giving them grace and remembering that, God is with you and has blessed your coupling (especially if you make sure God was involved in the process previous to jumping the broom) is also helpful. Being conscious of the things that make them great partners and the reasons you chose to be with them is also a helpful tactic when things get stormy.
fly or fall.