Marriage ain’t for the weak. I have been married to my husband for 30 years, and I often joke that we stood up in front of God and everyone and pledged, “Til death do us part,” and I had no idea how long it would take for death to come. Sometimes it feels like those 30 years have dragged; sometimes it feels like they just flew by. Regardless, marriage is hard work. It requires conscious effort and dedication to keep it going — by both people.
I loved my husband Jim when we got married, but when I look back, I realize we probably had no business getting married. All my friends were married, and I desperately wanted to get married, too. I think if Jim and I had waited much longer, we might not have ended up getting married. I never thought of him as my soulmate when we were initially together, nor did I think of him as my best friend. Those things came later, after we had toughed out some challenges and we realized how much our lives were intertwined that untangling them would be impossible and pretty damaging.
We have been through a lot. We’ve seen a marriage counselor — more than once. We’ve been through hard times financially. We’ve done and said terrible, horrible things to each other. We’ve threatened divorce. We’ve walked out on each other. We’ve made each other cry. We’ve had vicious fights. We’ve called each other terrible names. We’ve gone to bed angry and not speaking. We’ve hurt each other enough that this marriage should have been destroyed long ago.
But for some reason, we have stuck together. Maybe there were times where we stayed together out of laziness. Sometimes it was because it was comfortable and familiar. There were times it was out of trust. What was always there, though, like glue, was love.
Now, let me stop for a moment and say that love is not enough to sustain a marriage. It’s a foundation, but it’s not a house. Every time Jim and I tore down part of our relationship, we had to return to the foundation to rebuild what had been destroyed.
The turning point, we both believe, was when our daughter — our only child — went away to college. Suddenly, we found ourselves alone with only each other and a new definition of what we were. I think we both knew that there were 2 options in front of us as we dealt with living in a house without our daughter being a constant presence: we could turn away from each other in our loneliness and missing her, or we could turn toward each other and bond over the common sadness we felt having her away. Fortunately, we gravitated toward the latter. We had a chance to learn about each other and discover great things about each other — and we became more than husband and wife and lovers — we were truly best friends. We genuinely enjoyed each others’ company.
I have often said we got lucky, but I really don’t think it was luck. It was the constant rebuilding we had to do, the adversity we faced and overcame, that ended up making our relationship strong.
All of that was confirmed and firmly cemented with my stint in the hospital in 2019 and my ensuing (and still continuing) recovery. Jim has been my rock, truly. I had to surrender myself completely to him. I had to put absolute trust in him. I had to depend on him. I had to be incredibly vulnerable in front of him. And he has come through in every way.
Marriage is hard. You have to be willing to put up with a lot of crap in order to appreciate the good. You have to be willing to use the things that destroy to rebuild. You have to be willing to dedicate and surrender. You have to be willing to give more than just love. If you can do those things, then you will be rewarded with a rich marriage!