By Lisa Wilkes
Took the plunge. Ball and chain. Found my soul mate. Happily ever after. You complete me. If you Google euphemisms for marriage, these are some of the phrases that will pop up. With today’s divorce rate nearing 50%, a lasting and fulfilling marriage is often the exception, however, not the rule.
So how does a marriage go from “Happily Ever After” to “Irreconcilable Differences?” While people get divorced for a myriad of reasons, unreasonable expectations is probably one of the top contributing factors to the demise of a marriage. We pledge “for better or for worse,” but still expect the honeymoon to last forever. Only marriage doesn’t work that way.
A great marriage is more than a Pinterest-worthy wedding — the wedding is the fun and easy part! Many newlyweds (myself included) get swept away by the wedding planning and think that love is enough to sustain a marriage. Some of you may remember a hit from the 70’s by Captain and Tennille: “Love Will Keep us Together.” Nope. It did not work for them, either.
What our younger and more romantic selves do not realize is that marriage is comprised of many stages, not all of them worthy of our Facebook or Instagram timelines. Social media has made expectations of marriage even more unrealistic. A great marriage is not a perfectly decorated home or eating gourmet meals that you lovingly prepare together or being known as “The Perfect Couple” who throw elegant dinner parties.
Instead, more often than not, it’s dealing with someone who makes an awful mess while they cook. Someone who steals all the covers, hogs most of the bed all night, and snores like a freight train. And still sticking with them because you know you have your faults, too. My mother always told me that if you truly love someone, the little things will always bug you, but they won’t be deal breakers.
For my 18th wedding anniversary, I gave my husband a coffee mug that says “6750 days together, but who’s counting?” While this can be taken a couple of ways, snarky or loving depending on my mood or annoyance level, I meant it as a reminder that we have been together a long time and have much invested in this marriage.
Because marriage isn’t about keeping score on who does what or who does more. Sometimes one of you will carry more of the load and that’s just the way it works. Swallowing those nagging and hurtful words and working together to help each other with the hard parts of life. Even good people do unkind things. Sometimes you’ll argue and shout and give each other the silent treatment until your heart can forgive the hurt. At other times, you’ll be the bigger person and apologize first, even when you’re not the one who started the argument in the first place. A person is always better than their worst action and worse that their best. Remember that and remember that a sincere apology really does go a long way.
The journey of marriage is always about carefully picking your battles, too. Asking yourself if in the whole scheme of things this will really matter tomorrow. Winning the battle is not always the best way to win the war. If it was, you’d miss out on the amazing opportunity of coming home to the same person everyday who knows all your quirks and faults and still loves you in spite of them. (Plus all that bathroom humor that sometimes drives you insane!)
Of course marriage does not always go as planned and suddenly you find yourself having to adjust to a “new” normal over and over. But marriage is knowing that you can always start over tomorrow – and being willing to. Even if tomorrow is day 6751.
Luckily, making it through those “worse” days means you get to enjoy all those unbeatable “for better” ones. Including those millions of private jokes that only you and your spouse can share. And the times one of you struggles with anxiety, and your love does all the driving because you simply can’t. The times when you have a meltdown and your spouse holds you tight and says “its ok, I love you and I am not going anywhere” and then keeps his word and doesn’t. Happy or grumpy, fat or thin, young or old – marriage means your spouse loves you anyway. And even though you and your spouse may grow in different directions, real marriage is realizing that you can still grow together.
Marriage is not perfect, and I know it never will be. It’s often hard, and I know that’s not going to change either. But it’s still beautiful and comforting and one of the most amazing and fulfilling experiences you will ever have. But my expectations are real and because of that I fully expect that my husband and I will live happily ever after.