Attention all Segullah readers: The deadline (August 15th) is quickly approaching for our 5th anniversary issue on Dating, Courtship and Marriage. We hope to make this an extended issue examining every aspect of bliss and heartbreak, but we need your contributions. Writing tips can be found here and submission information is here. Be sure to send in your 5th, 6th or 12th draft, not your first. We want to see your best work.
We will also be including reader comments from the blog in this issue. Your comments on various marriage topics, including this post today, will be featured in the journal. Don’t worry, we will ask your permission before using your words. Please, please contribute. Segullah depends on your intelligent, compassionate voices.
We were far from shore. Waves roared past us in blinding crests as he stood against the brilliant blue sky balancing and stumbling and falling once again. Sputtering and grinning he emerged from the surf and swam towards the decades-old surfboard. The reflected water and sky turned his hazel eyes to a bright azure and his face was fresh and open, tanned and young and beautiful.
And that’s the moment, with his elbows resting on the board’s edge, saying “I’m just not very good at this.” that he looked at me, and I knew I’d give anything to spend my life with him. And fairly often, in the nineteen years since, that’s the moment that I conjure from memory when he is absolutely and completely driving me nuts.
My husband and I have a ridiculously happy marriage. With numerous shared activities, six gorgeous kids, a common love for learning and marvelous chemistry, our relationship should be nearly effortless. But it’s not.
Marriage is work. Hard, humbling work. I hesitate to write this today at the risk of implying that my divorced friends didn’t work hard enough or that my single friends have no idea how easy they have it. Please know that these aren’t my intentions. I simply wish to speak of the labor it takes (by both partners) to create a lasting marriage.
My parents were married in a Congregationalist Church in the summer of 1966. The hymn they chose for the congregation was “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” from the Sound of Music. When my dad told me this a few weeks ago (in the city of Salzburg, no less) we both began to cry. It’s an unusual wedding song isn’t it? How could they have known, those 43 years ago, of the exhaustive work their marriage would require, of the mountains they would have to climb?
I find that my own marriage spins along in a happy little pattern until something pulls us out of sync. It can be nearly anything: an unexpected bill, a business trip where I miss his calls for a few days, too many “I’m too tired” nights in bed, a troubled child or, my mother’s death.
I’ll tell you this: grief weighs heavily on the fabric of a marriage. It yanks and tears and unravels entire sections. And don’t we all have our private griefs, our overwhelmed days, our moments of crying, “Don’t you understand I’m doing the best I can?!?”
So when it feels like he’s ripping out my seams rather than patching my heartache, I turn to that sun-soaked ocean memory and recall my reply, “It’s OK. I don’t really know what I’m doing either.” And then I apologize, even when I think it’s not my fault, and discover that maybe it truly was.
Please share. How do you work on your marriage? What are your ideas for diffusing conflict? Were you surprised at how much work a marriage entails? Or not? How can we prepare our children for married life?