Last week was my 18th anniversary. We’re in a really good place, so I feel like I can write this post without everyone secretly wondering and gossiping about whether Kevin and I are headed toward divorce court. Don’t worry, kids, mom and dad are good. Right now.
I’ve reached a point in my life and various relationships where many of us talk about our marriages openly. That wasn’t always the case. But these days I know I can call my mom or my mother-in-law and talk about the really hard stuff–in their marriages and in mine. I have a lot of great girlfriends (and even a few guy friends) with whom I have had lengthy conversations about their 2 and 10 and even 20 year marriages.
90% of the time I end up hearing the same words “No one told me that marriage was so hard.”
Of course when you start heading down that path, people make jokes like “Expect to pick his dirty towels up off the floor for the rest of your life” and “Don’t expect her to wear the fancy underwear everyday.” Some well-meaning friends and family may even give real advice like “Don’t go to bed angry” and “Be prepared to argue about kids and money the rest of your life.” (both important pieces of advice I was given!
But when it comes to living day to day, we all tell the same lie by omission. We don’t stop to say “This is hard work!” to anyone until it’s too late and we’re talking to divorce attorneys.
How are we lying? First of all, social media. We’re posting the best of the best pictures and moments. We’re posting every bouquet of flowers but not a single disagreement. We’re sharing how much we love our spouse on our anniversary but not mentioning all of the other days when we are silently feuding and hurting. We’re painting a picture not only for ourselves but for the rest of the world that our marriage is successful and happy.
Second, we don’t tell our friends. We might mention a surface argument about not taking out the garbage or disagreeing about where to go on vacation. We compare “marriage war stories” but only the ones that aren’t truly unsettling or paint our spouses in a bad light.
Why do we do it? Mostly we are taught from a young age not to “air our dirty laundry” in public. It’s not good form to share your “private” marriage business with other people. We don’t want to look gripey or ungrateful or mean. We don’t want to acknowledge that we might need some help (or God forbid that we had to go through COUNSELING).
What does it hurt? By not owning up to the fact that marriage is hard, we hurt ourselves because we don’t have other people to open up to in order to talk things through or get a fresh perspective. We’re missing an opportunity to get support from others during hard times. Even more than that, when we perpetrate the lie to others, we make THEM feel like there is something wrong with them when their marriage isn’t as “perfect” as they think ours is. We set up a false ideal that other couples think they should be achieving.
I don’t want my kids to see Kevin and me hurting each other (verbally) but at the same time, I don’t want them to think that we don’t ever argue or that if someone argues, it means their relationship is over. I want them to have a realistic view of what marriage is like and how you make it through the hard times.
I used to be surprised when I heard of a lot of couples having problems–either now or in the past before I knew them. Now I have come to understand that EVERY marriage is hard at some point–whether it’s because of kids, money, infidelity, tragedies, or even just people changing as they move through different stages of their lives.
Do me a favor and stop lying. Share this post. Confide in a friend. Talk honestly to your kids. Repeat the words “Marriage is Hard.” But hopefully you will be able to follow it up with “But worth it.” And if you can’t, don’t be afraid to open up and find ways to get back to believing that.