Like I do so often, I wrote a post and felt like I need to expand it, just to solidify in my own head what it was I was trying to say.
You see, I really think that a stance of Divorce is not an Option will usually produce a happier than average marriage. The reason I think that? My husband and I live it. Both of us grew up with parents who were genuinely happy to live together. I see our friends who have this same stance, and I know that they are happy.
Do we not ever irritate each other, are there no problems, no stressors that feel too big to make it through? Of course, we do and there are! There are times when marriage is a lot of hard work, when it feels too difficult to wade through the misunderstandings/differences. There are hormonal shifts, the ebb and flow of the heady honeymoon feelings. There is this thing called Life: one side of the coin is connubial bliss, love and acceptance, roses and chocolate. The other side is life with its brokenness and bills, sickness and babies… 🙂
Think of Life as a river, the water sometimes flowing deep and smooth, sometimes rippling gently, sometimes roaring over big rocks and around logjams. Marriage is the canoe that you got into with your partner, “until death do us part”. The canoe carries the two of you into some of the most amazing places with breathtaking scenery, but occasionally you do get rudely dumped by some rogue wave that swamps your vessel. Maybe the person in the front of the canoe wasn’t watching for rocks or maybe the person steering in the back didn’t handle his paddle very skillfully and there you are in the water, wet and mad, trying to figure out who to blame.
What if the one partner says, “I have had enough of this! I am gonna walk along on the bank!” Now that isn’t going to make for very harmonious canoeing. All the joy is gone from the river. The person stumbling through the brush on the bank is having very difficult progress, and the person in the canoe is needing his paddler/rock spotter back. No matter who is to blame, here is what you do. You apologize, you forgive, you dump the water out of the canoe, pick up your paddles, and climb back in.
(I know, I know, that analogy doesn’t hold up completely. Forgive me if you are a kayaker who is having a fine time on the river all by yourself.)
That sounds so simplistic, and it is. Maybe you say, “But don’t I deserve to be happy?” That is the (whiny) chorus that is rising all over our nation as couples split up over their incompatibilities. I think we have lost the way to true happiness. We assume it is something to find, stumble upon, grab hold of, and hang onto no matter what it costs others.
Jesus said something counterintuitive about life, quality of life, that I think applies well to this question. “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” Matthew16:25 So you want a good life? You want to be happy? You can start by losing your life for the sake of another. That is how you have a good life. Happiness comes from giving, not from some grasping search for that nebulous person that will make all your dreams come true.
One of the major stressors for us has been Gabe’s study. When he is in the books, he gets swallowed into this deep, deep cave where he apparently needs no sustenance or human companionship. As for me, there is this Utopian ideal where we work the homestead side-by-side 24/7 and just kind of do life happily ever after, never mind everybody else. (Not really, but sort of. 🙂 )
We spent a summer at Faith Builders when Gabe was teaching school. Many days my husband studied 16 hours while I, 7 months pregnant, lived in a hot apartment with 2 little boys. We ate our meals in the dining hall. One day Gabe got so absorbed that he completely forgot about dinner. I waited and waited with two hungry little boys until everyone else had gone through the line. Instead of doing the sensible thing and going through the buffet line for some food, I took it personally, went back to our apartment and cried. Don’t worry, we apologized, forgave, and got back into the canoe. 🙂
Knowing that nursing school would pose some of the same challenges, we went into it with our eyes wide open. Sometimes the grades suffered and sometimes the family life suffered. But we had lived out 8 years of this Commitment that we would work toward making life sweet and happy together, no bailout plan. There is a lot of security in that: the two of us, for life! Was it hard? Yes. Did we ever feel overwhelmed? Pretty much every day. Both of us. Did we survive? Are we still in love? Oh yes! We did and we are!
For your information, there are better ways to get attention than crying, ladies. You can always try making a fabulous iced mocha to take to him in his cave. 😉
Think about it. If you know that this is the person that you are spending all of your life with, that is a huge motivation to invest your best into that life. Usually what you give will come back to you, whether that is sour looks and ugly words, or delighted smiles and affirmation. You might as well give it your best shot!