January Focus: "Love"
WORLD TRAVELER. WINE SIPPER. WIFE. COFFEE DRINKER. CORPORATE DROPOUT. OVER SHARER. NAMASTÉR. DESIGNER OF YOUR PRETTIEST PAPER. AND BLOGGER.
LATEST & GREATEST:
Marriage is really fucking hard.
There. I said it. Did you GASP? Well if you did, read on. I'll tell you why I think so. And if you didn't, read on. Because you get it and maybe we can help each other out.
First things first: I use the word married/marriage because I am married. But, I want to be clear: I think what I'm about to share applies to anyone, married or not, in any sort of committed relationship.
So where was I? Oh yes: marriage is really fucking hard.
Will and I have been together since I was TWENTY. It's been a super hard 12 years, filled with plenty of highs and plenty of lows. We've managed an intense amount of growth and challenge over those years, at many times not growing at the same rate. We took a lot of risks. We've lost jobs. Left jobs. Uprooted our lives numerous times. Traveled the globe. Started businesses. Bought a triplex and became landlords and first time homeowners all at once. It's been very rewarding. And a ton of work.
I was committed to Will at a very young age. I didn't explore or date much outside of our relationship. I met Will, really enjoyed our time together, had a ton of fun, fell in love...I chose him and he chose me. Most days, I feel so lucky about that. But there are definitely times when I feel "WHY IS THIS SO HARD AND WHAT HAVE I DONE!?"
And I feel alone in that...
I've heard "MARRIAGE IS HARD" from about 7 million people in my life. But no one talks about WHY it's hard. What makes it so hard?
This isn't what I expected marriage to be. My partner and I are very different. We have a totally different set of strengths. We thrive off of different things. We process differently. Communicate differently. We value money differently. We want sex at different times. We have different dreams and goals. We have different hobbies. We were raised differently. I feel our list of uniquenesses is significantly longer than our similarities.
So what happens when decisions need to get made? From minor choices like to-have or not-to-have-sex to those bigger decisions like buying a house or moving across the country, how do you, as a married person with your own set of opinions, values, and reasoning, find a way to feel you're living your best, most authentic life while also ensuring your partner is, as well? Do you put the betterment of your "WE" that is a couple ahead of your "ME" as an individual? Should your partner come first? Is it compromise?
And what is compromise? Searching for that middle ground? IS there a middle ground? What's the middle ground on sex? Just the tip? Or the middle ground on moving? A state half way between? That space, that 'middle,' just sounds like a place where NO one wanted to go. Compromise is weird like that; no one really wins. Both people sacrifice to get there. And it ends up being where neither person wanted to be anyway. But that's considered a win? And listen, I get marriage isn't about winning. But how do we, as individuals, feel heard and seen and honored, while also ensuring we, as a married unit, is also able to thrive?
The reason this is so damn hard? We've never been taught to do it.
I was raised with the Disney Princess story most girls like me grew up engrossed in: weird things happen, a man saves you, you get married... and then the movie ends with just-hatched baby birds toting silk ribbon with a 'The End' sign just before the credits. Lesson learned: you get married, it's HAPPILY EVER AFTER, and that's that.
But that's NOT that. That's just the beginning. And we feel guilt when it's not all white-picket-fences-and-sweet-snuggles-24/7. BUT THE BIRDS SAID IT WOULD BE! We don't talk about the struggle. The fear when we feel the ME isn't being served because of the WE. We don't know HOW to talk about it. We don't know where to turn. "Working on your marriage" isn't glamorous. Stigmas around counseling, needing help, seeking resources run deep in our society (in all forms, not just for marriage support). Pride shows up. Ego, too. And then, even if you feel ready to seek help, or communicate this with your partner, you have to go through that whole process of how to proceed together. Which may bring you back to compromise, sacrificing your 'me' for your 'we.'
Which is HARD. So, so hard.
So what are we to do: we're raised with high expectations of a completely unrealistic perspective of marriage, feel ashamed to seek help and support or don't think it's an option, and hate the idea of becoming a statistic (according to the American Psychological Association, about 40% to 50% of married couples in the United States divorce). Maybe we can't imagine leaving our partners. Maybe we don't value the ME enough to make the best WE. There is SO much complexity here.
I have no answers to these questions. I intended to share the story of me attempting to have sex with my husband every day for 1 month in this blog post. And when that was met with uncertainty from my partner, I felt resistance and frustration with my inability to express how I wanted to. But, I also want to respect my husband and how he feels about such private topics being shared so publicly. There isn't a right answer here. Do I pick ME? WE? Do I write about half of the month (hey! that's the middle, right?! ;) ).
Clearly, I picked WE instead of ME. It still kind of bums me out, to be honest. I had some ideas for YOU! But, the heath of my WE is more important than ME sharing this story. They say "pick your battles." I didn't pick this one.
Please know this: if you feel stuck or alone or like marriage is HARD... it IS.
But guess what? You're not alone. You can do it. And you're not wrong for wanting to preserve and honor your ME. Know that there ARE resources out there to help you communicate better with your partner. There ARE people able to support your WE growth. There ARE options to find happiness and fulfillment right there within your marriage. You deserve it. Your partner deserves it. Your marriage deserves it. So go find your happiness, and don't panic if you think marriage is hard.
Because it is SO fucking hard.
Cheers to your ME and WE being the best it can be,