Rita Rudner once famously said 'I love being married. It's great being with that one special person you want to annoy for the rest of your life.' Fortunately, it seems she was lucky in that her husband was allright with that so good for her. But what about the rest of us? Have you ever really looked at your spouse and wondered who the heck did you marry? Ever had the happy privilege of hearing your spouse out loud wonder the same thing about you? If you haven't - don't worry. it will happen. The phrase 'seven year itch' isn't about athlete's foot you know.
When my husband and I first married at the ripe old ages of 21 and 22, we figured we were ready. A lot of our friends married at that age or younger. We loved each other, held the same beliefs and as we both came from somewhat dysfunctional backgrounds, thought we could maybe fix each other and build a better dynamic of our own. Seemed noble and lofty goals at the time but 15 years in we see very clearly the foolishness of two immature and admittedly damaged people thinking the other was the cure for what ailed. We've been in marriage counseling multiple times, attended marraige conferences, read books and compared our experiences with others and here's what we've found. Wait for it, it's a shocker. Everybody has their own set of problems. That's right, everybody. There is no perfect marriage. We know of couples who today are shining examples of harmonious matrimony that will honestly speak of times in their marriage when either divorce or murder seemed a very appealing course of action. We know of couples who had the classic 'storybook' wedding with seemingly everything going for them only to crash and burn a few short years later. We are the couple who started with nothing, struggle over and over, had financial setbacks, family estrangements, illness, suffered betrayal and lies from those we were closest with and more times than we care to admit have done a very effective job at hurting each other and yet we keep going. We know there are people who don't understand but the best explanation we have is that going through the trenches together builds a stronger bond than years on easy street. Although we'd gladly welcome a few easy street years-kind of think we've earned it by now.
The reasons people decide against marriage 'it's only a piece of paper' 'it's a government institution that has no bearing on how we feel about each other' 'why should you buy what you can get for free?' 'you can raise kids on your own, you don't need a spouse' or 'you better protect yourself and your finances, a bad divorce could cost you everything' are reasons that have enough validity to make even the most ardent advocates of marriage pause. Here's the acid test of relationships. When 'we' matters more than 'you' or 'I' then we have a relationship worth investing in. Because if I am better for being with you and you are better for being with me then we both win. For richer or poorer, for better or worse, in sickness and in health are vows we take at the altar as a verbal promise of unconditional love. But come on now, we all know marriage is very much based on conditional love. I think I'm pretty selfless I know I have expectations I expect to be met. And my spouse has expectations they expect to be met. It's foolish and unwise if those needs or expectations are neglected to expect undying loyalty and commitment.
A funny irony is that the second time Chris proposed we get married, I initially said no. We'd only been divorced about 7 months, and I'd tried (unsuccessfully) to talk him out of the divorce at the last minute. So 7 months later when he's proposing we give it another try what was Rachael thinking? Well, Rachael was thinking of all the above arguments. And when you told him 'we can be together but let's not get married' because you were afraid of yet another divorce it kind of killed the mood, so to speak. Not to mention your girlfriends were laughing their heads off saying you were the only woman they knew that was hoping of escaping marriage and maybe you should have your chromosome count checked.
We quietly remarried on October 21, 2007. These days we know the reasons we got married both times don't matter as much as the reasons we continue being married. Because we're on a path of becoming the people we want to be. And that's a welcome change.
What my husband and I know very well is that the reasons we got married (first and second times, thank you very much) aren't nearly as important as the reasons we stay married.