It was a normal evening. We’ve decided since becoming a family of five, that after the kids go to bed, we give ourselves thirty minutes to re-set the house for the next day and when the time is up, we stop and leave whatever mess is left behind.
We were in the final sweep, picking up random objects our two-year-old had re-distributed on the living room floor, when my husband Andy said to me, “I saw a friend post on Facebook about his anniversary. He said the last eight years have been the happiest of his life. Our married years have not been the happiest of our lives.”
You may think this was a start to a gut-wrenching marital discussion. That may even be the opening line of someone broaching the subject of divorce. But that’s not where he was heading.
Our eight years of marriage have oftentimes been tough. The first four years were spent with him in dental school and me working a fast-paced TV job with odd hours for little pay. There was no time to do the things that typical young married couples do. While our friends were spending their weekends at big city concerts and festivals, Andy was studying and I was working. The years were defined by work and working out the beginning marital kinks.
The last three years have put us through a lot: a Down syndrome diagnosis, an open-heart-surgery, a miscarriage, a lower urinary tract obstruction diagnosis, a clubbed feet diagnosis, a month of living at Ronald McDonald House, a high-risk delivery, a NICU stay in a city far from home, a severe casting injury and on-going health issues for our youngest.
These years have not been the happiest of our lives. And yet.
Our marriage is a happy one.
I think we’ve taken the word “hard” and likened it with “bad.”
We live in a world marked by instant gratification. Every indulgence can be satisfied in a timely manner with the latest apps and services. Don’t like something you ordered? Fine, there are hassle-free returns.
We can placate most of our desires easier than ever, but it doesn’t work that way with matters of the heart.
In western culture, we often assume, maybe even unknowingly, that our lives should be without hardship. We are told if we work hard, we will get where we want to go. In America, this can work when it comes to career goals, but not always life goals.
We can confuse our right to a “money back guarantee” with our marriage vows. We mistake the ease of acquiring things that have no real value, to the things that actually do.
Our married years have not been that happiest of our lives. So far. And that’s okay.
We have found joy among the hard and among the sad. When those hard and sad times were at their darkest, that’s when we held each other the tightest. And when the clouds lifted, our bond was stronger than it was before the rain started to fall.
So, why did I write this piece? After Andy said this, I realized that years back, his statement would have crushed me. I didn’t understand that your life can be good even when times aren’t the happiest. I wonder how many of us throw away relationships (not just marriages) because we feel that things should be better? I worry that we actually believe when we walk down the aisle that life will be “happily every after,” and when it doesn’t work out that way, we think something is wrong with our relationship — that our relationship should be so happy that it should mask whatever else is going wrong. I think I may have told myself this lie when I was younger. Despite the hardships, and maybe sometimes even because of them, we have a really good life and a really good relationship.
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