Our Not-So-Perfect Marriage
A lot of people have told me that my husband, Mark, and I have “the perfect marriage.” We don’t. Our marriage, like most, has been tested by temptations, lies, rumors, arguments, and tragedies.
However, I’m proud to say that, after 15 years together, we do have a healthy marriage. I won’t pretend to be a marriage expert, but I like to think that these 4 themes have helped us maintain a happy and healthy relationship so far.
I’ve heard so many couples say, “My husband and I never lie to each other.” If that’s 100% true, kudos to you! This very morning I chose not to tell Mark that I used his nose-hair trimmer to shave my armpits. I gave him the smaller helping of mashed potatoes at dinner last night, and I even once hid the remote control when he was looking for it, because I was so mad that he blamed me for losing it. But there have been a few bigger lies too – not life-shattering, but hurtful.
We confessed; we talked about it. We made a commitment to each other to do better, and we’ve valued that commitment.
We didn’t declare that the trust was gone, or bring up those moments in later arguments. We admitted that we had made mistakes and moved on.
We laugh. A lot. Every day. Each of us has been in a situation where we’ve had the opportunity to pursue a relationship outside of our marriage. We chose not to, but there was still hurt, jealousy, and anger in those moments.
I remember sitting and asking each other, “Do you want out of this marriage,” then agreeing that, “No,” we didn’t.
We’re human. We are going to inadvertently flirt or let an eye wander. We laugh about it, tease each other. We talk about how life would be different if I married the piano player at the bar, and make up an entire story about my life as a 75-year-old, chain-smoking barmaid.
I remember being in some of the most challenging moments of parenthood, when our daughter wasn’t sleeping and we were all sick with the flu, and him coming out of the bathroom and making a joke about being physically assaulted by the toilet bowl. I look back at our marriage, and for every day I thought, “This is the worst day of my life,” I remember us finding something to laugh about, a glimmer of hope and joy on those dark days.
We’re busy. We don’t talk about everything. We don’t have time to analyze every snide comment I make about him not doing dishes or me treating my car like a dumpster. We chat about our daily life, we laugh about funny work stories or the latest goofy thing our daughter has said. But, we certainly are not having Dr. Phil-style sit-downs every week. My general rule of thumb has been: if something is bothering me for a few days that I can’t seem to get over, I talk about it. It usually starts with, “It may sound silly, but it hurt my feelings when you…” Or he’ll say, “It’s not a huge problem, but could you… please not use my nose-hair trimmer to shave your armpits or… to shave anything else?” We apologize and try to do better.
Until I got married, I had no idea how many people enjoyed trying to cause problems in a healthy relationship. If someone was spreading serious rumors about our relationship, like about cheating or serious lies, I would certainly take it seriously, talk about it, and investigate. But more often, it’s rumors about how we spend our money, how we parent, or how we practice our faith. And there’s an insinuation that we shouldn’t be with each other, because of X, Y, or Z. Mark has been told that I’m too liberal. I’ve been told that Mark is too much like me, and that we really aren’t good for each other.
Some partners abuse each other – emotionally, physically. Some partners cheat on each other repeatedly. Some have entirely different lifestyles that they keep from each other.
If you have a partner who treats you well and you can communicate with openly, cherish that. Celebrate it.
Don’t let the little rumors make you second-guess your choice to be together. We ask each other, “Does it bother YOU that…?” No? Ok. Let it go.
If you’re going through any particularly tough emotional trauma in your marriage that you’re having trouble overcoming – if you’re thinking about a situation so much that it’s interfering with your day-to-day life, and you can’t seem to get past it – or even if you’re just struggling to communicate more effectively on a daily basis, I highly recommend marriage counseling. You can go to 1 or 2 sessions, or more if needed.
We lost a baby in 2010, and I’ve struggled with bouts of severe anxiety ever since. I started seeing a counselor, and she had Mark come to a few appointments with me. I knew there were emotions I was going through that were probably normal, but I couldn’t come to terms with them. We both blamed each other for the death of the baby, even though we knew how absurd it was to say that out loud. We wanted to be mad at something, so we were mad at each other. I didn’t want to try to get pregnant again right away, so every time we had sex, I felt like crying. For a long time, sex was always a reminder that we weren’t trying to have a baby, that I wasn’t ready yet, and we avoided each other.
Then, we went to my counselor together, and she told us that all of those emotions and reactions were 100% normal and that, more importantly, we’d get through it.
I remember her having us tell each other what we needed at that time, and making an agreement with each other to do those things. And I remember Mark saying that he would do anything to make sure I was happy. It was a defining moment in our marriage. I go back to that day any time I have doubts or question our loyalty to each other.
I remember that, for better or worse, we’re working toward the same goal, that we want each other to be happy and feel supported. And I like to think that that’s what a healthy marriage should be.
What about you, stellar spouses? What are your secrets to maintaining a healthy marriage?