Today marks fourteen years of marriage. Statistically, we’re either a year away from divorce, or on board for a longer roller-coaster-ride of life and love, struggle and stress, revelation and renewal. Either way, it’s already been a great two decades of learning about myself and my wife, about the meaning of love (conditional and unconditional) and the limits of romance, about the real meaning of family and marriage.
Some of you may not believe this, but a marriage of any realness is hard work. We get tired of ourselves, our baggage, our bullshit. Now add another human being to the mix, the person you share most everything with. It can be a emotional meltdown of epic proportions if you’re not mature enough to have a well-honed sense of empathy, not to mention a sense of humor and a sense of when to back off.
I can say from experience that it helps to have been friends long before love, romance, marriage and parenting became part of the bargain. And not just friends, but the best of friends. Without having that, everything else is work without purpose, drudgery and painful struggles with personal and spiritual growth.
One of the many things I’ve learned in the past decade and nearly a half is that marriage itself has been loaded with context, deriving from Western ideas that have their roots in European royalty and the 19th century warping of such ideas for us ordinary folk. Including Whiteness and chivalry, of weird evangelical notions of masculinity and femininity, of patriarchy and high-born expectations. Only to realize that these ideas come out of an era of arraigned marriages, essential contracts to secure bloodlines and power for another generation of the elite classes. Romance, love, the eternal enduring bond between two soul-mates – that was never part of this bargain. But leave it to capitalism to distort a loveless process of procreation into an intense, always-falling-in-love – but without standing in love in the midst of struggle – idea of marriage.
Because of this knowledge, I know, too, that every marriage is different. And because of the unique nature of every relationship, I also know that my relationship with my wife is constantly evolving. Meaning that any ideas of marriage that I had fourteen years ago have been dead for a while. Trust me, this is a good thing. There is no singular road map to a happy and always-in-love marriage – that fairy tale is for the Anna Hathaway/Princess Bride set who remains at the mental age of eight or twelve.
No, a good marriage is about two people working toward similar goals, to a friendship that keeps changing, even if the contours of that friendship become ever more complicated. After all, it’s from that ground of friendship that our love shot up in the first place. Yay, us!