Today is my seven-year wedding anniversary. It is a beautiful thing to celebrate and, yet, as I sit here at the keyboard, these are the words I must type:
Marriage is hard. Relationships are hard. Commitments are hard.
The truth is, I didn’t walk into marriage thinking it would be a breeze. I was pretty realistic about relationships and how much work they require. Growing up, I wanted to have a relationship exactly like my parents had (and still do have). They were committed to each other, looked at one another with admiration and had an enviable falling-in-love story. But that wasn’t why I appreciated their bond.
The part I loved most about my parents’ relationship was that they stood together in spite of the hardships that came their way. Amongst what I’m sure were many other things, there was money trouble, the untimely deaths of both of their fathers, miscarriage and sometimes just simple irritation with one other. They never painted the picture of a fairytale. What they did show me was that their relationship was simply their version of happily ever after.
When I married Dan, I was armed with all of that knowledge –– that things wouldn’t always be easy and that there would be many moments that would test our commitment to one another. I felt like I was stronger for accepting that reality and we built our relationship upon that premise. But no amount of preparation can ready a person for when the storm does come her way. What I mean is that even though I was comfortable with the idea that turbulence was inevitable, it didn’t make me feel any less rattled.
The other day, Dan walked out the door and I thought, “Thank GAAAWD.” That’s terrible, right? But he had come down with a cold that completely sent me over the edge following a challenging leg in our relationship. One more sniffle, one more blowing of his nose and I was going to lose it.
We have spent the last two years juggling a new baby girl, my struggle with anxiety and depression, and an inexplicable autoimmune condition that has made Dan feel less and less like a recognizable version of himself. It’s been really fucking hard. We show up, we show up, we show up and we show up, over and over again. But at one point (or ten), both of us have looked at the other person and, if we didn’t say it, then we thought it: This is not the person I married.
That’s a tough reality. It’s one that can even shake a woman who knew going into marriage that there would be plenty of difficulties along the way. No one tells you that you will cry yourself to sleep wondering how much longer your husband can tolerate your anxiety-ridden thoughts: Is the door locked? Will I wake up in the morning? Does this mole look weird to you? Do you think this toothache is going to get infected and go straight to my brain? Seriously, I read about it.
No one tells your husband that he will be surprised by his struggle with manhood –– he teaches ballet for goodness sake! –– when it feels like the blows keep coming his way. No one tells his wife how to walk the line between being supportive and making him feel more inadequate.
On Sunday, Dan’s leaving for two weeks and I will miss him terribly. Not because I won’t do just fine on my own, but because I would rather not. What I’ve learned after these last seven years of marriage (nearly 12 years together), is that feelings of love and dissatisfaction can stand together. It’s uncomfortable at first –– you might feel ungrateful or even a bit mean. But it’s the freaking truth. After all, I will miss having Dan around when he’s gone, but as I told my mom in a text message the other day there are a few things that I won’t feel bad about not missing:
#1: Repeatedly tapping his legs while standing in the middle of the kitchen.
#2: Chewing chips immediately behind my head while tapping his legs and standing in the middle of the kitchen.
It’s not a seven-year itch, it’s simply the facts: Marriage is hard. Relationships are hard. Commitments are hard.
But if something goes downhill, then it will be because we didn’t do it together.