People like to say that marriage is hard. That it’s constant work, and that you have to put an effort into it.
I have a different philosophy.
I think that life is hard. One, single life is hard. Managing your own emotions, your own needs, your own goals and dreams and successes and failures… that’s hard. Finding a path that suits you, a career that gratifies you, friends that you enjoy and support you, that’s hard.
Managing your friendships can be hard. Finding ways to keep in touch when everyone moves in their own direction, supporting them when they make mistakes and encouraging them to do things that are good for them. That’s kind of hard, too. And it’s part of a single life.
The truth, as I see it, isn’t that marriage is hard, it’s that you are including another person’s difficult, solitary life as an extension of your own. The number of people in your family, who you must show love and kindness to despite bigoted opinions or willful ignorance, doubles. The number of directions in which you are pulled for holidays, vacations, weddings, and funerals, that increases as well. And the complexities of managing your solitary life increase.
No more do you choose a job based on what is best only for you. Does it have good benefits? What about life insurance? If I move for a job, will my spouse suffer, or will they find gratifying work in a new location as well?
Marriage is not hard. Life is hard.
It’s easy for me to keep this perspective. My life with my husband has never been easy. When we first moved in together, I lost my job. When we got engaged, he got cancer. When we got pregnant, he lost his job.
Unemployment, illness, uncertainty… that’s life. That’s everyone’s life. And it isn’t easy. Taking another person into your life, in such a profoundly intimate way as marriage… it adds to the list of difficulties you face.
I had a teacher in high school once, who told us if he had one piece of life advice, this was it- “Marry somebody rich. You don’t need any help being poor.”
He was right. Just as you don’t need any help being sad, or help being sick. But what he didn’t say was what you gain when you accept the work of taking on another person’s solitary life.
You get help with the hardness. When the burdens of uncertainty and exhaustion, and the difficulty of managing your solitary life are too great, you have somebody to lean against. Somebody who’s watched you living your difficult, solitary life. Who doesn’t want excuses or explanations, but accepts what it offered willingly.
Marriage is not work. Life is work. And when marriage feels like work, that means that life is simply harder.
Because life gets harder, sometimes. It gets worse and it gets worse, and then it gets better and better. As the years pass you are not the same person who fell in love despite knowing you didn’t need help to live alone. As the years pass, they are no longer the same person who loved you despite not needing to share your burdens in an already difficult world.
The truth is that we are all alone, in some ways. We are all trapped inside our heads, unsure if the world we see is the world that is, if we will ever be understood and loved despite our failures and our flaws.
The truth is that a marriage, a good marriage, is one where each person looks into the eyes and heart and soul of other, and makes a simple promise. “I will try to understand, I will try to make your solitary life an easier burden to bear.”
It’s the same promise we should ever ask of a close friend, of family, of strangers.
It is the most we can ever ask of another human being.
And in a world filled with difficulty, with endlessly shifting weights of expectations and fears on our shoulders, it is the best promise we can ever hope to give.
What I’m Reading
These books are currently cozied up with me in bed each night. (Tell me I’m not the only one who sleeps with my books like they’re stuffed animals.) I bet that you would enjoy them, too. If you haven’t already read these, then click on the pictures and let’s read together – like a book club, but we get to stay at home and no one has to wear pants or a bra. Oh, and it’s definietly BYOPS (Bring Your Own Peanut Butter Spoon).