If you are married, you can HEAR the tone of voice in which I thought the word, and I don't even need to say more, because you totally understand.
But I'm going to say more, because the point of this whole series is to tell the REAL story. And most people who aren't married never, ever, hear the real story when it comes to marriage, and once they get married they are SHOCKED, and wonder why no one ever told them what it was really like.
Here is what my mom told me when I got engaged: "Everyone has a full list of expectations with regard to what marriage will be like. You have a list, and he has a list. They probably don't match up in very many places, and neither of your lists of expectations are likely to be met. You need to decide what is really important to you, and what is just some romanticized notion. Because that is what marriage is really about. Figuring each other out as you go, and making changes and adaptations accordingly."
Right...blog post adjourned. Because what else is there to say, really? That sums it up.
Still, lets marinate on this for a second.
We have expectations, and they have expectations, and where did we get them in the first place?
Well, Hollywood has done a fantastic job of making marriage look like a fairy tale. And they have done a wonderful job of showing how marriages fail. The highs and the lows, that's what they are good at showing.
But...those aren't marriages. Those are moments.
I am going to tell a couple stories on my parents. (I cleared one with them, and the other one is a story I don't think they know that I know, but I doubt they will mind. (gulp))
I was twelve-ish when I witnessed the one and only full blown FIGHT I have ever seen my parents have. They profess to having fights, of course, but they were usually pretty good about having them behind closed doors instead of in front of us kids. But this day must have been a really low day, because they were arguing while we were setting the table for supper. Now, as only kids can, I have forgotten most of the details. I wasn't tuned into whatever they fight was about, and that is unimportant. Here is what I remember: We were having tacos for supper that night, and as we were carrying things to the table, Mom and Dad were having a heated discussion. Mom said something, and it was clearly the last straw, because Dad turned away and tossed the bowl of toppings for the tacos against the wall. It wasn't a glass bowl, thankfully, so it didn't break, but there was a lovely smear of tomato juice running from the wall to the floor, and lettuce leaves were everywhere.
Mom left the house. Seriously. She went outside, and then she got into the car and drove out of the yard. Dad went to their room and closed the door. I cleaned up the lettuce and tomato and us kids ate supper, shocked into silence by the whole episode.
We laugh about it now, of course, and I have even been known to say "Don't make me mad while I'm holding the lettuce and tomatoes."
The other story happened at the same table. Its a much shorter story. We sat down for supper, and after Dad said the blessing, and we all started shoveling food into our mouths, he leaned over to Mom and whispered "I love you, and I think you are sexy."
Okay, pause for a moment while I shiver. (these are my parents after all) (blech!!) My mom was undoubtedly tired, and sweaty from cooking, and she had given birth to FIVE children. And my dad still found her sexy. For some reason that is a moment I will always smile about, and remember with a combination of heart-warmth and gagging.
That is a high-low glance at the marriage of my parents, which now has 35 years under its belt. But neither of those stories make up their marriage. They are only moments along the path.
We say "for better or worse" when we get married, but we don't specify what that means. We say it that way BECAUSE we can't specify what that will look like, but I can pretty much guarantee that none of our wildest imaginings can tackle what marriage is like.
So, what is the real story about marriage?
Yes, I put sex in both categories. And because I do have a brain-to-mouth filter (contrary to popular opinion) I will leave it at that. But it wouldn't be the real story if I only put it in one category. If you're married, and you've never had a fight about sex...Im' calling b.s.
I've been married for a little over 15 years, and I in NO WAY have anything figured out.
But I think that's possibly the point I am trying to make.
We can't figure it out, not really.
When I married my husband, I said "for better or worse" just like everyone else. But I didn't know how wonderful better would be, and I certainly didn't know how hard worse would be. We have had years of bliss, and years of pain, and you know what? None of the bliss years were filled with bliss, and none of the pain years were only pain.
It's not all highs and lows. Its all just a step. And another. And another.
Its dirty socks on the bathroom floor, and stolen kisses in the hall when the kids aren't looking. Its crying on each others shoulders, and laughing so hard you pass gas.
It's still finding them desirable after witnessing them vomiting, or giving birth, or snoring so loud they wake you up from a dead sleep THROUGH a pair of earplugs, or being a really big jerk.
It's listening to them when they say they think YOU are being a really big jerk, and attempting to change whatever you did that was jerk-ish.
It's whispered come-ons at the kitchen table, and lettuce and tomato tossed against the wall.
It's waking up every day and choosing, with every breath and decision and action and moment.
Love is not a feeling. Love is an act of your will.
Marriage is not a feel-good romantic notion. It's a choice you make.
Some days I choose not to speak to my husband for multiple hours because I am furious with him, and when I finally do speak to him, he is shocked to learn that I am mad at all. He "just thought I was busy with the kids." (clearly my cold-shoulder technique needs some work)
Some days I choose to listen while he tells me about a big acquisition he's been heading up at work and how great it's going, and I pretend like I know what he's talking about, and I grasp hard for facts I can ask follow-up questions on so he feels like I really do care about what he's saying...when all I really WANT to do is go to sleep or read a book or watch TV.
The point is, I said "for better or worse." And even when worse kicks us in the teeth, we still choose it. And we all have to decide to ACTIVELY grab onto better when it comes, and choose to see the better even in the midst of the worse.
My parents have been having many of the same disagreements for years. My mom still fusses at my dad for eating food that isn't healthy, and my dad still reprimands my mom for worrying about stuff she can't change...
And they still get up every morning and choose, one high-low-normal-uneventful-tragic-painful-joyful-boring moment at a time, to be "Dan and Patty Bausum."
I got up this morning, woken by the snores seeping through my ear plugs, and I made coffee. Not just enough for me, but also enough for the snoring blonde guy in my bed who woke me up at 5:08.
And he goes to work every day, not just for himself, but for the family he leaves at home to consume all the money he makes.
I choose. He chooses.
And we love better today than we did the day we got married, and hopefully we will love even better 20 years from now. One choice at a time.
And we don't ever put lettuce and tomatoes in the same bowl.
And that doesn't tell the WHOLE story on marriage, but it's a little bit of REAL.