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February 13, 2014
This is Not a Stone
In Praise of Wobbly Marriages
by Hannah Bird

It’s Valentine season. The world is awash in pink and red. Every other commercial on the radio reminds men that they will die a horrible and totally justified death if they do not purchase the suggested gifts.

Love. Right now.

We are terrible at love. We watch movies that are supposed to be romantic that are really just series of misunderstandings and character flaws organized for maximum drama. The average couple featured in a romantic comedy would be split up before the end of the credits. But somehow, all this angst and energy stand in for love.

We focus so much on beginnings. The movie ends when the couple is finally together. That was the obstacle, and from here on out things will be fine. Just get to the declaration of love or the big wedding.

We read articles where newlywed movie stars who are already two-thirds through their marriages give advice.

We focus on ends. We tell horror stories about divorce. We slather our Facebook pages with heartwarming stories about devoted married couples shuffling off this mortal coil hand in hand after a zillion years of marriage.

But the intervening years are a bit of a mystery.

There are couples that we all think have it together. We may well be right. I am pretty sure that if you looked at my friends’ Tracie and Dean’s DNA it would be interlocking. My brother is after more than 15 years of marriage unabashedly in awe of his amazing wife. I know so many people that have truly wonderful marriages. It is what we all aspire to.

Several months ago, a friend confided that her marriage was not like other marriages. Other people, she observed, were meant to be. Or they were perfect for each other. Or they just are so obviously great together. Her secret shame was that her marriage was hard.

They are both good people trying to be good people. There is not abuse or danger. But they just weren’t that in synch. They didn’t finish each other’s sentences. They didn’t know what each were thinking. They didn’t agree on a lot of things. She didn’t understand his priorities. He didn’t understand her reactions. She felt, she said, like her marriage was just a lot harder.

Maybe it isn’t. Maybe all the couples that seem so together are struggling too. Maybe it is a matter of timing. My own marriage has been heavenly, horrible, dull, irredeemably broken, and just fine. We are coming up on 23 years; we have had time to be a lot of things. So it may matter when we look.

But maybe some marriages really are a lot harder than others. And that is ok. Maybe it’s time to start being proud of those marriages. Maybe you aren’t a match made heaven. Be proud of blazing your own trail.

I am not saying that divorce is never ok. My parents divorced when I was 18. I grew up with them as a married couple my whole child and teen years. But I still can’t picture them together. My cousin recently confessed the same thing. I have sisters who have had to wisely move themselves and their children into better situations. I am not saying that everyone ought to always stay no matter what.

I am saying that a hard marriage is still a real marriage. It is still an effort. It is still a family. You still have made and kept promises. You are still making a history. You are still learning about your self. And maybe you are learning the most about love.

Several years ago an online friend remarked that she had tried to tell her soon-to-be husband that she thought they were destined to be. It is a lovely thought. It is the way we are raised to think about love and marriage. There is “the one.” But her wise husband disagreed. He said that they were not meant to be together. It wasn’t foreordained or promised in the stars. They got to choose.

He chose her. That was earth-shattering wisdom for me.

Maybe you will love Valentine’s Day this year. Maybe, you are that couple or maybe it is that moment in time. But even if you don’t, take a minute to be grateful for all that you have built together. Be proud of the struggle. Love the lessons you have learned. Be grateful for the person all this experience is making you.

Your marriage is also beautiful. You are also succeeding.

That is love too.

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