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Editor’s note: Today, Liz is regaling us with her own “On Marriage” essay, in lieu of her usual “Ask Liz” column. Enjoy, dear readers, enjoy!
“No one knows the truth of anyone’s marriage, not even their own.”
– Nora Ephron
Zane and I have been married for almost 11 years, which I guess makes me the marriage expert around here, in a “A 5th grader is a God to a 3rd grader” sort of way. Frankly, I’m more comfortable sticking to being a wedding expert. No one really knows the truth about any marriage, but I can tell you a few things that I’ve learned.
Marriage is a process that never really ends. You will constantly be trying to find the balance between dealing with what’s happening in your lives, and dealing with each other while it is happening. If you think that there is rescue and safety and escape from all harm at the end of that aisle, you are mistaken. You cannot even imagine what the two of you will go through, together, or separately. For one thing, there is no “separately.” Whatever happens to you affects your spouse – your victories and defeats will be theirs, their victories and defeats will be yours. Zane and I got married when we were 30 years old. We lived in an apartment, I had a 9-5 job, and he had his own business. In the past 10.5 years, both of us have been hospitalized, have seen family members hospitalized, gotten through two miscarriages. Moved three times. I started my wedding planning business, too, which hasn’t always been easy on either of us. We’ve supported friends who’ve lost parents, and seen other friends die. We’ve had to have each other’s backs through a whole bunch of crap, and it would have been much worse if we’d been alone, or had to go through it with anyone else. There have been a lot bending points, that occasionally looked like they were going to break. And if the past ten years had only been stress and pressure, they would have. Zane and I have grown up together, basically.
If I could, I would make every engaged person sit and watch “This is 40.” I’ve heard a lot of people complain that the characters in that movie, Debbie and Pete, have a horrible marriage. They fight, they have all these issues that they hide from each other, Debbie screams, Pete lies. They have to deal with work, they have to deal with kids, they have to deal with each other. They are also laugh and have a lot of fun together, too, but no one seems to remember those scenes in the movie! And when the rubber hits the road, they are a solid unit, a team. Hard Work. Fun. Teamwork. That’s pretty much it. Rinse and Repeat.
I was talking about this with a friend whose husband recently died of cancer – I know, way to bring a room down, Liz – and she wondered how many people would go through with it, if they really understood that all the stuff that they vow to do is actually going to happen. Sometimes it’s better, but from time to time, it will be the worst. You’ll enjoy being richer, and suffer the consequences of being poorer. You will have to hold their hand when they’re sick, as well as when they’re healthy. And, most heart-breakingly, “Tell Death Do Us Part,” means that one of you will eventually die, and leave the other one behind. Everything that you’re swearing to do is going to happen, sometimes in the most devastating ways. Marriage is THE commitment.
And, yeah, some people don’t make it. Things get too hard, and you can’t figure out how to turn it around. Things get really bad, and they don’t want to turn it around. There is no standard reason why people break up, and as Nora (married three times herself, by the way) said, no one knows, or can even understand the truth of another marriage. It’s not for me, or anyone else, to judge.
If it’s so much trouble, so much strum and drang, why do we do it in the first place? And, why and how do we stay married? When I ask myself that question, why am I married to Zane, the only thing I can come with is, “I don’t know why I wouldn’t be.” Which, I guess, is the right answer? Being married to him IS the bucket list, the #1 thing I want to do during the rest of my life.
I love Zane, and even more, I like him. And, I know that he loves and likes me. The last thing that I’ve learned is is that it’s really important to acknowledge that, although there are many times you drive each other nuts (yes, you drive your spouse nuts too, it’s not a one way street), there are also many ways that you make each other happy. Zane’s still the guy who always calls before he picks up dinner for himself to ask if I want anything; I’m still the girl who always gets up from my desk to kiss him goodbye before he leaves in the morning. He’s still the guy who knows that nothing makes me happier on my birthday than gift cards to Starbucks and Barnes and Noble; I’m still the girl who brings him a piece of cake from each wedding. We’re still the couple that get grumpy if Date Night (every Friday) can’t happen. We’re still the couple that insist that Date Night always gets rescheduled. You can’t just recognize what you’re giving to your partner, you need to appreciate what you’re getting back from them, too. And, truthfully, it took me a little while longer to understand that than it should have. Do yourself a favor, and get that last thing faster than I did.
See you at the end of the aisle,