Sunday, Entrepreneur and I will have been married 35 years. On one hand it doesn’t seem like we’ve weathered life together for that long; yet, on the other hand, I have a hard time remembering times when he wasn’t in my life. One thing is for sure, 35 years is not an accident….or the luck of the draw….or the cosmic aligning of soul mates.
No sireeee….35 years is work. Hard work. And we both have the purple heart medals to prove it.
Yes, we started out young and naive. Saying “I do” just two months after graduating college, we really didn’t have a clue about the reality of marriage. So many couples enter into marriage facing each other like the happily-ever-after Disney princess and her prince. There’s nothing wrong with being swept up with each other, but the sooner we realize married life is not going to be an everlasting fairy tale romance, the better chance we have for success.
If we would just learn early on to stop projecting all our hopes and dreams onto each other, we’d find ourselves happier much sooner. No one person can be the epitome of all those hopes and dreams. It’s a recipe for disaster because we’re all flawed human beings and will, inevitably disappoint our spouse. No one person is responsible for another person’s happy ending. So, look at each other…but never forget to look outward together. I believe when a couple has the same worldview and core values, they can better withstand the asteroid hits that happen while trying to build a life together.
The longer a married couple stays together, the more they learn…about each other, life and love. Yes, you heard correctly, the more they learn about what real love is all about. No one falls in or out of love. Loving someone is a decision. All too soon after the honeymoon we discover this person we fantasized was going to be the fulfillment of all our dreams…this person who we expected to act exactly the way we wanted in order to make us happy….isn’t holding up their end of the agreement 24/7/365. But whose fault is that, really? When the other person is behaving according to our “happiness” requirements, we’re deliriously “in love.” But when they don’t, all of a sudden we’re not in love? I hate to break it to you, but that’s not how real love works. Real love is not dependent on the other person acting a certain way. A lasting love is making the decision to love “in spite of” as well as “because of.”
And therein lies the battleground. But it’s not an external battle between husband and wife. No, it’s more of an internal battle inside our own head. Let’s face it, if you’ve been married for longer than….oh, let’s say 30 minutes….you realize there’s going to be some degree of PTSD in marriage. We are not clones of each other. We are not mind readers. Wives: give it up that you’ll be completely understood by your husband. Not going to happen. Husbands: she is always going to have to have the last word in an argument. Accept it and move on. Both: Be honest about what you are doing/not doing when things are going badly, and less about what your spouse is/is not doing. Take a critical look at yourself before you criticize your spouse and blame them for all your unhappiness.
And lastly, we should never be under the delusion we have all the time in the world. While time is infinite, our time is not. And it’s completely our decision on how we spend it. Entrepreneur and I learned that lesson after 34 years of marriage when we were faced with the diagnosis that he had kidney cancer. All of a sudden perspectives shifted; priorities re-aligned. Behaviors that irritated me (and still do) don’t seem all that earth shaking anymore. He’s not out of the woods yet, but this has enabled us to strip out all the unnecessary head trash that had been accumulating in our marriage.
It’s true marriage has proven to be a lot harder than we thought 35 years ago. Not going to lie, we continue to navigate the storms of selfishness, temper tantrums, stubbornness, pity parties and blame games from time to time. We’ve seen many different versions of ourselves and of each other, and learned a lot of life lessons because of it. But we do so with the realization that we have both grown and changed from the version of ourselves 35 years ago. Are we growing apart because of these changes? I don’t think so. As long as we remember that we have more to celebrate than criticize.