Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Truth About Marriage

Ben and I got into it over the weekend.  "It" being a yelling-match.  And I spent about 36 hours being incredibly pissed with him, with myself, with the situation.  I was pissed over how our perfectly planned weekend that started out with us renewing our vows had devolved into a maddening cycle of "I said-but you said" frustration.  It was this weekend, 15 months into our marriage, that I realized truly what the heart and the work-aspect of marriage is all about. 

As I said, the weekend started out great. Ben and I attended a one-night marriage conference at our church where our pastor pretty much broke down why relationships fail.  I'd say that half of the tips and advice was stuff we'd already learned in pre-marital counseling, but it's always good to reinforce those points when it comes to staying married for years and years and years.  Believe it or not, women do need to be reminded that men need, and may want, sex more than women do.  That's how it be sometimes, I guess.

The conference ended with all of the married couples renewing their vows, which was incredibly romantic.  It wasn't until the next day that all those tips and pieces of information we'd just digested managed to fly out the window.  

One of the top reasons relationships fail: unrealistic expectations.  And having those expectations could be the blame for one simple question turning into a complicated interrogation between two people who are supposed to love each other, much less like each other.  

But here's the thing: about 18 hours after our initial disagreement, and about 6 hours after our rehashing of said disagreement, I had a revelation while layering a lasagna (Sure, I was angry with my husband, but that didn't mean he or I had to starve.  So yes, I made a lasagna. It took me two hours. But it's the BEST lasagna).  The revelation was that at that moment, and during our argument, I didn't particularly like what Ben was saying.  I didn't like his thoughts on what I was asking him.  I didn't like the way he approached it.  At that moment, and what was turning into the rest of our "relaxing weekend," I disliked him. I really disliked him.  I know you're probably thinking "BUT JEWEL...you've been with Ben for almost a decade!  I'm sure you've felt like this before!"  Trust me, I've been mad at Ben. And I've been hurt by things that we've said to each other. But I had never felt this intense emotion of dislike for Ben because, well, he's my best friend.  I tend to like my friends.  

After acknowledging that I really disliked him, I started to think about how I didn't actually want to make him dinner.  I started thinking about how I didn't even want to talk to him. Or even be in the same room with him.  I started thinking about how I didn't feel like being NICE to him, and, possibly worse, how I didn't even feel like RESPECTING him.  Then, if things weren't bad already, I started thinking about how UNFAIR it is, that I have to do those things, even when I really dislike my husband!  I started thinking how being married to Ben meant that I had to love him, even when I didn't like him, for the REST OF MY LIFE.  NO EXCEPTIONS. I know it sounds crazy, but the weight of that fact hit me with full force while I was standing over the stove. I was so mad  I would have started throwing lasagna noodles had I not been so hungry already.  

The thing is, marriage is really easy when you're out on dates. Or rolling around in bed.  Or celebrating a holiday.  It's easy when you adopt a new kitten, when you've just celebrated your anniversary, and after a New Year's kiss.  

Being married becomes the "work" that everyone talks about when you don't particularly like your spouse for a moment or a day or 36 hours.   Loving someone, showing them honor, respect and forgiveness, even when you don't like them, can be as heavy as trying to bench press your car.  It goes against everything we feel as humans, as flesh and blood. But it's perfectly in line with how God longs for our interactions with each other to be.  Slow to anger. And quick to forgive.  Never selfish.  

Cutting to the chase, Ben and I made up.  And we talked about why we were arguing and how our "unrealistic expectations" got in the way of us having the great weekend that we were hoping to have.  And I know I complained a lot about how hard it is to love someone even when you don't like them.  But I was immensely grateful for the respect and forgiveness and love that was being thrown my way.  I'm thankful for a husband who still manages to love me, even when I'm highly unlikeable.

The hard part of marriage: choosing to love someone when you're not happy with them.  The best part:  someone choosing to love you even when you don't deserve it.