I wish someone had told me before marriage what marriage was “really” like. The best way I can describe it for those wishing to enter into matrimony is it is the greatest example of devotion melded with unrelenting, imagined schizophrenia. One minute you love and adore your spouse. And then mere hours later you can experience a desire to murder so viciously you wonder about your capability to pull it off. Will someone see? Do the local police use those CSI blue lights to find blood? Music, magic, murder, mostly. Seriously, it’s not that extreme. Mostly. I’m being facetious. Mostly. I love him and would never trade him. Ever.
That’s what marriage is: a blurring of devotion and cold blooded, premeditated murder.
He washes dishes and puts the knives in the drain handle-down. You think I’ll be so silly as to impale my wrist, vertically? He eats things I planned to take to work for lunch. He washes lights with darks. He doesn’t SEE the things I see: our bathroom sink got grubby and grimy for more than two weeks, because I wanted to see how long it’d take him to clean it. I succumbed and cleaned it, but that doesn’t means I’m destined to clean it forever. It means that I chose to not say something about the sink and now it’s filthy. Forget about the why. Why didn’t he clean it? Why did he wait until I did it? Why is it a showdown over who can tolerate the most filth? I can’t answer any of these things definitively, certainly not outside of my own marriage. I commented about the sink and he said oh. I said I’d cleaned it, finally, and he said ok, almost dumbfounded. I asked why he hadn’t. Which sink are we talking about again, he asked.
He does more for our family than you can imagine, more than I’ll probably ever tell you.
We’re in year 12. We deal with financial struggles, miscommunication, children, taxes, and someone drinking the last of the orange juice and not saying anything. We deal with who does what in the house and who’s keeping score. We deal with I only like Yopa yogurt, not Chobani, and if you’d just listen, you’d remember. We deal with tonight, baby, absolutely tonight, with winks and crotch glances, but then dinner, kids’ bedtime, sofa, tired. Maybe tomorrow.
We are surrounded by divorces of friends whose marriages we thought were fine. But that’s key: just like you will never know the inner workings of another’s marriage, never should you allow anyone too much entry into yours. It was 2004. My husband’s family wanted to take our young girls to Disney World. I hadn’t yet looked at my schedule at work and was incensed that it seemed like they were planning to take them without me. The girls were maybe 3 and 1. Their first plane ride, without me? I went to my group of friends, emailing all the wrongness. I may have said how dare he/they. My husband saw the email. I can’t recall a time more disappointing than that one, in regard to letting others into a marital situation/decision. My friends’ responses were jokes, but read from his point of view, both I and they were rude and uncaring.
Don’t get me wrong; spouses need a safe place to vent, but not degrade. The thing is, most people you confide in think you’re looking for advice. Sometimes you just want to bitch about your husband and leave it at that. The first time I let something slip to a friend she said, “Oh, I wouldn’t tolerate that. You should leave.” Um, he took more than 10 minutes to pick me up from the subway. It was raining, I got wet, and it was cold. I’m just complaining. Can I not just complain about a situation he didn’t create, but could have made easier? I have puddles in my shoes, yes, but divorce him over it? It puts things into perspective, makes you see how pointless the argument or initial feelings were. Or, if not pointless, because your feelings deserve to be acknowledged, then you get at least a different perspective. I laughed about the soggy shoes later.
Sometimes, when the dishes aren’t done, he’s been snoring, I’m up early, and he sleeps in, I imagine how easy it would be to smother him. Would it be easy? I don’t know, I’ve never tried. That’s pride in my voice. It doesn’t mean I don’t still love him.
He buys Safeway brand pasta sauce when I write Prego on the list. How would you like me to smash this nasty, generic sauce upside your head?
Be willing to be the one to accept that everything isn’t going to be in your favor. Try harder. Now, I’m not saying every marriage can be salvaged through therapy. And I’m certainly not saying in instances of abuse or absolute incompatibility, that one should simply try harder, or even that murderous desires will disappear. I’m just saying that over the years I’ve learned some of what I fight for and about simply isn’t worth it. Think before you type or say something disparaging about your spouse. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not going the whole wife to husband submission crap. I would say the same to a man talking about his wife. The sanctimony of marriage will always be between the two of you. It transcends everything else, parenting included, mothers-in-law included (mine is awesome). Think before you say something that can be misconstrued. Oh, but to muddy the waters further, in that moment of you typing or speaking about what your spouse has done (this time) to irritate you, you are probably the least likely to award your spouse any kind of leniency. Just think first. And hope that your friend understands that your complaints are situational, not demonstrative of your marriage as a whole.
I said be ready by 7:00. The movie starts at 7:30. Why in the absolute hell is he not even dressed at 6:55? Are we going to fly there? Will Scotty beam us up?
There will be times, no matter how long you are married – two years to 20 – when you have zero damns to give about how your partner will feel when you say something cruel, tell a friend about a situation in a light unfavorable to your partner. But it’s in those times that you need to temper your anger with care.
One of the best comments I’ve heard about marriage is from my mother-in-law: if it were easy, everyone would be able to do it.
I still see him and my breath will catch. I still see him and want to pull him into an embrace that says it all: I love you, I need you, I’m in this for the long haul, I was right all along, please wash the dishes, and I’m not really going to kill you. Today.