Tuesday, September 21, 2010

You gotta keep saying "I do" even when you don't

I am the one in this group who has been married 30 plus years, 32 ½ years to be exact. My husband and I met 33 years ago this summer while both students at the University of Missouri-Columbia. You’d think that would mean I know a lot about marriage. I suppose I do. One thing I do know about marriage is that it is a lot of work. It isn’t easy!

I worked with a guy once; in fact I was his boss. He was a driver for our senior transportation program. He was single, never been married and approaching 40. We had a young female student come to do her internship with us as a social worker. Bob was smitten. I am not so sure she was smitten at first. Nevertheless they started dating.

At Christmas time he was plotting how to ask her to marry. He had a t-shirt made that said “Will you marry me?” His plan was to wear it under his regular shirt and present her with a ring, taking off his shirt with the question. It wasn’t the most romantic thing I ever heard of, but it was dramatic and creative. He was so nervous. All of us knew that the big question would soon be asked. All of us were rooting for him. There aren’t too many people in this world as nice as Bob. He deserved happiness. He dreamed of a family and had waited a very long time for it.

Their wedding was beautiful and fairy tale-ish. They came from different ethnic groups so we knew there’d be some challenges. We all hoped love would conquer all. It wasn’t a year and trouble started. I was amazed at how fast trouble came. She wanted a career; he wanted a family. She’d worked hard for her degree, was still in her 20’s. He just wanted to settled down. In-law issues also arose.

One day Bob came to me. He asked me, what’s the secret of a good marriage? He told me that there was a divorce petition ready for signatures. He was now smitten with grief rather than love. I had just come through a terrible challenge to my own marriage. I had been on the brink of despair myself. I thought about the answer.

Now I know the question today is “what works in my marriage?” All of us probably have a sense of what works in general terms with marriage. There is a huge difference in know theoretically what works in marriage, and living it out in the day to day of year after year after year. That first blush of love and passion does get lost in dirty laundry, bad days, baby diapers and the like. My answer to Bob was not a theoretical answer. Oh I did give him the “put God in your marriage and go to church” theoretical answer in my answer to him. But the most important thing I said to him was what I feel is what works in my own marriage of over three decades.

The answer sounds so simple but it is so hard to do. What works in my marriage is just not giving up. It’s so easy to say this is too hard, I don’t like this, I’ll give up. I’ve said it thousands of times in the years I’ve been married. It’s okay to say it. It’s natural to feel it. Marriage is very hard work. It challenges you more than even raising teenagers.

I told Bob that day that it is just about commitment. It is saying to yourself, when things are bad and when their good, this is my mate. You promised for better or worse and there is a lot of worse in this life. You just have to keep going if you want to stay married. You just have to persevere. There is no magic formula. There is no way to get around the fact that there are times that every part of you screams get me out of here. That’s when the rubber meets the road and you have to just press on because as hard a work as it is, it’s really worth it. 

Bob stuck in there. He and his bride have been married for close to 15 years now. He retired early and became a stay at home dad. She has her career, they have a good life together raising four beautiful children.


Tracy said...

Great post Joyce.

Congratulations on 32 1/2 years. God is good to us.

I'm sure grateful that my husband is willing to persevere with me. Life isn't perfect and neither are we, so it's a good thing to know that we can go through the tough times WITH one another.

David said...

Thanks, Joyce. Commitment is one of the things that has also worked for us. I think it is important to find things that work - it's easy to share what doesn't work.