The New Oxford American Dictionary defines ‘Adventure’ as “an unusual and exciting, typically hazardous, experience or activity”. A sign that hung in my little girl’s bedroom bears this quote by A.A. Milne: “As soon as I saw you, I knew an adventure was going to happen”. I defined the word to determine if it would be appropriate to hang in the bedroom I share with my husband. My daughter no longer wanted it on her wall. When I read the definition, I laughed. Why do we call it “marriage”? We should call it Adventure. Marriage, on the other hand, is defined as: “the legally or formally recognized union of two people as partners in a personal relationship”. Yeah…that doesn’t even BEGIN to cover it.
When girls are young, we form ideas of what we think marriage will look like. Often books, movies, television shows or media in general influence these ideas. Fairytale princess stories, happily ever after montages, and the model within our own homes, good or bad, shape our narrative. I grew up with parents who, by my observation, never argued or fought. They danced in the living room to too-loud Eric Clapton. Bear hugged and gave kisses to one another, and left love notes on the kitchen counter. Marriage looked easy breezy and nauseatingly nice from where I was standing.
It Gets Real, Real Fast
Let’s cut to the chase. Marriage is HARD. When you’re dating someone spectacular and they’re wooing you around every corner, while you put your best foot forward with every step, it’s natural to think you’re made for each other. But, when the shiny new wears off and there’s a house to clean, laundry to do, bills to pay, children to raise, and a bed to be shared…it gets real, real fast.
How one of you does the dishes or loads the dishwasher might be your Monday evening argument if the irritation has been brewing all weekend. Or, perhaps you’re thinking: the laundry basket is RIGHT. THERE. Just put your dirty clothes in it! Will he suddenly decide to become Mr. Fix It, leading to greater destruction that ends with a call to the repair man? Who leaves bathroom necessities all over the counter and drives the other neat freak out of their mind? Maybe your spouse chews too loudly and your Misophonia is flaring up like a bad rash. Or how about those entryways from the garage…if you have to trip over those giant shoes one more time…either you’ll become a victim or a murderer. The list goes on…just fill in your own blank.
I am telling you… the mundane little things that play on loop are absolutely exasperating when you’re married. And when you’re wound tight with the string of your own irritations, the way your spouse breathes has the potential to make you snap. Unless we unravel ourselves, the entire relationship will unravel itself! It is hazardous, indeed.
“Oh My Gosh. I do not know you AT. ALL.”
At the time of this writing, I’ve been married to my husband for 13 years, 7 months, and 16 days. That is 4,979 days. We’ve known each other since we were placed in the same second grade classroom, 26 years ago. We have a long history. And yet, I can remember moving in with him post nuptials and being completely blindsided. I thought “oh my gosh. I do not know you AT. ALL.”
Living with him was vastly different from dating him. I became quickly and intimately familiar with his quirky habits, and he of mine. Every night we would lay down, for example, he would sniff incessantly for upwards of 3 minutes. Now, maybe that doesn’t sound like a long time, but trust me, continuous sniffing right next to your face for 3 minutes every night adds up. Regardless of where the hamper was, he would drop his drawers wherever he stood in the apartment, and leave them there. Plackers are his favorite flossers on earth. And anyone who takes a gander at the surface of his nightstand, or the couch after popcorn on family movie night, or the desk in the office, or in his truck (you get the idea) will become aware of that fact immediately. BUT- I digress. Small prices to pay in the scheme of things.
A Strong Foundation
Our wedding took place four months before I turned 20 years old, 3 days after he did. You could say we were babies, because we were. Fortunately, we both come from close-knit families who have supported us from the start in their own unique ways. They put a roof over our heads in the beginning and helped us move homes, three times. Our family has been hosted for countless meals on countless occasions. The examples go far beyond these. We are incredibly blessed.
Potentially the best thing our families have done for us, though, is to make all efforts in their power to support the continuance of our marriage, even if that has meant sacrificing some of their own desires. Across the board, they all want us to make it to the front porch on rocking chairs in our old age, together. At least I think they do.
There Is No Faking Perfection
Doing life with someone who loves you and puts up with you can be magic. From embarking on trips together, cuddling up and watching movies on Saturday night, or taking a class, to buying or building a home, maybe raising a family, and even setting up life insurance, there exists an unmatched excitement and camaraderie. Living with someone, day in and day out, offers a raw perspective of the human condition. We are exposed in our most vulnerable moments, and there is no faking perfection.
The ugliest parts of us are on display, right along with the most beautiful.
Instead, the ugliest parts of us are on display, right along with the most beautiful. Our parents have never even seen what our spouse gets a front row ticket for. The grenades that come crashing into our days are exclusive to our adult lives. Our nerves wear down over time. The levels of patience required from us redefine themselves. I’m not talking about the patience required to sit in traffic or stand in line at Disneyland, although those types are honorable, as well.
Often times, we’ve been the beneficiary of someone else’s patience with US. But marriage demands patience FROM us. Marriage demands that we set self aside in the name of service to someone else, and find a way to maintain balance using that little thing we like to call compromise.
An Unusual Commitment
As defined in the dictionary, marriage is, indeed, a legally recognized partnership. However, Mr. Webster fails to point out how unusual the proposed commitment actually sounds. Not to mention the fact we have agency to choose one human for ourselves, at arguably young, stupid ages. The idea of committing to one person for the rest of our time alive is, well, kind of archaic.
Okay, just hear me out for a moment. Marriage was used as an alliance between families and designed for economic partnership. There was much less emphasis on love and personal connection. Frankly, it was more like a business arrangement. Today, in the American culture at least, we often have unrealistic expectations for our spouse to be our everything. If we no longer need the connective tissue between specific families nor the fiscal benefits of a legal pairing, why not just give up when marriage isn’t serving you anymore? You’ve heard the old saying: “there’s plenty of fish in the sea!” Additionally, humans used to live for like, 40 years. So, marriage would last around 20 years, maybe 25? To put in context, with this model, there would be less than 7 years left of my marriage, and then I’d probably kick the bucket.
Conversely, this past February, my grandparents celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary. They are 84. That’s 65.5% of their lives. They had 19 years on planet Earth as single people. That’s it. This is quite the dichotomy. We are living longer, and therefore the commitment we make to each other is lasting a far greater number of years. I would argue the proposed commitment then, is the lengthiest of any vow humans choose to make, without understanding the vast undertaking it actually is when they make it.
The Ultimate Opportunity
Marriage offers the ultimate opportunity to really see the image reflected back to you from the mirror your spouse is holding up. Its institution is arguably the best chance individuals have to face what about them needs refinement, and how to adjust, grow, and honor themselves and their chosen life partner on the journey. 1 Corinthians: 13 is perhaps the most commonly referenced bible verse in wedding ceremonies. It reads: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
We may desire a personal relationship for how our counterpart can love us. After all, that same guy that leaves his clothes on the floor and plackers on every surface…is also the same person that envelops me into his arms when anxiety gets the best of me, holding on so that I can, too. He makes me laugh daily. He writes things in letters like “you have my whole heart, all four ventricles.” And, he is graciously forgiving of my faults. If our partner shows us their tender love and care, is serving, honest, supportive, kind, and helpful, we will find ourselves pleased as punch. That is the easy, enjoyable part, right?
Designed to Last
Ah, but what about choosing to return those same virtues to our partner, over and over again, even, and especially, when we perceive them as undeserving? Well, we humans can be selfish jerks. News Flash: It’s NOT all about you. Therefore, it takes time for us to learn the value of prioritizing the message of 1 Corinthians 13. Maybe I’m just a slow learner, but it seems to me that marriage is designed to last until death do us part because a lifetime is required to master what it means to truly love another fallible human.
That sign I mentioned earlier? It’s hanging above our bed now. Is it Unusual to spend upwards of 65 years with the same individual? I’d say so. Will it be exciting at times and mundane in many others? You betcha. Are the storms you will inevitably be forced to weather together often hazardous? Most definitely. Is the Adventure of Marriage worth it? I think it is. So, buckle up, and in the words of .38 special, hold on loosely, but don’t let go. It’s gonna be a wild ride.