When I was married, I told my then-husband I wanted to write an anonymous blog called The Marriage Chronicles. It seemed like so many struggles married couples face happen silently, behind closed doors. You wouldn’t know two people who loved each other could feel so disconnected or suffer so much inside their pretty houses. Behind closed doors, couples fought and questioned or lived separate lives. But on the outside, we all saw cheering on the soccer fields and cute pictures of kids on Facebook and Instagram.
Watching HBO’s Big Little Lies has reminded me again what marriage is like–what it offers and what it does not. Almost all of the couples in the show have what we think of as ideal lives–wealth, beauty, security. But Reese Witherspoon’s character Madeline is tortured with personal vendettas against community members and resentment toward her ex-husband, even as she has a current husband who tries to offer her everything she desires. Nicole Kidman’s character has passion in her marriage, but it comes at a significant and dangerous cost. (I highly recommend the show.)
When I envisioned my anonymous blog, “The Marriage Chronicles,” I wanted to get into the nitty-gritty of what it was like to come home every day and struggle to have a meaningful conversation and nurture a relationship while trying to make dinner, do homework, give baths, keep a house clean. Relationships are a lot of soul work. Two people have to “get” each other, have to know how to push certain kinds of buttons and when not to push others. They have to accept another’s flaws and learn what they can live with and what they can’t. And the hard part about this is that those two people are growing on their individual journeys, too, journeys which don’t always line up.
I don’t think that getting a divorce necessarily means two people failed at marriage. I think it could be a result of marriage failing them. The model we’ve set for ourselves has a very high standard, and it needs help. Having a community or extended family can add the support a couple needs to have time for themselves. I think if we want true happiness and contentment in our lives, we need time and space for ourselves on an individual level, and not everybody has the luxury of getting that.
I still think marriage is a beautiful concept, a hopeful one. The idea that two people can commit to loving each other despite all that life throws at them, and still get through it, still find a way to grow and change and give of themselves while nurturing their individual needs–that’s a tall order.
Any advice I’d give from the other side?
Always do the individual, personal work. Working on yourself, following your own goals, having your own ambitions, knowledge, and experience–that’s something that can’t be lost, no matter what happens in your relationship months or years down the road.
Oh, and if at all possible, find a way to make and keep hold of your own money. Money in a lot of ways is power, unfortunately. Having it gives you some semblance of security in an unsecure world.