There was a time - about 15 years ago - when I threw my bags into the trunk of my car, tears streaming as I vowed through gritted teeth to myself that I wouldn’t spend another night with this man I called my husband.
I don’t remember what we were fighting about, I just remember we were about to leave to go to a holiday party and I had just put a casserole dish filled with baked beans I’d made using my mom’s scrumptious recipe into the trunk, carefully sitting it on a layer of towels to keep it from moving around.
In a huff, I yanked the trunk open, yanked out the hot casserole dish, trading it for my packed bags.
I didn’t care that my fingers were burning from the thick, sweet bean sauce that had sloshed over the sides and oozed down over my hands. I called my parents and announced that I was about to drive to their house with my then 2-year-old son, and we’d be living with them for a while.
We only made it about halfway there before I turned around and went back home to Mark.
That wasn’t the first time I’d felt like I couldn’t be married to this man for a minute longer. It wasn’t the last time, either.
Like everyone else who’s been in a long-term relationship, we’ve had our ups and downs.
Marriage isn’t always easy. It can be hard to stay on the same page with someone else day after day, month after month, year after year.
In fact, it’s impossible.
I think it’s interesting how the exact qualities in Mark that I fell in love with - his confidence, his dry sense of humor, his ability to see things pragmatically, without getting blinded by emotions - are the exact qualities that now make me want to swallow a handful of crushed glass.
What used to be confidence now strikes me as cocky. What used to be a dry sense of humor and his ability to keep emotions at bay now come across as cold and cynical.
But here’s why I stay married to him:
We laugh more than we do anything else in our lives.
Nobody else in this world would ever binge Dateline with me, without worrying that I was coming up with a "plan" of my own.
We do our own thing: we each have our interests outside of each other, and we do them without giving guilt trips (You’re fishing again? Or You’re going out with your girlfriends again?)
He cleans the kitchen after I cook dinner.
He makes me want to be the best version of myself. He never gives me crap about any adjustments in our family routine necessary to accommodate my latest venture (i.e., going back to school for teacher certification; going to conferences to learn about publishing or writing or website building or dog training or….)
He was an asshole for only a few days after I showed up at home with two puppies, after we’d agreed to adopt one puppy.
We both know it’s not always easy being married.
And he’s understanding about those seasons of conflict that come along, even saying things like, “This is temporary. It’s not easy right now, but it’ll get better after ___.”
He apologizes when he’s in the wrong, and he taught me, by his example, early in our marriage to do the same.
He’s agreed to buy a Goldendoodle, which goes against every fiber of his being.
And on this day 21 years ago, he vowed to love and honor me forever. And as much as he sometimes makes me want to scoop my eyeballs out with rusty spoons, he’s held up his end of the bargain.
And since I can't seem to pinpoint at this moment what it is that I bring to the table, I hold up mine.
***Update 9/23/2019: Today we celebrate 24 years. I can’t believe it. Earlier this year, I didn’t think we would see this day. We’re just about four months or so out from one of the lowest points of our marriage.
Not because of any one “regrettable event,” or anything like that.
Just because there are cycles of ups and downs in marriage - some highs being higher than others, and some lows being lower than others - for any number of reasons.
Changing beliefs. Evolving world views. Diverging philosophies.
We’ve changed, even since the original posting of this article back in 2016.
We had a few conversations early this year that circled around splitting, and I’ll be honest: I had divorce fantasies.
And then - during a hard conversation, where there were tears and shouting and arms in the air and shrugging, as if to say, “Welp, we’re at an impasse,” we decided to take that option off the table.
To make it a non-option.
We decided that:
No matter how hard things get
No matter how frustrated we are
No matter how disappointing things sometimes feel
No matter how mundane and routine and boring things become
We are better together than we are on our own.
Not always. But most days.