Love is Toughing It Out

One of my classmates is getting divorced at 25. He was telling the other person at our table about what his wife was asking (half of everything) and what he was feeling (angry). I know nothing about the situation other than that, but it just seemed so sad. And fucked up.

He had previously told me they had been married for two years. So is 23 too young to get married? Maybe they weren’t right for each other. Maybe it was that story you always hear about how they knew before the wedding day they shouldn’t be doing it but felt pressured to go ahead. Steve knows someone who was married for all of nine months. He had sex with his ex-wife’s best friend/maid of honour at his bachelor’s party.

It’s hard for me to understand these situations because I truly believe that I married the “right” man. But I also think that sometimes, people just don’t realize how hard it’s going to be. You think the past five months have been easy on Steve and I? You think there weren’t nights when both of us wanted to take off until we cooled down? I had car keys in hand one night, after a fight, headed out the door. I was going to drive down to the lake and sit and stare at the water, but Steve stopped me, physically, hands on my arms. Later, after the kids were in bed he said to me, You think I didn’t want to leave tonight? You think I wanted to stay? The only reason I didn’t leave is because of those kids. And so, we agreed that leaving is not an option.

It’s hard to explain to someone how a marriage develops. The sexual highs and lows, first of all. Pregnancy and babies and sleepless nights and long hours and sometimes even boredom, everything affects sex. And then you may even get to the point when you realize that you are not going to have sex with anyone else again. Ever. And regardless of whether you’re satisfied sexually or not, that makes you wonder if there were things you should have done differently. Before.

There are days when you’re angry and frustrated and want to be alone. There are days when socks on the floor and facial hair in the sink drive you nuts. There are days when you miss being able to go out with a bunch of girlfriends and not having to worry about not being hungover the next morning because of the kids or because your husband is working or because you have to go for a run.

Basically, in marriage, you run into every single bump and roadblock that you do when you’re not married. Marriage isn’t easy. Life isn’t easy. And I think that so many of us have this notion that it will be and should be. But fuck, there’s a lot of shit to deal with. We are overworked and underpaid and sad or burned out half the time. We are bombarded with ideals of what we should be, should have, should do, should want, and even if you don’t agree with any of these, they get hard to ignore after a while.

We believe that the size of your diamond ring somehow reflects the amount of love that’s in your relationship. And maybe, in a nutshell, that’s the problem. Because do you know what a diamond ring means? Not a damn thing, that’s what. Sure they’re pretty, and yes, I wear mine every single day, but as far as a reflection of Steve’s love to me or our commitment to each other? That ring means nothing. We wear rings to signal to the rest of the world that we are “not available” because I sure as hell don’t need to see the ring on my finger to remember. Or on Steve’s for that matter.

Some people don’t believe in monogamy. Because it’s not natural, I think. And I completely agree, it isn’t natural. I don’t think sex is something bad or sinful, and if monogamy was natural, it would be a hell of a lot easier. But I *do* think it’s worth it.

There was a (now) ex-co-worker of Steve’s a couple of months ago who was fairly flirty and uh, forward, let’s say, in expressing what she wanted from him. And it bothered me. I mean really, really upset me. And while I was telling my therapist about it, she told me that most men would not have resisted. When he and I talked about it, he told me that it wasn’t hard to resist because he actually wasn’t attracted to her. But in thinking about it, is all that it takes for most people to stray an enticing offer? I’d like to think, and actually do believe, that if there was a man I was attracted to who expressed somehow that he wanted to pursue a relationship with me, I wouldn’t. Even if I wanted to. Because there’s something more important at stake.

If all it takes to break trust on such a profound level is the right offer at the right moment, then one of two things is true. Relationships are truly very fragile and must be handled with care and tenderness, or, we are incredibly weak at resisting temptation. Maybe both are true.

I guess what I’m getting at here is that relationships are fragile things. They are an intimate bond of lives congealed, yes, but intertwined in them are fears and insecurities and old baggage that we carry with us.

People don’t give marriage the attention it needs, that it demands. We take care of our jobs and our yards and our kids and our mothers and then we turn around and snap at our husbands because they left their shoes in the hallway. We clean the bath and clean the floors and clean the dishes and clean everyone’s clothes, but it can be easy to forget to pay attention to the person who’s always there.

You know once a week, I get out the foot bath and fill it with lavender scented bubbles. And I give Steve a pedicure. I scrub his feet and push away his cuticles and rub lotion into his feet. He sighs as I press my thumbs into his arches, You’re so good to me, he tells me. And I am. Because I enjoy doing it, but also because he deserves it. He deserves to know how much he means to me and how much I appreciate him.

2 Comments on “Love is Toughing It Out

  1. We don’t have kids, but the rest of this is so true to me about marriage. Love is a choice.

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