22 Years is a Lot to Lose

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I would not encourage my own kids to marry as young as we did, necessarily, but it’s been a pretty good thing. It’s also been a pretty hard thing. It depends on the day. (We were 16 and 21 when we started dating and 18 and 23 when we married. Oy.) The truth is that, no matter at what age you join your life with someone, it is both everything you imagine and nothing that you could have anticipated. Sometimes, I think that my husband and I have a unique relationship to the extent of the extreme ups and downs that we navigate. There are days that I walk around gushing unicorns and rainbows about how wonderful my marriage is, and days where my closest friends have seen me fall-apart-ugly-crying about how I don’t know if we can make it through the mess. Often, that all happens in the same week, and both extremes are the truth.

Like my #metoo post, this subject is hard to dive into because there’s so much there and it runs so deep for me. My husband is freaking amazing, such a good person and has absolutely stood by me in some of my hardest moments this year. He’s also incredibly stubborn and a black-and-white thinker, so the changes that 2018 has brought have been really, really hard for us to navigate. I think we all come into marriage with unspoken contracts about how our life together will look. Maybe there are actually some lucky couples that hit 25 or 50 years and everything in that basic structure has been just as they expected. I would imagine that it happens. That, however, has not been our experience. At all. Over the past decade and most intensely over the last few years, our entire world has been picked up, shaken vigorously and dumped out at our feet in a mixed-up mess. While we’re in the process of picking up the pieces, we’re both doing it differently and in ways that aren’t necessarily part of our original agreement. My relationship with religion right now is tumultuous at best. No matter how much you love your spouse (and do we ever!), this is a frightening and uncertain process.

I think most couples who have struggled (all of us, probably) have to weigh the risks and benefits to a relationship. This is especially true when dynamics have shifted in dramatic and integral ways. We’ve concluded that, for our marriage, what we’ve built in 22 years would be an awful lot to lose. (My husband regularly talks to one of his brothers who’s gone through a very ugly divorce. It’s like an inoculation every time. I should really send my brother-in-law a gift in thanks for how good it is for our marriage to have that perspective.) What began as two separate (if naive) entities on a warm day in the spring of 1996 has become a huge grove with intertwined roots that weave in and out of every part of our world and that of our seven children. It would be difficult and infinitely more painful and damaging for us to try to take that apart, and we don’t want to. We love each other fiercely. We’re best friends. We laugh a LOT. We’re well matched. We’ve also both changed so much, and that is hard stuff.

This is not a treatise on divorce, so please don’t internalize any unintended shame if you have made the choice to end your own marriage. I respect that decision and understand that not every relationship can be saved and not every couple can move forward in a healthy way. On our bad days, I’m not always certain that we will. Most days, I agree with my therapist that we’ll be just fine and that our foundation is incredibly strong and healthy. (He’s also good in bed, but I promised I would try to not overshare. Sorry, not sorry. Ha!)

I’m sure I will have a lot more posts about my marriage that are funny and witty and come easily for me, but the truth is that my life (and probably yours) is messier than a one-liner or quip. My relationship with my husband is really hard right now. It’s also unbelievably beautiful and worth it. While he doesn’t really do social media and may never read this blog, above all I want him to know how impressive I find him as a person. It’s been a struggle, but there is no one in this world that I would rather wrestle with (literally and figuratively!) and fight for than you. I know things have changed a lot. I know sometimes you look at our life and get discouraged that it’s not at all what you expected. Despite the laundry list of things that are different than what we signed up for, one thing remains the same – I still choose you. I trust you. I have your back. I’m not going anywhere. 22 years would just be too much to lose.

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