In saying that, I’m not a total idealist or pompous ass. I would never judge anyone who chooses divorce, because I can never know the heartache and effort involved in each person’s relationship. I know that not all marriages work. I respect and feel for friends who give their marriages everything to ultimately realize one story must end for another to begin. The important thing is the trying.
I went to college at SPU: Seattle Pacific University, affectionately known as Spouse Potential University. Many kids attending this private Christian school grew up in churches, with the idealized notion of marrying for romance and physical love. I.e. : get married to have sex. It's a noble concept that unfortunately doesn't always jive with reality or the emotions and hormones of early 20-year olds unprepared for the actual, real-life living and breathing, toilet-roll-under-or-over nuances of marriage.
Like anything, marriage takes work. Love, companionship, adventure and thrills, but also lots of not-so-sexy, hard ass work. There is no traditional fairy tale romance out here; no perfect housewife, no Prince Charming, no happily ever after, no knight in shining armor, no magic formula for a perfect relationship.
What is "perfect" anyway? I had to grapple with this myself and realize that “perfect” becomes what you create for your own relationship. For each vibrant, complicated, and personal love story out there.
No matter your reason for marrying, 'soul mate' has been a term too loosely thrown around. It's created a sort of impossible expectation. I've heard many people cite the reason "it isn't fun anymore" for ending a relationship. Social media doesn't help, with its 'love your spouse' challenges and almost subconscious need to present an idealized picture of our lives. Who made the promise of life always being fun? It isn't. Along with its adventures and blessings, it's full of failures and mistakes. Parenting sure as hell isn't 'always fun.' Neither is growing up. Why should marriage carry this burden?
B and I just celebrated 17 years of marriage. As we have discovered over the years of travel, school, sick kids, building a business, counseling, lazy mornings, arguments late into the night, belly laughs and inside jokes, "happily ever after" contains many chapters. We've had plenty of opportunities to call it quits when things got tough. But we didn't. We kept believing in our own raw, real fairy tale.
Real relationships can create a new definition of "happily ever after" on an almost daily basis. No one knows you like your spouse. By "knowing" I mean the idiosyncrasies and weaknesses as well as the cute characteristics and crazy hidden strengths.
Perfect marriages have peaks and valleys. They contain moments, weeks of joy and bliss just as equally as tears and confusion. You can't have one without the other to create something that grows as you grow.
Brendan had been my knight in shining armor, but not in a Disney princess sort of way. To be sure he rescued me, in ways I could never have imagined when we first met in a magical, love-at-first-sight moment. He pushed me to be better at the same time he championed me when I didn’t have the drive to believe in myself. He loved me through my unlovable moments when I lost myself, and him as well. In my various knee-jerk reactions to hide or escape, he’s always been my compass, my point of home.
Though I’ve stumbled, I’ve been his champion as well. He's my soul mate, but not in a one-dimensional way. “Soul" is anything but a simple concept. Our souls house the richest part of who we are, who we attempt to be in the quiet moments. Spirits enhance our souls, bodies simply vessels to help our souls move through life. Being married to a "soul" mate SHOULD do justice to the depth of our most vulnerable selves. This may mean throwing things when said soul mate pushes your buttons, just as much as it means waiting to hear his car pull into the garage at night so you can see him again.
Our marriage grew up as we did. As we learn to overturn bad patterns of behavior to behave better for each other and ourselves, we strengthened our story and added depth to our relationship. We tried, we messed up, we continue to forgive and try again. Shit will happen but we've learned to create a stable base under the surface so we don't get as rattled. Neither of us is going anywhere, "fun" times or not.
At the end of the day, our fairy tale has opened up beyond a traditional simple story line. Not knowing where it will end keeps the mystery alive, because we know we will ride those horses into the sunset together. We may take turns dragging each other down the path, or one may spur the horse into a gallop to get a break. But we know the other will be waiting so we can watch the sunset together.
I love our fairy tale. I honor the depth of my soul mate relationship, now that we have gotten through some big hurdles to create a stable safe place. We still like each other, even through knowing everything about the other. My knight in shining armor may need help polishing his armor, because it’s no easy task, being married to another complex soul. So I’ll help. It will need some extra polish for the next 17 years.
Cheers to all of you out there creating a new definition of marriage, one that works for you. For embracing a nuanced, deep meaning of “fun” that stands the test of time, to ultimately create something more precious than gold.
Dedicated to B, my one and only.