Love Is Work
As everyone knows, or hears, marriage is not always easy. Yes, there are so many easy, fun, and fulfilling parts of marriage, but there are equally, if not more times of differences, disagreements, and a whole lot of work. I’m no marriage expert, so I can only speak from experience, but the three years my husband and I have been married has been both beautiful and… well… work.
My husband and I dated for three years before getting married. Some people ask me how I knew he was the “one.” Three years might not be a long time to some people, while to others, that’s more than enough time to get to really know someone. I don’t know the real answer, in specifics to time, and this will completely sound cliché, but my response is, “I just knew.” I was confident in our marriage and our future life together (and I continue to be excited!).
With that being said, my husband and I KNEW that marriage would be work. We were both lucky to be raised by loving parents who exemplified a healthy, challenging, and fulfilling marriage. But I don’t think that is enough to really prepare anyone to know or anticipate marriage completely. The way my parents experience their marriage, or handle situations, might be different from how my husband and I do things. I think we both take aspects of our parents and apply that to our own marriage, trying not to “force” anything, as we both know, neither of us are our parents.
I don’t want to sound like “work” in a marriage is a negative thing, though. “Work” can certainly mean different things to different people. I think “work” within marriage is really important, and almost necessary to keep a happy, healthy marriage alive for years to come. “Work” within marriage, to me, means a lot of things. It means trying even when you don’t want to, even when the other person might really be getting on your nerves, or maybe you are not feeling well, or just don’t want to try right now. It means listening; something obvious, but so necessary. And not just listening, but actively listening – asking questions, waiting to speak, taking turns communicating, letting the person know that you hear them, rather than dismissing the topic. It means taking responsibility for yourself and your actions, and what they do to the other person. This one is HARD for me. I tend to be a very defensive person. When my husband begins to express how he’s feeling based on something I might be doing, I tend to turn things around, making it more about myself, being on the defense, trying to defend why I am who I am. This is useless and pointless to the conversation, and we both know that as soon as I become defensive, we have to take a “time out,” or the conversation will just go in circles.
ALSO, “time outs” can be important when “working.” It might not be for everyone. But my husband and I will frequently take “time outs” when talking about difficult topics, in order to avoid getting too angry or frustrated with the other person, to avoid saying something we might not actually mean, and in order to just generally collect our thoughts. Remember, we’re all human, we make mistakes, we have human feelings like anger, and we can definitely speak out of character. To avoid hurting my husband’s feelings by saying something out of anger, in the moment, we will take breaks to calm down.
I want to reiterate that I’m not talking about work within marriage as a bad thing. Although work, in general, is not always fun, we all do work anyway – we do homework at 2am to complete a Master’s degree; we stay late at work to complete a project for our boss; we mow the lawn even when it’s raining because we care about our landscaping. We work all the time, even if we don’t love to work, and even when we don’t want to work. But we work because a) usually we have to and b) we know that it will be to our benefit. Work within marriage is just the same – it’s not always pretty, it’s not always fun, I don’t always want to do it – but if I care at all about my marriage, I will work to make it last a lifetime.
A wise cousin told my husband and I some very special and important advice on the day of our wedding. He said that throughout our lives together, we will have many ups-and-downs. Our marriage will be challenged numerous times, especially if we decide to have children. There will be times when we want to rip each other’s heads off! There will be times where we will feel betrayed or disrespected or confused, and it will be very difficult to want to continue to move forward in order to keep the marriage strong. Then he said, throughout those difficult times, remember this wedding day; remember how each of us felt walking down the aisle; how we felt when we said “I do,” how much fun we had at the reception. It’s so important to remind ourselves WHY we chose to get married in the first place, and that concept has helped me to keep working at my marriage day after day. Work is choosing my partner every day, and choosing to commit to anything to make our lives work together. Love is work.