We had a pretty uneventful weekend, here. We watched football (go Patriots!). We grumbled about the weather. I swore I was going to do laundry and go grocery shopping and then I did lots of laundry but neglected to go grocery shopping, which meant that this morning I packed everyone a delicious lunch of various odds and ends, and have hereby sworn that TODAY, no really, today, I SWEAR, I’ll go get groceries.
The kids saw their dad. Chickadee’s quiz bowl team defeated their most loathed rival team at Regionals but ultimately didn’t go on to State. While they were doing that, I was at play rehearsal and Otto staked out the District Science Fair, where all the kids who were busy at the Bowl were winning at the Fair but couldn’t be there. (Chickadee’s project—which was a DRAHHHMAAAAHHH of epic proportions for several months—has now taken first place in category at both school and district levels, and she is now on to Regionals still vowing that nothing less than first place will do. So glad she’s not putting any pressure on herself. Ahem.)
Otto and I didn’t do anything special, really. We shuffled the kids around and worked in our respective offices and played with the dog and ate popcorn and tended to the minutiae of daily life, and never once did I stop to think OMG OUR MARRIAGE COULD IMPLODE AT ANY MOMENT.
Here’s the thing: There’s been a lot of “celebrity” or pseudo-celebrity news lately of marriages breaking up. And because I sometimes can’t look away, while I was catching up on blogs this weekend I was reading about some of these various people, and I noticed that—particularly when it’s a well-known blogger who’s experiencing marital difficulty—the sympathetic comments tend to run quite quickly towards, “If you two can’t make it work, maybe no one can. It makes me afraid for my own marriage.”
[Sidebar: Let me pause for a moment here to say that I have nothing but the utmost empathy for anyone going through a separation or a divorce, no matter who they are. And maybe I have an extra helping of sympathy for anyone who has to go through that particular hell in the “public eye.” I don’t have any patience for the whole “but they wanted to share their lives, this is what they get” line of criticism; breaking up sucks, period, full stop. It doesn’t matter if you live a public life or a private one. I think a default position of compassion is never a wrong move. Pain is pain. Rejoicing in someone else’s pain just makes you a dick.]
So, I think there’s a couple of things going on there, both of which kind of irk me. The first is the whole notion that if a blogger shares about their life online, the readers “know” that person completely. That’s sort of a global issue that I could talk/write about for days (weeks, months, years!) if I wanted to; I’ve yet to meet the blogger who shares EVERYTHING, no matter how “raw” their blog appears to be. Even those who swear they don’t hold back are still coloring their words with perception and bias, and that leads into the whole “is there One Truth?” argument, and blah blah blah, let’s just agree that’s one facet of this issue but not go any further down that philosophical path. That’s not what I want to address.
The second thing that I find alarming here is this whole notion of “if those people can’t hold their marriage together, everyone is in danger.” Now, I think it’s perfectly natural to feel dismay and maybe even alarm if you see a couple who you’d assumed to be happy breaking up. It may even be natural to have a brief moment of “I thought they had it all, and if they can’t make it work, wow, that might mean sometimes unforeseen things happen.” I get that. But the number of people and SHEER PANIC I see in some of these reactions just… bewilders me.
Marriage is hard work. Marriage takes two willing participants. Sometimes previously happy marriages get to a place where continuation is no longer tenable. It’s true that “anyone’s” marriage could spontaneously combust, but it’s also true that you could walk outside and be run over by the garbage truck. Things happen, it’s true. But you don’t walk around being afraid of being run over by a garbage truck when you read about that freak accident in the news, so why does reading about someone else’s failed marriage make you assume your marriage could be doomed, too?
I’m not a relationship expert. Someday in the future, Otto could come to me and tell me he wants a divorce, and then I’ll look back at this post (or surely a commenter will remind me of it, heh) and wail OH, ALANIS, ISN’T IT IRONIC! and I’ll weep bitter tears, I guess. But the difference here is that hearing about people breaking up doesn’t automatically make me think I should be worried about my own personal marriage. And that’s because… well, two things. First, because I already know what a crappy marriage looks like (experience! I has it!), and second, because instead of sitting around wringing my hands about what-ifs in this particular arena, I, y’know, try very hard to never, ever take my marriage to Otto for granted.
Otto is pretty darn close to perfect, but he’s human, and therefore not actually perfect. And I’m miles from perfect. Our marriage isn’t perfect. It doesn’t take perfect people to make a good marriage. (And understand here that I’m using “marriage” because that’s what I have, but really this applies to whatever sort of romantic relationship; I’m not inferring you have to be married for this to apply.) It takes people who are willing to work at it and love each other and apologize when necessary and bite their tongues sometimes and give in sometimes. It takes mindfulness. It takes compromise. It takes gratitude. Does it take luck? Maybe a little, but that’s wayyyyyy down on the list of things I think it takes. Marriage isn’t a thing you agree to on your wedding day and then you just cross your fingers and hope the rest of it works out. It’s not something you HAVE, it’s something you DO.
Sometimes, do marriages between two fantastic people who are really committed to working it out still not make it? Of course. And that’s sad and unfortunate and my heart goes out to anyone in that situation. But does it make me think “I’M NEXT, OH NOES!”? No. And I guess I’m confused as to why anyone who’s committed to the day-to-day down-in-the-trenches care and feeding of a marriage they enjoy would react that way. It makes me sad. It also kind of makes me want to holler “BE A PROBLEM SOLVER!” at everyone who reacts that way. Be proactive if you’re worried, you know?
Actually, scratch that. Just be proactive, period. And stop looking at other people’s relationships to define your own. Talk to your spouse. Say “I love you.” Say “I appreciate you.” Say “thank you.” Say “What can I do?” Say “How can I fix this?” if something needs fixing. Stop worrying, and get back to living. Take the sad stories as sad stories that make you redouble your efforts not to end up a statistic, rather than as an excuse to feel helpless.
Am I lucky? Hell yes. But a whole lot of that luck was made. And you can pry it out of my cold, dead hands. I can’t 100% guarantee it will last—there are no guarantees in life, after all—but I CAN guarantee I will be actively working to keep it going every single day. It turns out that that leaves precious little room for any thoughts of whether someone else’s marriage has any relevance to mine. Just sayin’.
“Pain is pain. Rejoicing in someone else’s pain just makes you a dick.”
And I agree with all the rest of it too – we’re all individual (yes! We’re all individuals! – thank you Life of Brian) and and own our own lives. I’m sad for said ‘celebrity’ blogger and her husband and her kids but, no matter how much I think I know about her boob size or whatever else, I don’t know her and so that’s all I can be – sad that someone is suffering, and really empathetic about having to do so in such a public way.
This is the post I would have written if I managed ever to put actual words in my blog these days. Or the post I would like to have written, actually, because I would never have put the thoughts and feelings I have and have been having about this issue so concisely and eloquently as you have here. Great post.
Maybe it is that people relate so strongly to the blogs they read each day. They see themselves in the blogger (which is, no doubt, a way to feel clever and creative themselves – em, ourselves ;-) And if they assume that they are so much alike and this marriage “failure” appears to come out of no place then surely, their own garbage truck is just lurking there waiting to flatten them. All of this to say, yeah, I agree.
Well said Mir!
So true. Many times I’ve been told how lucky I am, like it’s been easy for twenty-five years. A little movie of the bad times starts playing in my head, but I try to just smile and say, “Thanks.” I know it’s meant as a compliment. I guess the important thing is that I know how hard it’s been, and yet I’m willing to work because life is always going to be full of good and bad.
Regarding “contagious” divorces, I have seen it happen once; best girlfriend getting divorced, so she’s getting lots of attention, so maybe I better do that, too! Shallow people.
(I was totally going to say the same thing as Megan up there at #1. Hi Megan!)
You said a lot of what I’ve been feeling lately, and not just around the rash of blogger divorces. I’m so sad for them but can’t possibly know what’s in their marriage.
I believe I’ll write on this today. You’ve been my muse!
Well said, Mir!… and I’m not a fan of celebrity marriage stalking, but I will admit I was very surprised and saddened to learn of Seal and Heidi’s marraige collapse, only because it seemed as if they had the real deal and found a way to make it all work. especially in that crazy celebrity arena.
Great post. As someone who was deemed to have the “perfect marriage” and is now divorced, it really hits home. As you indicated, when two fantastic individuals dedicated to making it work still can’t pull through, it can be seen by family and friends as unsettling at best. The reality (at least for me, anyway) is that people change. Especially when you marry young (high school sweethearts, married after college) you are bound to grow as a person, and that sometime you wake up to realize you are no longer compatable with your spouse as you once were. That does not make either of you a bad person. What I realized is that divorce was not so much contagious as it made others that were turning a blind eye to their own marital problems uncomfortable, as they didn’t want to acknowledge the very scary reality that maybe their marriage was not meant to be. I would never want anyone to go through a divorce based on my, or anyone else’s, actions, but it is an unfortunate reality that people stayed married for the wrong reasons. For me, I realized that no matter how terrific a person is, life is too short to be married to them if they are not the right person for you.
Congratulations to Chickadee on the science fair and the defeat of the loathsome rivals!
On marriages imploding — I doubt it was much of a surprise to anyone when my first marriage ended. Although I never talked about the extent of the abuse I was experiencing, it was pretty obvious that things were Not Good. What did surprise me was how many of my friends became very uncomfortable around me; as if divorce was contagious. Maybe it is — all of the uncomfortable friends were divorced within the following three years. In contrast, the friends who remained comfortable around me stayed married.
So, perhaps that fear is more of a reflection about the state of their marriage? When I hear of a long-term marriage ended, I feel sad for the couple, but I don’t fear for my own (good, strong) long-term marriage. It was a different story when my marriage was shaky. Perhaps is it a good thing to reflect on the state of a marriage if that causes couples to examine their behavior and strive to do better.
“Itâ€™s not something you HAVE, itâ€™s something you DO.” Yes!
Things seem to go in cycles, marriages, babies, divorce. Mid-life crisis divorces. My husband and I have witnessed several seemingly solid couples divorce in the past few years and it does shake you up a bit. Not because we worried about our marriage but we wondered what happened and why they gave up. It was just sad.
That said, my husband and I do have a strong marriage that we work at everyday just like you said. My mom who has never remarried after divorcing my dad when I was 3 tells me constantly how “lucky” I am to have my husband and how wonderful he is as if I should just be grateful he walked into my life. Lately I’ve been replying that his is very lucky too.
“But does it make me think â€œIâ€™M NEXT, OH NOES!â€? No. And I guess Iâ€™m confused as to why anyone whoâ€™s committed to the day-to-day down-in-the-trenches care and feeding of a marriage they enjoy would react that way”
I strongly suspect that the people who are reacting like this aren’t fully committed to the care and feeding. I realized too late that I was coasting on “I’m married – the hard work is done” and not actually continuing to work at it. And I bet I’m not the only person out there who has run up against that.
The sight of someone else’s relationship breaking up can be a panicking wake-up call for those of us who hadn’t rolled up our sleeves. Or they’re just pessimistic worry-warts… like me!
Thank you for sharing the parts of your life you’re willing to share with us. And thank you for letting us know that there are things you are keeping private.
When my husband I got married 11 years ago at the very young ages of 20 and 21 we kind of claimed this quote:
â€œI didn’t marry you because you were perfect. I didn’t even marry you because I loved you. I married you because you gave me a promise. That promise made up for your faults. And the promise I gave you made up for mine. Two imperfect people got married and it was the promise that made the marriage. And when our children were growing up, it wasn’t a house that protected them; and it wasn’t our love that protected them–it was that promise.â€
â€• Thornton Wilder, The Skin of Our Teeth
Of course this doesn’t guarantee anything about our marriage. But to me it was laying claim to the fact that good marriages don’t happen by accident and some days (or months, or years) are much harder than others. But we made a promise to each other and sometimes it is nice to have something to look back on and be able to say we can get through this. Love isn’t something that just happens to people and I absolutely despise that this is the way the media presents it. Love is a thing requires choice and work and discipline and keeping one’s promises. Also? A good memory helps. :)
Itâ€™s not something you HAVE, itâ€™s something you DO.
The truth of that line compels me to embroider it on a sofa pillow. Well done, Mir.
Mir, what a great post and really, I say the same thing every day to the couples I work with and to anyone that will listen. I especially love what you said here:
“Marriage takes people who are willing to work at it and love each other and apologize when necessary and bite their tongues sometimes and give in sometimes. It takes mindfulness. It takes compromise. It takes gratitude.”
Amen! When I read the news of a recent blogger separation, I immediately emailed my husband to let him know that I really appreciated him and love him more than I did when I married him almost 10 years ago. I think a lot of times people forget that romantic relationships need care and feeding just as much as the parent/child or friendship relationships. I know my marriage isn’t perfect, not for a minute. I have drama queen tendencies and can give Oscar the Grouch a run for his money (both in attitude and desire to clean) and my husband regularly forgets things and makes decisions like sanding Pinewood Derby cars in the living room without putting newspaper down (AHEM). BUT, my husband also never left my side for a moment when we went through two hyperemesis pregnancies, he is the kindest person I have ever met, has blue eyes that would make you swoon and he makes me laugh so hard sometimes that I fear a pants peeing incident. It is those moments that remind me to be kind when I want to scream because the house smells like burning wood and there are wood shavings in my carpet. When I hear of a relationship implosion, I feel so sad for the parties involved (except for Kim Kardashian because that was just BS) but I don’t worry that my marriage is going to fall apart the next day. I let that be a reminder to me to try a bit harder and to appreciate my husband a bit more. If something happens in the future and things are broken or Paul Rudd wants me to leave my husband for him, or Charlize Theron begs my husband to live with her, we will deal with it. For today, however, I am just going to keep on loving my guy, even when it is hard or I don’t feel like it.
Ok, Ok, I’ll take that pile of my husband’s laundry upstairs- which he has conveniently been forgetting to take upstairs for way too long. I was thinking I’d wait to see how long he left it there, but perhaps testing him, when I have the time to just do it for him, is not the best contribution to our marriage.
His parents have been married for 52 years, and Thursday marks the 50th anniversary of my parents. We have high standards to uphold. The laundry shouldn’t get in the way.
I will say Seal & Heidi Klum shocked me. But, as my husband says, “Show me the most beautiful woman in the world and I’ll show you a guy who is sick of her doing x, y, and z.” Everyone has issues. It’s just the weight and gravitas you choose to give to those issues. My perspective is that marriage isn’t “work.” My marriage isn’t a project, it’s my life. It takes tending to and patience, but never work. Also, man, I LOVE that man. For better or worse, he’s my Ted Nugent.
I wasn’t shocked by the big blogger reveal. But, I don’t follow either of them. The demise of any marriage is sad. It means the death to dreams and shared goals of happiness. You just never know (nor should we) what goes on behind closed doors.
I think what made this particular break up so shocking was that it seems not that long ago that we were reading about them being soul mates, etc., etc. and so we (I?) was totally blindsided when the news broke.
BEST advice I ever got was when hubby and I were newlyweds (24+ years ago!)… a marriage is not 50/50, it is 100/100. If both parties are not willing to give 100% to making it successful, it ain’t gonna be!
Oh, and GO PATS – even if that darling hubby I refer to ISN’T a fan! Hey, we can’t agree on EVERYTHING!!!!!!
Itâ€™s not something you HAVE, itâ€™s something you DO. <– This. SO MUCH.
I really love this post, because it's really true that no matter how well you think you know somebody, you NEVER know what is really going on inside their relationship with someone else. Never. Marriage is really hard work.
In other news, Congrats! to Chickadee on her wins. And GO PATS!!!
Holy moly – that was the biggest (and maybe best!) soap box I’ve seen you on in ages. AMEN, sister – preach!
After a lot of years expecting to just be lucky and have things work, Mike and I found ourselves separated because it was just so hard. And hoo-boy was it serious work to get it back around to where we wanted it. And what I learned at the end of it is it is work all the time. You build in habit and scheduled to find connection, and joy and passion. And you build in time for faith and compassion.
Thank you for encapsulating it so perfectly (seriously, I’m copying and pasting to my husband with a SEE! We did that!) :)
Marriage is not really about fluff and romance. Everyone has crap. Marriage is about finding the person whose crap you’re willing to put up with, and they’re willing to put up with yours.
Although the best marriage advice I ever got was from my great grandmother. When my husband and I first got married, we went to visit them. My great grandfather was a tall man with a booming voice (he had been a southern preacher at one point.) He looked at my newly married husband and said “We’ve been married 68 years, think you can make it???”
As much husband sat there with the look of a deer caught in headlights, my great grandmother spoke up. She was a tiny woman with a tiny little voice. She looked at my husband and said “You just take it one day at a time, dear.” They ended up being married for 72 years before they died.
And the husband and I have made it one day at a time to 12 1/2 years so far.
Agreed. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. The “love” part isn’t the hard part. It’s the relationship part that take effort. Joint effort.
Sing it, sister.
I can see that it’s a mix of your two issues, when divorce crops up in your personal circle. Sure they looked happy, but clearly there was something going on behind the scenes we didn’t know about.
And, with that, I do look at my husband and ask “We’re okay, right?” because of that aspect of being out of the blue. Sometimes, though, even for one of the couple in the divorce, it *is* out of the blue. I don’t know. I am so grateful for my husband, though.
I am kinda bummed in a gossipy way that I don’t know about this big blogger divorce, but I’m sure I’ll find out soon enough.
As soon as I read the line, “Itâ€™s not something you HAVE, itâ€™s something you DO,” I immediately copied and pasted it to my personal Words of Wisdom list. (Actually there are several things listed there followed by ” ~ Mir” — you’re one of my best sources!)
My nephew is getting married in a few months and I’m thinking this will be a perfect line for his card. I also agree with MomCat’s observation about being called “lucky.” My husband and I have been together for over 25 years (17 of those married) and I sometimes tire of being told how lucky I am. It isn’t as if a good marriage is something that just happens to you. Our relationship is far from perfect, but we both know (as you and Otto obviously do) that it takes more than luck to make it work.
I don’t think I’ve ever agreed with a post you’ve written more. And I’ve agreed with a lot of them. This is all so true. You know you’re with the right person when you both want to do the work that a good marriage takes. Best to you.
I agree with all but 1 thing…
I don’t think it’s possible for a normal marriage to spontaneously combust – I seriously don’t think it’s possible when a marriage goes bust either one or both don’t know that it’s coming.
Just because whomever the public entity is decided to just clue us in to the situation now doesn’t mean that it came out of nowhere for them…
I think even those that have had their spouse up and leave had warning signs that something was up. They may not have recognized them, they may not have believed them – but there had to be some indications that bad things were happening…
Then again – what the heck do I know? We’re on our first marriage – and while we’ve had a few rocky moments – it’s still a first (and hopefully only) marriage….
I am sure you get this a lot, but it bears repeating after reading this post:
I for one am glad you went through all you did to do that which you love— write. You have such a way with words… and a penchant for expressing things that arent said often enough.. in a manner which is both grounding and refreshing. There are many things you write about that I cannot relate to (yet).. so your high quality writing is lost a bit (though still recognized), but the times like this post when you write something I just GET… its those times where I am glad to have you in my reading material.
Congrats to Chickie on her science fair wins. Both my kids are headed to district this week, so I know what sort of things can go into that.
And you’re absolutely right about marriage being something to keep working on. It’s not luck, though maybe there was a little luck that brought us together in the first place. But, we’ve been married 21 years now and still in love. You and your lovely commenters have reminded me, though, that I should focus on the big stuff and not let the little stuff fester (DHs 4 pairs of shoes in the living room).
There’s been a rash of blogger divorces? That doesn’t make me feel worried about my marriage…it makes me worry about my complete lack of insider info (or shouted-to-the-world info!) about the blogging world! Sheesh. ;-)
I love this whole post! and Meghann in 22 – your great-grandparents are awesome.
You said: I think a default position of compassion is never a wrong move.
And I think that works for just about every situation I can think of. I don’t always come from that position, but I should at least try.
Wonderful post. Thank you so much.
I admit to sometimes having to stop myself when reading another person’s blog and remembering I don’t “know” them. Just because I can identify with you doesn’t mean I get you fully (b/c you probably ain’t given me the fully anyway). But yeah, I’m with you on not having other people’s situations make me reflect on my own because it is by sheer determination and the belief that I am way too cute for jail that we have made it this long. Yes, I want to bludgeon him with the cast iron skillet, duct tape his mouth, roll him in tarp, and stick him in the crawl space sometimes. I’m sure he wants to put me in the trunk and head for Rock Creek Park sometimes. We will continue to make it (married 10 years this June) only if we both want to. Reading about someone else’s misfortunate won’t make me question our relationship. Whether he’s been coming in later and later smelling like cigarettes, vodka, and lap dances will.
Congrats to Chickadee on the science fair win. Nothing less than first place! (Said by the parent of a sixth grader who made me get to the point of saying enough! let’s just finish SOMETHING for you to turn in).
Another great post! Can I have permission to steal the “Pain is Pain. Rejoicing in someone else’s pain just makes you a dick.” That could be my new status.
Congrats Chickadee…..Awesome for her. She should be so proud!
Well said, Mir. I check in with my husband, too, sometimes, because we’re in the middle of small children clinging on us day and night, middle age, and separate bedrooms due to his sleep apnea and my insomnia. It can be easy to lose ourselves in the chaotic trivia. But we have that promise between us, too, and it makes all the difference in the world. Well, in my world, anyway.
” Itâ€™s not something you HAVE, itâ€™s something you DO.”
Having had both a “bad” marriage and a “good” marriage, to the same person, with no separation or divorce, you are spot on. After our “turning point” we checked in with each other frequently~”Are we ok?” Oh, I guess it is important to note that the bad came first. Then I woke his butt up, we changed a few things and almost 4 years later we are happier than we have ever been, even as newlyweds. And you know what? It is HARD! But oh so worth it :D
Amen! My husband and got a lot of flack when we got married (read: had a wedding), because we spent about 10x more time getting ready for the marriage than we did for the wedding. Our wedding was extremely tiny and we did it as low-key as we could. We spent a LOT of time discussing what marriage should look like (for each of us) and figuring out where compromises needed to be made before we even joined hands in front of the officiate.
I agree with you whole-heartedly, and thank you for saying it.
Most excellent post.
I’ve experienced all sorts of marital ups and downs. This June will mark 20 years, and it’s the “I do” and the doing that’s important.
Truly well said. If my husband even gets home (7:40pm and no sign/call/email/text), I will remind him how much I love him
As an antidote to marriage breakups, I just saw this and was utterly charmed. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=item4de9vtw
Well put. Thanks.
Congrats to Chickadee. Reminded me middle son must turn in his board to go to the school level fair.
I always try to remember that we don’t know everything about anyone. That our friendships and our relationships must always be intentional. Sometimes I do really well at that. Sometimes I suck eggs.
I have always thought of marriage as a series of waves. Peaks, Valleys, most of the time inbetween the two.
Because I’m sure Seal’s and Heidi Klum’s marriage is SO MUCH LIKE MINE, oh noes!
I’ve never seen any bearing such things have on my own marriage either.
Well said. You think you know what goes on in other people’s lives, but you really have no idea.
Marriage is a choice you make. Love is a decision, not an emotion; it’s a decision you make when things get rough. Those vows do happen to mean something. Just because Mr. and Mrs. Big Shot can’t make it work doesn’t make me freak out either. They probably have more pressures than the average Joe being thrown their way. I also think that going through a separation or divorce certainly makes you treasure a new spouse even more (I has experience, too!). We’re all broken. Marriage is a relationship you’re in because you can’t think of anyone more you want to go through an amazing journey (a.k.a ride) in life with. Well, that and because it’s really fun to torture one man for the rest of your life, right? *wink wink*
Love, love this. Thank you for the reminder. I needed it today.
So does this mean my sister is right, and I don’t really know you? (grin) I know when I blogged & my marriage was disintegrating, I posted less of our arguments. I also know that NO ONE knows what a marriage is like unless they are in it, and even then they only know what it’s like for them.
I seem to have several friends who are in the meltdown stage. I hope that it has been okay for me to give compassion to both parties, because both parties are hurting. I don’t know, though.