Wednesday, February 13, 2008

More Marital Musings

It's after midnight. I should be going to bed but this is my podium so I must speak - yet again.

I started tonight, on my way home from work, talking to a girlfriend about the business she is in in an effort to figure out a new program my partner and I want to introduce in our business. But we didn't get to talk about that right away. My question of how she was doing was answered with a less-than-enthusiastic response. My business side stepped aside and my encouraging/counseling instincts kicked in. I asked her what was up, suspecting what it could be because we had discussed it many times before and I was right - marriage issues.

I have happily married friends. I have delusionally married friends. I have newly married friends. I have divorced friends. I have friends in longtime marriages that have hit a rough patch. I have single friends with live-in partners and those with no partners at all. And oh, yes, I have engaged friends too. This marriage thing never ceases to amaze me because you can never hear it all. Sometimes there seems to be no limit to the patience some people have and shouldn't. At times there seems to be no depth to the lows people will sink to to hurt their loved one and when I say loved one, you know what I mean? I mean S-P-O-U-S-E. Yeah, yeah. I can be judgmental. Yeah, yeah. I act like I know it all. I know this. But my stance is clear - life is different after marriage. Yes, there are exceptions to every rule so pull out all the examples of other couples you want. It doesn't change my mind on this. I simply KNOW this because I've crossed that threshold.

Before I got married people asked me, "Are you SURE you want to do this?" I think I may have said it here before that before I got married, it seemed that married folk were part of this strange secret club that they alluded to but never confirmed directly. They weren't telling me not to join but they weren't encouraging me either. And it wasn't necessarily a club you felt you wanted to join anyway after all that. In this case, reservations wouldn't get you into this club. They kept you out. But once you joined, oh boy! The tome of MARITAL TRUTH came out and people's real issues were freely shared because now you were a member. You were hit with a strange reality about the whole thing. Now, that reality could hit immediately, gradually or just suddenly after some time passed but it will hit. I promise you that. But again, that doesn't have to be a bad thing.

You know, no one could really explain this to me then and I can't fully explain it now. I can only say THINGS WILL CHANGE. Maybe for the better. Maybe not. And yet THINGS WILL STAY THE SAME AND INTENSIFY. You can only hope and pray that intensity is for the better.

It's so cliche. "Marriage is work." But I believe this is another truism that can only be deeply understood after experiencing it. I have friends who have been experiencing their lion's share of marital issues and I feel for them because it's hard to listen to them and hear their pain and not be able to help beyond that listening role. But you can't. Because no one can work your marriage for you. You have to invest that time yourself. But I do pray for them and ask God to give them wisdom and more patience and the energy they need to do whatever they need to or the ability to walk away and cool off - or even walk away for good.

My friends call me because they know I am the counselor. They know I am the encourager. They know I won't just take their side but I will try to listen and if I think I can see some point from the husband's perspective, I'll tell them. They know I will never suggest divorce. That can never be my decision but my job is to support them and if I have to, defend them because that's what I do. But this is one battle where everyone loses if the big guns are pulled out so we all must be gentle. Marriage is fragile and strong. It is energizing and life draining. It is time consuming and freeing. There is great potential for great achievement if everyone works together but working together isn't always instantly accomplished.

You see how rambly this post is? That's marriage for you. Just a jumble of words sometimes. But we know some things for sure:

1 - speak slowly, speak carefully because words hurled in anger are trapped in the mind forever, even after forgiveness is given.

2 - a person will change if they choose to but YOU can't change them no matter how cold your shoulder is or how much you try to bribe them. You can only change you and how you choose to react.

3 - counseling is not a sign of failure but a show of love and care for your relationship. (oh, but for goodness sake, don't seek the counsel of people who already told you not to marry that loser. There's no unbiased opinion to be found there.)

4 - in the beginning, amazingly enough, simply being married can be a time consuming activity.

5 - you can't have it all in one person. That's what friends (and God) are for.

There's other stuff too but that's not my frame of mind. I'm simply musing on the intricacies of this union of souls. For me, it's a pleasure - over all. The details can get muddy sometimes but I knew who I was marrying (as much as anyone can know someone they haven't literally known their entire life) and I still chose to deal with his idiosyncracies. I have some friends who would not say the same thing. It does make me appreciate what I have all the more.

As they used to say in the ceremony, marriage is not something to be entered into lightly (or darkly, for that matter). It's a very big deal. A HUGE deal. I mean to sound scary and ominous and mysterious when I say this because I want it to be understood that married life is serious business but you can't fully prepare for it no matter how hard you try. Knowing YOURSELF, getting some counseling beforehand and as you need it, and having faith - whether it is in God or whatever nurtures your soul - will help you get far. Success, I think, comes from being as selfish as you are selfless.

I need to rest. Tomorrow I have to call my girlfriend back and encourage her some more and I should probably check up on another sometimes-troubled one while I'm at it and remind her she's not alone either because marriage can be a very lonely place. But I still highly recommend it.


Theresa said...

thanks for the post Monica, I needed to hear it this morning.

Happy Valentine's Day friend.

Lynn said...

Monica, I loved this. And as one of those divorced people you know, I can say that I still believe in marriage. It sounds to me like you could be a marriage counselor on top of all the other things you can counsel on....