A version of this article first appeared on www.thebrokeassbride.com.
"No one knows the truth of anyone's marriage, not even their own."
- Nora Ephron
Zane and I have been married for almost 11 years, which is about 41 years in L.A. time, I think. That being said, I'm still more comfortable as a wedding expert than as a marriage expert! Nora was right -- no one knows the entire truth about any marriage, but I can tell you a few things that I've learned.
Marriage is a process that never really ends. You are constantly trying to find the balance between dealing with whatever is happening in your lives right now, and dealing with each other while it is happening. If you think that there is rescue and safety and escape from all harm at the end of that aisle, you are mistaken. You cannot even imagine what the two of you will go through, together or separately. For one thing, there is no "separately." Whatever happens to you affects your spouse -- your victories and defeats will be theirs, their victories and defeats will be yours.
Zane and I have grown up together, basically. We got married when we were 30 years old. We lived in an apartment, I had a 9-5 job, and he had his own business. In the past 10.5 years, both of us have been hospitalized, have seen family members hospitalized, gotten through two miscarriages. Moved three times, and now we live in a house in the suburbs. I started my wedding planning business, too, which hasn't always been easy. We've supported friends who've lost parents, and watched other friends die. We've had to have each other's backs through a whole bunch of crap. But, I know that it would have been much worse if either of us had been alone, or had to go through it with anyone else. There have been bending points in our marriage, that occasionally looked like they were going to break it. And, if our life together had only been filled with stress and pressure, we probably wouldn't have made it this far.
I wish I could make every engaged couple sit and watch the movie This Is 40. it's really one of the most realistic portrayals of married life that I've ever seen, which is probably why a lot of people don't like it! I've heard complaints that the couple in that movie, Debbie and Pete, have a horrible marriage. They fight, they have all these issues that they hide from each other, Debbie screams, Pete lies. There are problems at work for both of them, problems with their kids, problems with their relationship. They are not even close to perfect, and they know it, and everyone around them gets it, too. But, Debbie and Peter also laugh and have a lot of fun together, too. And when the rubber hits the road, they are a solid and united front. Hard Work. Fun. Teamwork. That's pretty much what marriage is, and what it has to be.
But, I was talking with a friend whose husband recently died of cancer, and she wondered how many people would go through with getting married, if they really understood that all the stuff that they vow to do is actually going to happen. And it will. Sometimes life is better, but from time to time, it will be the worst. You'll enjoy being richer, and suffer the consequences of being poorer. You will have to hold their hand when they're sick, as well as when they're healthy. And, most heart-breakingly, "Till Death Do Us Part," means that one of you will eventually die, and leave the other one behind. Everything that you're swearing to do is going to happen, sometimes in the most devastating ways. Marriage is THE commitment.
And, yeah, some people don't make it. Things get too hard, and you can't figure out how to turn it around. Things get really bad, and you don't want to turn it around. There is no standard reason why people break up, and as Nora (married three times herself) said, no one knows, or can even understand the truth of another marriage. It's not for me, or anyone else, to judge.
If it's so much trouble, so much strum and drang, why do we do it in the first place? And, why and how do we stay married? When I ask myself that question, why am I married to Zane, the only thing I can come with is, "I don't know why I wouldn't be." Which, I guess, is the right answer? Being married to him is at the top of my bucket list, the #1 thing I want to do during the rest of my life. I love Zane, and even more, I like him. And, I know that he loves and likes me.
But, really, The most important thing that I've learned -- that I know -- is that you have to acknowledge that, although there are many times you drive each other nuts (yes, you drive your spouse nuts too, it's not a one-way street), there are also many ways that you make each other happy. Zane's still the guy who always calls before he picks up dinner for himself to ask if I want anything; I'm still the girl who always gets up from my desk to kiss him goodbye before he leaves in the morning. He's still the guy who knows that nothing delights me more than gift cards to Starbucks and Barnes and Noble on my birthday; I'm still the girl who brings him a piece of cake from each of my weddings. We're still the couple that get grumpy if Date Night (every Friday) can't happen. We're still the couple that insist that Date Night gets rescheduled for earlier in the week. You can't just recognize what you're giving to your partner, you need to appreciate everything you're getting back from them, too. And, truthfully, it took me a little while longer to understand that than it should have. Do yourself a favor, and get that faster than I did.