A little over 11 years ago, my husband and I stood together in a room full of our family and friends – and a few random, obscure cousins no one had ever mentioned until it was time to mail out wedding invitations – and promised to love each other in good times and in bad. I meant those words when I said them that day, but the truth is I didn’t really understand their true implication. We were just kids who fell in love and thought the security marriage offered seemed like a pretty solid way to go. But we also respected the institution and wouldn’t have bothered getting hitched if we weren’t planning on staying together. And even though we were young enough to stay out drinking all night, then go to work the next day without feeling even remotely hungover, my husband and I believed then that marriage was a lifelong commitment and that divorce wasn’t really an option.
I know now how naive I was when I repeated my vows that day. Because I distinctly remember looking at our pastor and thinking, “How bad could times get?” Oh, if only I could go back and tell that dewy-skinned bride she would come to know very bad times. I’d tap my dapper new hubby’s shoulder and gently whisper in his ear how our fairly naive sense of what fidelity meant would be more than tested. But the wiser, more-hardened-by-life me would also want that beaming, wide-eyed couple to know they’d get through the toughest of times, grow to appreciate their dedication to each other, and respect the sanctity of marriage more than they ever thought possible.
That may sound all glossy and pretty, but know that the word “divorce” has been uttered in our home many times. I whimpered it from the floor of our foyer, where I lay, deeply depressed, after losing a baby late in pregnancy. “How can we stay together when our lives have fallen so spectacularly to pieces?” I wondered, my grief so raw and out in the open, while his was hidden behind a strong exterior as he carried on with his life as if nothing had happened. The word “divorce” was paraded about again during the many months we spent apart due to career obligations. I figured, why keep trying so damn hard to keep our marriage alive if the universe was so intent on forcing us to be apart? There have been other tough times; we were eaten alive by the bad housing market, and we’ve fought bitterly over in-laws, finances, and, ironically, how we fight so differently from each other. We’ve been dug down deep in the trenches of raising four kids, working opposite schedules, and subsisting on no sleep, leftovers, and hope things would get just a tad easier.
Here’s the beauty of surviving really awful, brutal, miserable, sometimes heartbreaking bad times: you realize that if you were going to split up, you would have done it already.
But here’s the beauty of surviving really awful, brutal, miserable, sometimes heartbreaking bad times: you realize that if you were going to split up, you would have done it already. That if you managed to weather all that sh*t – and you’ve said the worst things to each other, you’ve thrown the “d” word out, you’ve cried and driven away, flown away, slept on the sofa, at a hotel, literally been sure you hated the other person for even being born – well, from there, you can exhale. And accept that the two of you are in this – really, truly, 100 percent in it. That there’s no splitting up; there’s only sticking together through it all. At this point, what we’ve built is so strong, the bad times don’t have a chance to topple our foundation. I’ll stop short at saying we laugh in the face of bad times, but you get my point.
It’s hard to imagine that something else could happen in the future for us to even consider ending our marriage. Of course, before any of that other stuff happened, it was hard to imagine, too. Unfortunately, you just never know where life will take you, but that’s something you’re promising to deal with together when you say “I do.” So, I’m sure in another decade, I’ll be reflecting on the challenges my husband and I have faced. As I contemplate the many highs and lows we will have undoubtedly experienced, I can only hope he is right there by my side. And that we are as devoted to this union then as we are today. And that we have even more reverence for the vows we spoke to each other on our wedding day, all those years ago.