In 3 days (August 5), Jeremy and I celebrate our 10th anniversary. So in light of that, I was going to draft a marriage blog anyway. But I had a conversation with one of Jeremy's aunts the other day about marriage, and it hit me hard. (In a good way.) Her words have been ringing in my mind non-stop since, so I thought it only appropriate that I pass them on and add my own thoughts to her wisdom.
First a little background...
Jeremy's dad has been battling cancer for the past few years, and has been going downhill more progressively over the past few months. He has become a lot more weak and has been having more trouble with walking and things like that because he is so weak. There are a number of other side effects too, but for the sake of family privacy, I am not going to elaborate much more. Jeremy's aunt - the one I mentioned above - has taken on the role of caregiver when Jeremy's mom has to work. She drives 5 hours each way, and stays at their house during the week, so that she can be there to support and help care for my father-in-law.
Jeremy's aunt and I were chatting in the kitchen the other day and I mentioned how concerned I am not only for my father-in-law, obviously, but for my mother-in-law. I just can't imagine the emotional, mental, and physical toll it has got to be taking on her. My mother-in-law is one of the toughest cookies I know, but I know it has to be unbearable at times watching the one you love in pain, having trouble doing the simplest things for themself anymore. Jeremy's aunt said this (it may not be verbatum, but its close):
You know the part in your wedding vows where it says "or worse?" This is the "or worse." When you are young, standing up there at the altar, you have absolutely no idea what "or worse" even means. You are just gliding by on those feelings that it will always be "for better." But this is what marriage is about right here. Look at her [my mother-in-law] and you can learn something valuable. There comes a time in marriage when you don't want to do it anymore. Its hard, it hurts, its no longer fun, and your spouse is no longer that attractive person you stood next to at the altar. There is nothing fun about the "or worse," but you made a vow. And there will come a time when you have had enough and will want to give up, but that's not what its about. If you can't accept the "or worse" as part of the package, then you have no business getting married in the first place. Too many people give up when it gets hard, but you have to recognize, marriage is for life. Its for the long haul. You made a vow, you made a promise, and you need to keep your word. And this is what keeping your word is all about.
Powerful words. And you know, even 10 years in to our marriage, I still don't think the reality of "or worse" has fully sunk in. Jeremy and I have been through a LOT in 10 years, but I still don't think we've ever gotten to severe enough of a level of "or worse" yet for either of us to really grasp it.
Its ironic... I was thinking about our past anniversaries, and 3 of our actual anniversaries have been great examples of "or worse."
On our 3rd anniversary, we had to cancel our dinner reservations to rush to the women's center for a check-up because I was bleeding. Two days later, I miscarried. That was one of the toughest times. We were devastated. We cried, prayed, and got through it, but it was heartbreaking.
Another year is what I like to refer to as "the pot roast anniversary." I wanted to go out and do something to celebrate our anniversary, but we were so broke that all we had was a frozen roast. So instead of going out, having a break, and enjoying a nice date, we ate pot roast with our kids. In hindsight, I guess its not that big of a deal, but it made us sad that we were stuck at home with pot roast on our anniversary.
Another year, we had the biggest fight of our marriage (about what I now can't even remember) on our anniversary. We were up almost the entire night yelling at eachother.
Through that reflection, I realized that we've been through some hard days and gotten through it. We got through the loss of a baby. We got through (albeit temporarily) financial difficulties. And we got through a day of wanting to throttle eachother. I think its safe to say that life throws some pretty unexpected curveballs. And Jeremy's aunt is completely right. Standing at that altar I had no idea we would ever lose a baby, or feel so financially pinched, or have days when we couldn't stand eachother. (And that's just scratching the surface!) I can only speak for myself, but honestly, I did say my vows completely unaware of the full weight of the words coming out of my mouth. But as I get older, and the more challenges we face, the more I think it is beginning to click.
I may whine and complain about my husband's little habits that drive me bonkers, but when I look at the bigger picture, it comes into focus. I am married to a pretty great guy. He works harder than anyone I have ever known. He listens to me. He keeps me grounded (and anyone who knows me well, knows that's a feat in itself). He is trustworthy. He keeps our family afloat, even when it seems like there is nowhere to go but down.
So yeah, marriage is about the "for betters." We need to enjoy those days, those joyous occasions when all is right with our world. But we cannot ignorantly believe there will never be "or worses." So the million dollar question is, will we have the stick-to-it-ness to continue in a marriage that is no longer fun or easy? Are we willing to stand by our word, our promise, our vow, and see it through to the very end? All I can say is, I am pretty sure it will be worth it.