This is a guest post from friend & writer Wendy Bradford.
We watch Dateline religiously. The spousal murders are our favorite stories. We sit next to each other on the sofa, giving sideways glances. “Can I get you something special to drink?” I ask my husband and add a dramatic sinister laugh. He looks at me when the sheriff talks about the “perfect murder.” We have terrible and dark senses of humor, the both of us. We watch these gruesome stories on Friday nights, usually on the DVR as my husband works late, and we remark how obvious it is, how terrible it is, and we feel thankful it will never be our story.
We are grateful for many things beyond not poisoning each other. Ours is a fortunate life of routine. But we also have the kind of marriage people might wonder about—we argue publicly; privately, we fight dirty and to the bone; we don’t follow rules. We curse at each other and fight in front of the kids. If you saw and heard us screaming at each other, you might post on Facebook you witnessed a terrible marriage today. I would argue you witnessed a terrible moment in a very strong and forgiving marriage.
There is no posturing in my marriage—we don’t pretend to be anything better or worse than we are, and occasionally that is a knife to our center. I’ve watched couples who seem happier and more in love than we at weddings or parties and thought “Why aren’t we like that?” That has started more than one epic fight, at more than one wedding or party.
But this is a lesson I learn over and over. We don’t know other people’s stories. We only know our own. When we have gone to therapy together (we have tried a few times), we hear at the first session, despite our back-and-forth complaining, “You two are obviously in love and want to be together.” Because we are. And we do. Our problems are profound and ancient to our relationship at this point, but we never stop trying to make them better. Our fear and resentment and exhaustion are overwhelming at times. We had three children in nineteen months; we’ve been tired and angry since 2007. More than all that though, devotion underlies our marriage and family. It crackles in the static of our lives.
My husband is the hardest working person I know; he is loyal and generous of spirit and kindness and humor beyond reasonable expectation. He is capable of making very bad decisions, but he can end a bitter argument with a fart noise.
I would never try to give marriage advice. But I can say to other couples who are struggling to communicate that it doesn’t mean you have a bad marriage. Marriage is a dynamic and tricky creature. We do almost of it wrong, and we have scars from the brutal lessons with which we’ve met—but ours is a 16-year relationship with seemingly endless laughing and frequent disturbing conversations about gravity and the origin of the cosmos. There is no one other than my husband I want to attempt this with—this is our greatest, grittiest, and most divine adventure, this attempt at marriage without a net.
Thank you, Wendy!
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