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Monday, June 4, 2012

The Long Haul


Shawna is a photographer, graphic designer, and Jill of all trades. She is happily married and enjoys spending time curling up on the couch with a good book and a steaming cup of cocoa. She also enjoys cleaning dead bugs from windowsills. You can find more of her at Ramblings of an Otherwise Coherent Mind.

Topic: “What are your thoughts on marriage? Being married, not being married, staying married, not staying married and how does this impact your life?

I believe that marriage can be a truly wonderful thing. Being committed as part of a team can make your load lighter, but it’s a something you definitely have to work at. What’s wonderful is that you come to discover that when you are in it with someone you love and care for that it’s a job you don’t mind in the least.

There is a comfort knowing that someone is waiting for you at home. Someone who will listen (even if its only with half an ear) to what new burden your co-worker became this week. To knowing that not only do you have a date for the rest of your life, but that this is someone who will notice when you are feeling down and who cares about you enough to find out why. Someone who will not only hold your hand when its sweet and romantic, but will also hold back your hair when you have the flu and find yourself tossing your cookies into the porcelain throne

While Disney would have you look at marriage with the rose-colored glasses of romance, many people fail to notice is that marriage isn’t all sunshine and heart shaped boxes of chocolate. There are days when you will not see eye-to-eye on things and days when you feel you are pulling that great big load all by your lonesome. Let me clue you in on a little secret you may not have heard before. Yeah, that’s right, lean in closer..


Love isn’t a 50/50 thing.

Shocking? Maybe to some, but I’d like to think the majority of us in it for the long haul stumble across this truth eventually. Some days he will love you more and vice versa. Balance in a marriage can be as bad as 80/20 one day and then 40/60 the next. The point with a functioning and happy marriage is that the balance doesn’t matter because no one is keeping score.

I used to think all people knew this, I mean, it seemed like common knowledge to me, but I learned firsthand how wrong I was.

Years and years ago (in my early twenties) I was too young, naïve and inexperienced to see the red flags a certain young man was throwing off. Ignoring the advice of family and friends I married the boy and was surprised that as soon as the “I-do’s” were over he threw out those rosy tinted shades of mine and became a bully who threatened and intimidated and demeaned without so much as a by-your-leave. And scorecards? This guy came pre-loaded with a ledger so far into the red with imagined slights that there was no hope of my swinging it back into balance all on my own.

I spent years trying to make everything better in that relationship until I wore myself out to the core. I literally could not take another step in the harness that I had allowed myself to be shackled into. All that time I kept thinking that any minute now he’d see how it really was supposed to be and he’d take the yoke on his side of the cart and we’d finally start pulling like a well-matched team. I eventually learned there was a reason why an ox and a horse were never paired together with good results (not that I am calling him an ox!) but you can imagine my relief when this individual announced that he was tired of “dealing with me” and moved onto what he imagined to be far greener pastures than those I maintained at home.

After that fiasco I put myself on the shelf for a while to get my bearings back. I was ashamed that I had let things get so bad and for so long, but I also found a new-found resilience within that let me know I would never allow myself to be someone’s doormat again.

Now you would think that with an experience as bad as the one I went through that I would be soured on love, but I wasn’t. I knew love could be so much more than that. I still believed in love, and hoped that if I was patient that it would eventually find its way to me. Please do not get me wrong. I am a firm believer in the “if its broken, mend it” mentality, but at some point you realize that if you are the only one willing to work on a less-than-desirable situation then the odds are never really going to be in your favor.

Now its round two and this time its different: we are both old and wise enough now to not only know what we want, but we are also able to see through the small flaws that every one of us has in order to see the silver lining that lies within. I am willing to overlook socks on the floor and he doesn’t get on me about hauling home yet more yard sale “finds” when my car trunk is still full from the previous week’s excursion. Who cares about the “proper” was to load a dishwasher… I am grateful to have someone who is willing to load it in the first place.

Love, however, is a compromise… another thing you may not have heard of. We all have things that get on our nerves, but we also need to remember that we ourselves aren’t perfect (otherwise we’d be translated already and our families would be standing around with no clean underwear and wondering where that gal who ran the washing machine went off to).

We all need to do a little give-and-take in our relationships. Sometimes its something small like watching a movie that they adore that may not be your particular cup of tea. Sometimes its backing off and allowing your spouse to have their own space for awhile. Love is knowing that even if we argue on something that we don’t have to worry if that person is going to come back home tonight. Its buying chicken livers even if they make you gag because he loves them. Its being willing to tweak that recipe you perfected years ago to allow for a pinch or two of tastes that they enjoy.

I am at the beginning of this crazy relationship…one that I plan to go on forever. We’re still in the “honeymoon” phase so to speak and are still learning things about one another, but then that’s a lifelong process anyway as no one stays completely the same anyway. For now I try to keep a list up of what foods the beloved likes, but I still occasionally get it wrong, as does he. Our world isn’t going to come careening to a halt just because I couldn’t remember if it was rye or pumpernickel bread he preferred, and I am not about to go into a fit if he buys pink flowers instead of the yellow variety that I adore. He eats his sandwiches and tells me he loves me anyway and I just enjoy the flowers and the love that went into picking them out for me.

We’ve had some bumps and ruts in the road, but we keep pulling onward, together.

They say most people are about as happy as they make their minds up to be and I believe it. We choose to focus on the good, and that’s made our life together thus far pretty happy, but what about what comes down the road in days and months and years to come?

Well, what you practice becomes habit. If we choose now to work through these things together, then I truly believe that will be the way we will continue to work through the long haul. I have found myself a pulling partner… one who is willing to pull his fair share of the load, whatever percentage that happens to be today.


Teachinfourth said...

Shawna, I'm glad you're happy and have had the chance to have a second chance.

Life is indeed, good.

Kara said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kara said...

Thanks for sharing Shawna, great insights and reminders in all kinds of relationships. Glad you've found someone you can work with and also have fun with forever!

Rachel said...

This is very well written and said. So very true.

I'm glad you are able to go forward in a second chance.

Loved this part! :D

"Love, however, is a compromise… another thing you may not have heard of. We all have things that get on our nerves, but we also need to remember that we ourselves aren’t perfect (otherwise we’d be translated already and our families would be standing around with no clean underwear and wondering where that gal who ran the washing machine went off to)."

Here's to your, "happily ever after".

♥Miya said...

I honestly don't think I can explain how happy I am that you got another chance at love. Managing to find that second half of yourself and experience a newfound wholeness is one of the most amazing feelings in the world.

Anonymous said...

I love that you opened up this "conversation" Shawna. You and your sibs have such a great way of communicating- esp. about things that really matter. Yes, marriage can be wonderful...I am learning that it's definitely an art and a science (Relationships remind me of how chemicals react with one another, they can make something wonderful, miraculous, or volatile and toxic). All kinds of outcomes. I love you and your family and wish you a big bouquet of happiness! XO

A Lark said...

Beautifully written - nice job. I hope I can say the same someday.... (:

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