Let's Be Real About Marriage

by Danielle Barnsley
Originally Published: 
A married couple sitting and hugging on a bench, looking at the sea while wearing jackets and beanie...
TanteTati / Pixabay

This is pretty obvious: Marriage is hard.

I mean, “hard” isn’t even the most accurate word to describe it. It sounds so bland and so one-dimensional in comparison to how dynamic and intense it can be, good or bad. Maybe it’s harder personally because I didn’t witness a healthy marriage growing up. My parents were always fighting, with each other and with their children. Affection and romance were never seen. I consistently debated for much of my childhood about whether they did love each other or if they stayed together because their religion told them it wasn’t a good option.

Divorce is hard too.

I see marriage like an abstract painting — colors are thrown haphazardly, and yet not, all over the canvas, a plethora of shades and textures. The interpretation could be left to the imagination. It’s beautiful and it’s ugly. It’s stunning and it’s boring. Sometimes, it’s just there, in your face, hanging there, and you don’t have words for it.

Maybe it’s because of the comments I’ve gotten about being divorced that I’ve internalized the idea that no one wants to hear about a marriage that struggles. So I’ve faked my marriage, a lot, for everyone outside of it.

Let me post some selfies of us and wax poetic about how awesome our marriage is. Look at us staying together! Yay us! If you go back to when we had been together for seven years, you’d probably see a lot of this sort of thing. I needed everyone to think it was all good — despite that I was desperately afraid that we were finished.

That was some next-level bullshit I was presenting to the world.

We’re still here (Dude, 11 years. What?) somehow, even despite the fact that I wrote three months ago about our marriage failing. It was and has come close to the proverbial edge of destruction so many times. I didn’t post about the painstaking discussions that we had. I didn’t talk about how we both cheated on each other, one out of neglect, the other out of spite. I didn’t post about our inability to communicate or when we finally made progress with that. I didn’t post about the discussions we’ve had about polyamory. I didn’t post how those discussions opened us up to learning more about each other and ourselves. I didn’t post about the times we tripped over each in a rush to be meaner and angrier. I also didn’t post how we apologized for a lot of things, or that we admitted that we have both fucked up in various ways in this relationship. There is so much shame, whether it’s self-imposed or a societal standard, in admitting that relationships are not always pretty.

At least that’s what I’ve gathered from social media.

There’s also nothing wrong with being proud that your marriage and relationship is good. There is something wrong, however, when we begin to compare ourselves to the snapshots that people give us into their relationship and assume that, unlike our own relationship, they don’t have similar struggles. There is something wrong when we believe that marriages exist in the realm of those memes that shit on those of us who have divorced or “given up,” and the sappy ones about how great our spouses and marriages are — like there is no middle ground, no neutral territory.

I like middle ground.

That’s where my marriage is right now, existing primarily in some of that aforementioned middle ground where we have enough space for each of our eclectic needs and differences. It’s not working because we have some magical all-encompassing love for one another, or have found some bulletproof formula to making this work. It’s working because we’ve stopped clinging to the idea that marriage has to be perfect and exist as what others tell us it should. Every relationship seems to have its own set of rules and none of them are wrong. You do you.

But I think despite our differences, we can all honestly say marriage can be hard, right?

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