The Love Your Spouse Challenge: Let's Get Some Reality Up In Here

by Melissa Bowers
Originally Published: 
Melissa Bowers

My marriage is not as perfect as yours.

Seven years and two kids later, Facebook has absolutely convinced me of this. Written declarations of true love are forever cascading down my feed: You are my soul mate, baby boo-boo sugar lips. My one true love. I would never want to spend this life with anyone else by my side. Our marriage gets better and better and better AND BETTER every single day. Love you. Love you SO MUCH. You are THE BEST. Smooches.

Sometimes I wistfully click like on these statuses. Sometimes I cock my head and think, Hold up. Didn’t she just tell people she’s secretly researching divorce lawyers? And sometimes I cringe a little because, yikes, there are several days when I’m not sure I could shout such things from the rooftop — and many when my husband might not shout such things about me.

Is it just us? It can’t just be us, can it? We can’t be the only ones hitting all these rough patches, letting stressful situations get in the way of healthy conversation, sometimes going to bed angry even though the marriage rules say we shouldn’t. Maybe there are others like us, but Facebook says, nope, it’s definitely just you.

The other day, a friend of mine summarized something she’d heard somewhere, and I love it so hard:

“You know 100% of your own life,” she said. “But on social media, you only share the best 5% of it: your baby’s first steps, your trip to the Bahamas, your graduation day. That’s all anyone else sees. It’s fascinating to keep up with those things, for sure. But it’s also why Facebook can be so discouraging. We compare 100% of our own life to the best 5% of everyone else’s.”

So when #LoveYourSpouse started trending, I watched curiously — and then awaited the inevitable nomination with a tiny undercurrent of dread. Look at all the shiny happy people! Look at all the meticulously staged wedding photos! Everyone’s life was perfect. Everyone’s relationship was spotless. Everyone’s marriage consisted only of bliss and miracles and ecstasy and joyous, shimmering unicorn tears, and just that day I’d fought with my husband over something so ridiculous I couldn’t even remember how it started.

Let history show that I’m not completely opposed to chain mail-y things (though I admittedly feel pretty uncomfortable passing them on). I donated to the ALS Association during the Ice Bucket Challenge. I accepted the Motherhood Challenge on Mother’s Day and posted something that made me feel proud to be a mom. When my daughter got one of those Sticker Club letters in the mail, we shrugged and gave it a shot.

But you guys, let’s keep it real for a minute. These chain letter challenges are spiraling out of control, and I don’t think I can partake in this one — not the way I’m supposed to, at least. We have the airbrushed wedding pictures and the beaming, sparkly selfies, but I’d have to post something beyond our best 5% because that’s not really how our union looks a lot of the time. On Facebook, maybe, but not in real life.

If you want to see seven days of posed photos that resemble the truth, they’re gonna look something like this:

Day 1 of the Love Your Spouse Challenge

Melissa Bowers

So…we fight about things sometimes. Maybe lots of times, depending on the day. This one might be about money, or disciplining the kids, or something I said 27 years ago, or dirty socks. You never know, but for the love of god, can we please stop talking about whatever it is?! Today I nominate any couple who has disagreed with each other this month to participate in the Love Your Spouse Challenge.

Day 2 of the Love Your Spouse Challenge

Melissa Bowers

We are lost (again) and therefore late (again), which is absolutely my fault as I have zero sense of direction even while utilizing Google Maps. Also, the rule when driving is that one child must always be on the verge of sleep (pictured) and the other child must always be screaming loudly enough to keep the other one awake (not pictured). Today I nominate any couple who decides to take a drive anywhere just so they can get out of the damn house.

Day 3 of the Love Your Spouse Challenge

Melissa Bowers

I mean, can a sister get a little space for some vino? Nah? Wait, maybe I can wedge something in the slot between those IPAs. Today I nominate anyone whose spouse throws the thumbs-up sign every single time they take a selfie.

Day 4 of the Love Your Spouse Challenge

Melissa Bowers

It’s 3 a.m. and sounds of a hysterical baby screech through the monitor. You can only pretend to be asleep for so long — time to play “Whose Turn Is It?” roulette. No, but really, whose turn is it? Today I nominate everyone who’s ever prayed their spouse would please sprout some milk ducts so that someone else might be able to contribute to the nighttime feedings.

Day 5 of the Love Your Spouse Challenge

Melissa Bowers

Don’t worry — my husband is in the picture. That’s him on the phone, just calling to let me know he’s stuck in the torment that is California traffic and that he will be home at never o’clock. Today I nominate everyone who understands the phrase “occasional single-married parent.”

Day 6 of the Love Your Spouse Challenge

Melissa Bowers

The baby is about to hurl himself down the stairs, and one of us must stop him from dying. The pasta is boiling over, and one of us must defend the family against second-degree burns. We are but ships that pass in the night. Today I nominate any couple who can attempt a high five as you blur past each other en route to your respective superhero roles.

Day 7 of the Love Your Spouse Challenge

Melissa Bowers

The kids are finally in bed, and now it is sexy time. You know what’s sexy? Rest. It is the seventh day: Get some rest. Today I nominate any couple who has ever taken “Netflix and Chill” literally.

The #LoveYourSpouse challenge asks participants to “celebrate love and promote marriage,” and that is such a worthwhile message; anytime anyone wants to champion love instead of hate, I’m on board. I’m so with you. I post the shiny and the pretty too.

But this time, I wanted to try it with a dose of truth: Marriage is not just a glittery fairy tale. Marriage is hard. Marriage takes work. Marriage is a choice you make every day, not just one sun-soaked, euphoric wedding day. It is a whole host of other clichés that are only overused because they are so, so accurate.

For us, anyway. Maybe it’s just us.

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