I think it’s safe to say I have a happy marriage. We are 13 years in, and things are still really good. We love each other, respect each other, and like each other. But even happy, solid marriages aren’t immune to the occasional rough patch, and we have definitely experienced our fair share.
Here’s the thing: Even when our marriage stops taking precedence and heavy things threaten to overwhelm us, we know we don’t want to give up. Even when we make a temporary mess by deprioritizing one another for a while, we know that we want to be in this forever. We are two good people who have chosen one another, and there is so much love here. Even the hardest day of our roughest patch doesn’t change that.
We have hurt each other deeply. Both of us have made choices that the other found infuriating. Sometimes a rough patch was our very own fault.
But more often than not, it’s just… life. Some of the most stressful events arise completely unexpected. We have experienced illness, injury, miscarriage, job loss, death in the family, the loss of a friend and even, for me, changes in how I viewed the desirability of my own body. All of these things upset the balance of our daily life.
It’s not that we choose to disengage from one another when things get hard, but life can just be…a lot. Sometimes it’s all you can do to keep your family above water, physically, financially, or emotionally. Nurturing your marriage has a way of falling down the priority list for a while. It doesn’t mean you’ll never recover, but it can be hard to find your way back. It’s okay if it takes a while to find the answers.
For us, a rough patch doesn’t come with screaming and fighting. It starts out subtle. I find that my husband’s quirks begin to annoy me even though I’ve been used to them for my entire adult life. I notice that he greets the kids before he kisses me hello after work. We don’t necessarily stop having sex, but it gets repetitive, more like a habit than passion. We bicker about small things and we fall asleep with our back to one another. It can feel more like we are partners in child-raising and co-workers in our home than passionate lovers who prefer one another above everyone else.
Rough patches are hard. The worst. If you ignore them, it can start to feel like instead of a rough patch, you have a rough life. It can be hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but that might just be because there won’t be any light until you choose to flip the switch.
A rough patch is called a patch because it’s small. Temporary. You can make it through. It won’t always be easy, but you’ll find your way back to each other.
If you both decide it’s worth it, it’s going to take time. You might not be able to talk one another out of the funk. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. We have spoken to counselors and clergy people when we needed assistance righting our ship. It’s helpful for us when we have hurt or angered one another to seek out an impartial voice. Sometimes, it’s easier for me to see my own shortcomings when a gentle third party helps me recognize them than it is when my husband points them out.
We keep our marriage private as much as we can, but we give each other our blessing to seek support from trusted friends, too. Lifelong friends who know both of us and respect our marriage can provide a lot of comfort and helpful insight.
Sometimes it’s really nobody’s fault when life gets tough. When neither of us has anything to apologize for, it just takes a little creativity to come back together. Sometimes for us, just saying it out loud can put us on more solid ground. Once you both acknowledge that you’ve felt a little disconnected, you can start to work on making one another feel loved, desired, and needed. We are lucky to live in a time when communication is just a text message away. It only takes 30 seconds to remind your spouse how much they mean to you, and when you’re trying to work your way back from a rough patch, those 30 seconds can really count.
When I say my marriage is solid and happy, I don’t mean it’s always been easy. I just mean that we have learned how to remain calm when we find ourselves in a rough patch. They are fewer than they used to be, and we recover faster because we have learned to address our problems early and often. We thrive because we have had practice.
It’s also important to note that we both know we love each other, and neither of us has committed any kind of deal-breaking relationship sin. If either of us was abusive, continually unfaithful, or making dangerous and irresponsible decisions that could affect our family, everything would be different.
Not every marriage is salvageable. Some marriages need to end. That’s just how it is. Some marriages are unsafe, toxic, and abusive. In those cases, ending your marriage is completely necessary. Even two good people might not be good partners for one another in the end. Sometimes decent, loving people need to break up. If your marriage is at that point for any reason, you don’t have to minimize your dysfunction by chalking it up to a rough patch. You deserve to be respected and loved, and only you know if your marriage is worth saving.
I just want you to know that if your usually happy marriage has hit a little snag, a little TLC can probably right your course. All is not lost. There’s still hope if your hearts are in it.
Bottom line: Love ain’t easy, y’all. But if you’re willing to work hard to love each other on purpose while you rebuild, I think you can make it.