In the nearly 20 years that we’ve been a couple, my husband has made me angrier than anyone else. Ever. He has made me cry until there were no tears left. He has frustrated me, hurt my feelings, acted unfairly.
But he has also held me up during heartbreak and tragedy. He has been my biggest, most enthusiastic supporter, believing in me when I doubted myself. Made me laugh until I was on the verge of peeing myself. Helped me create my family, the unit that we both love more than life itself. He is a piece of me that I wouldn’t be whole without. Through the years we’ve grown together, like saplings that fuse and intertwine until you can’t tell what branches belong to which tree.
That’s marriage, and sometimes it looks a whole lot like something you’d never opt to be a part of. But other times — most times — it’s a collection of poignant moments, little bits and pieces of light that shine so brightly that they’re able to sustain you through the stretches of darkness because those times are inevitable.
There will be days, weeks, even months at a stretch when you’re bored, dissatisfied, downright unhappy, when you wonder where your fairy tale went. But it never looks as pretty as the movies suggest. Life happens, and sometimes it stresses us out, and sometimes we take it out on the people closest to us: our partners. But we don’t do that because we don’t love them.
We do that because we’re close enough to show them our ugliest sides, the meltdowns and moodiness, close enough to feel secure in the knowledge that even the worst versions of ourselves won’t drive them away.
Every couple argues. Every couple. Even (maybe especially?) the ones you see on social media who are sickeningly cute with their lovey-dovey photos and gushing public declarations of how they’re married to their best friend. Even the couples who truly are best friends, who deeply appreciate each other and realize how good they have it.
Sometimes it’s over grievous errors in judgment, hurtful choices that jeopardize the stability of the whole relationship. But when there’s nothing more pressing to fight about, we still argue over mundane things, like whose turn it is to pick up the kids from soccer, and why nobody replaced the empty toilet paper roll. Arguments, big and small, happen; it’s just the nature of living so closely with someone, and dealing with them so intimately on a daily basis, and having two varying opinions on how aspects of a shared life should be managed. How could that possibly go smoothly all the time?
If you were at your job, and your boss or co-workers were genuinely abusive — hurling insults, physically assaulting you, forcing you to do things far outside of your job description — you’d know it was time to seek out a better profession, and it’s the same with marriage. There are definitely legitimate reasons to walk away.
But even if you love your job most of the time, and you find it fulfilling, there are going to be days when it wears on you. You’re going to have times when you absolutely dread walking in the door, but you don’t quit, because you know it’s just a bad day, not a bad job. It’s not always going to be this way, and in fact most of the time, it makes you a better person — just not today.
Marriage is beautiful in its occasional ugliness because those are the parts that strengthen. They’re the things you can both look back on and take pride in your tenacity. You’re together because you’ve hung in there and nurtured it when it was on the brink of failure. You could have let it collapse, but you gritted your teeth and hung on because you both know that when the storm is over — and it will pass, just like all storms do — you’ll be stronger for having weathered it.
Because you’ve got something worth keeping.