We talk a lot about the good times and bad times in marriage. Or, let me rephrase that… we should talk a lot about good times and bad times in marriage, though I often feel like our limited (and sh*tty) cultural discourse on the subject talks about weddings as the Happiest Moment Of All and marriage as The Inevitable Decline. But, in theory, if we talked as much as we should about the good and bad parts of marriage, we’d talk about them as if they were separate things. And if there is anything I’ve learned in life (or in this very long month on the road… I’m heading home as you read this), it’s that the wonderful and the hard are always very intermixed. I love that this post talks about the good times during the bad times and how living our vows is pretty wonderful, even when we’re struggling.
For the last year I’ve been struggling with being seriously ill, and I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to navigate being newly married (just over a year) in that context. It’s been hard, but after spending months feeling sorry for myself I want to write about why being married is awesome, even when life kind of sucks. At times being married has felt like an additional burden, on top of the illness, but it’s not. Being married to the love of my life is an anti-burden, even when it’s not easy.
I remember one time, before we were married, when we were in the middle of an eight hundred mile drive, it was incredibly hot out, the car didn’t have air conditioning, and we were stuck in stationary traffic. We hadn’t been together for very long, but I said to him that I’d rather be in that car with him than anywhere else with anyone else. And the same sentiment is true now.
One part of that is how well he takes care of me in a narrow sense pertaining to my illness; but that aspect is actually really complicated. I don’t want him to be my caretaker who happens to be my husband; I want him to be my partner. And partnerships include care-taking, but aren’t centered on it.
I’m unable to work right now, so I spend my days at home. But when he gets home from work, no matter how I’ve been feeling that day I know that I’ll spend some portion of that evening laughing, even when I can’t imagine that being possible. In our vows, we promised to “laugh together in the good times and struggle together through the bad.” But over the last year I’ve learned how important it is to make there be good times even during the “bad times,” even if they only last a few minutes, and that when laughing and struggling are not mutually exclusive the struggling becomes much easier.
It also turns out that having someone to take care of, even when (or maybe especially when) I need to be taken care of, is a great thing. I get so much satisfaction out of doing small things to help him, and even doing chores is more satisfying because it’s about making him happy. Yes, it feels impossible sometimes, and I have to pick and choose when and how I can actually help; but when I’m able to surprise him with a clean house, an empty laundry hamper, or anything else, I feel so much better about myself. And when he’s feeling unwell, I somehow manage to get the energy to take care of him, and it’s incredibly rewarding.
And most importantly, it gives me a future to look forward to and to work towards. I don’t know what the course of my illness will be, but I do know what the rest of my life will look like: years and years of partnership and companionship, of developing routines and tradition, and of fulfilling our marriage vows. And really, with that as a baseline, no matter how hard things are now and in the future, I actually have a pretty wonderful life.
Photo by: Julie Randall from the APW Flickr Pool