How Going through Hard Times Teaches You What You’re Made Of

One part endurance, one part grace, and one part time

A good friend of mine, half of one of my favorite married couples, thinks that people who get married after only dating for a short time are at a disadvantage because, as she puts it, “they haven’t been through the shit together yet.” When I first heard my friend say this, Julie and I had been dating for about a year, Julie was still in grad school, and we were getting ready to move in together. I remember looking at our future with excitement and almost relishing the opportunity to get through some shit together.

I got my wish almost immediately.

We moved in together in May, and shortly after that Julie got the news that her father was diagnosed with inoperable throat cancer. The whole situation was obviously awful from the get go, but it didn’t make it any easier that we were across the country from her family. This meant she had to get all the information through other family members who gave her information filtered by their own emotional reactions to it, leaving us to have to google and sift and draw our own conclusions based on what they could provide. I felt helpless and removed.

I respond to challenges by getting in there and fixing something, so obviously I went looking for something to fix. I couldn’t help cook and keep vigils during chemo and doctors appointments, so I settled for giving Julie endless suggestions for ways to… fix… cancer? I suppose unsurprisingly, Julie did not find this soothing. 

I kept thinking back to what our friend had said. I assumed that her advice had alluded to fact that hard stuff would happen, and we would lean on each other and learn how to support one another, and become better communicators, and fall in love all over again and again because the strife would drive home the point that we were on a team, together. Instead, it seemed like hardship was pushing us further and further apart. 

More months went by, and Julie’s dad went into remission. We started spending time together because we liked each other again, and not just because everything sucked and we couldn’t imagine foisting ourselves on anyone else. Date nights were reinstated. But sometimes in the middle of the night I’d lay awake and worry that we hadn’t learned anything at all. That more shit would come someday and we’d learned absolutely zero about handling it together.

It was the cat that made me consider the possibility that I had misinterpreted my friend’s point of view. My cat, Mustache, and Julie had mostly ignored each other when we had separate places. When we moved in together though, he would bite her for no reason so she was constantly on edge. Julie felt (understandably) that she should feel protected in her own home. She didn’t think she could live with the cat. I felt very strongly that pets were family, and they trusted me (us) to take care of them always once we’d taken them home. It felt like an impasse we couldn’t surmount. Julie thought that the cat needed a new home, or maybe that she did, and I finally conceded with a heart full of angst. No one answered the adoption pleas I sent out over social media, so the cat stayed, and the tension built. And then, it didn’t, but so gradually, we didn’t notice. And one day, months after we’d moved, Julie looked up at me, while the cat snoozed contentedly in her lap, and said, “Remember when we almost broke up because of him?” and we both laughed. It seemed so long ago, and such a ludicrous thing to lose each other for.

Now when I think of what my friend said about marriage, I think about the cat. We’ll go through hard times again. We’ll communicate badly, and one of us will feel shut out, and one of us will feel helpless, or we’ll both feel unappreciated, because we’re human and, god willing, life is long. We’ll get better at handling some of it, and some of it we won’t. But we’ll have an example of something we endured. Something we struggled with and felt deeply about, but didn’t make us walk away from each other. We’ll know from experience that when things aren’t going well, we can outlast until they are.  And while Mustache is the one that made me see that, it’s something we’d been doing all along. It’s a hard lesson for a fixer, but sometimes doing nothing and trusting that we’ll make it through is the best action we can take.

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  • Sparkles

    This very true piece reminds me of this thing Ira Glass said on the “Valentine’s Day” episode of “This American Life”. And I think it speaks to a relationship that could work out even if people haven’t been through the hard stuff before they get married.

    “I think, actually, one of the things that’s a comfort in marriage is that there isn’t a door at seven years. And so if something is messed up in the short-term, there’s a comfort of knowing, well, we made this commitment. And so we’re just going to work this out. And even if tonight we’re not getting along or there’s something between us that doesn’t feel right, you have the comfort of knowing, we’ve got time. We’re going to figure this out. And that makes it so much easier. Because you do go through times when you hate each other’s guts. You know what I mean? And the no escape clause, weirdly, is a bigger comfort to being married than I ever would have thought before I got married.”

    • Katherine

      To me, this is one of the major benefits of marriage vs. just dating/living together. Not that I disapprove of people living together before marriage. Just that it’s a good thing that, when you’re married, you can’t just leave when things get hard.

      • Amy March

        Yes. And one thing I mull over a lot is that you really can’t test drive a marriage because you don’t know what shit is coming. All you can do is ask yourselves if it’s worth it to you to work through it, and if you have enough skill at communication, compassion, and respect to make it work. If you know at 6 months you do- awesome.

      • Not that living together is the same as being married, BUT it’s a lot harder to leave when you share a space (and rent) with someone. When I moved in with my boyfriend, I sold my bed and couch, so if I moved out, I’d need to buy a bunch of new stuff just to have something to sleep on that wasn’t the floor. Not that that’s as big a (legal) deal as actually getting a divorce, but it does make you stop and think.

      • Meg Keene

        Well you CAN leave. Part of the real power of marriage is tag every day is a choice to stay (even when you don’t much feel like it). But you can’t JUST leave, because you made your barrier to exit higher (legally and ethically). And some days it’s nice to know that higher barrier is there ;)

  • J

    I totally agree that people who marry quickly haven’t been through enough. I’ve been with my fiancé for 3 years, we have had 6 jobs, 18 months of unemployment, 2 close family deaths in that time between us, he is my rock and I am his, we have had amazingly poignant moments in the midst of all of it. Life hasn’t been continutally hard. However, at the moment, life is good and we are getting married! Life is full of joy, despite pain. No better to person to go through it with that the person who you trust and know loves you regardless.

    • Meg Keene

      I never really can get behind that logic… Even though we’d been together 5 years when we got hitched. My parents married before they’d dated a year, and this year will be their (happy) 40th anniversary. And they’ve been through more shit now then all of us I. This thread combined, I betcha. Time can be good, but time happens regardless.

      • ART

        Good way of looking at it, and from another angle – my fiance and I each were with the wrong person for a long time (5 yrs, 8 yrs) before we met. We’d each been through some really hard stuff both with those people and alone. When we started dating, there was this really strong feeling for me that this was the person I wanted to be *so f-ing happy* with, and between the two of us, having dealt with family illness, injury, depression, long term unemployment, and seriously mismatched partners in our pasts, we could get through a lot – perhaps anything – in pursuit of that happiness. We got engaged a year after meeting and are getting married in two months. I am ready to go through hard times with this man, though I hope they leave us alone for a good long time :)

        • Meg Keene

          That, I think, is good solid experience speaking ;)

          But yeah, that’s what I mean. I’m hardly suggesting rushing into things. But time alone just doesn’t mean much. We can spend lots of time with people who are terrible for us. At least by the time we have enough experience to know what we really need, you don’t always need a ton of time and a ton of shit.

          I guess what I’m saying is going through shit isn’t a way to PROVE anything. It’s just… awful. And the goal is to survive it. Which is what I liked so much about this essay and working on it with Kelsey. We think you learn something fancy going through awful stuff, and often what you learn is you just have to keep moving.

      • Kendra D

        Thank you for this response.

        I met and married my husband in a nine month time frame. It took another few years before we had to go through shit, but we were glued together and we came out the other side. Had you asked me before the shit, I would have told you that I knew we could weather anything.

        And even in the middle, when I was deep in depression from our recent move and my jobless state and he was struggling to want to come home because of how sad I was, we clung to each other in silent tears. When the first kid in his squadron died in a freak accident and he had to call the father to talk about sending belongings home, I held his hand as tightly as I could. When the second died not even a month later followed by his grandfather a week after that and a dear friend of mine in another freak accident just a couple of weeks later, we held each other at night, asked why, and mourned the silent response.

        No, we hadn’t gone through that prior to marriage. No, we hadn’t gone through anything close to like it ever before in our lives. And I pray to whatever might be out there in the universe that we never experience a two month period again. Just because we can weather the shit, doesn’t mean I want to keep wading in it.

        Which, I guess is all to say that you never know when the shit will come. You never know how you will react to it. What you can do is cling to the person you love as if your life depended on it. Because whether you go through it early on, somewhere in the middle, or never at all doesn’t rate your relationship as somehow worthy of special recognition.

      • KEA1

        And frankly, even time and survival of the relationship through shit don’t mean that the relationship is solid (says the lady who ended a 5-year relationship that wasn’t healthy, even though we’d both supported each other through a lot of shit in those years). Healthy relationships provide the resources to survive the shit. Mere survival of the shit isn’t enough to provide the same resources to make an unhealthy relationship healthy.

        • ART

          yup. *fist bump*

      • Kelsey

        Yup. We knew we were in it for the long haul really early on. Which was really scary for me/us because it was “ahhhh! Where is this certainty coming from? I don’t even know you! We haven’t been tested yet! This is unproven!!” And then we got the chance to prove it and it was more like, well, damn. There was nothing to DO, we just had to wait through it. Big exactlys to “No better person to go through it with…” and “Time happens regardless…”

  • Margi

    THIS. Going through the hard stuff teaches you so much about each other and your functioning as a team. I started dating my boyfriend when his dad was seriously ill. 9 months into our relationship, he passed away. This was an awful, gut wrenching experience for us. We didn’t get through it gracefully, but I thought if we could get through this, we could make it through anything. Unfortunately, our relationship of 6 years ended a few months ago due in part to his admitted inability to deal with my depression. As hard as it’s been, I am thankful to have figured this out now rather than 25 years later.

  • Kristen Gormley

    I so needed to read this, this morning. Thank you.

  • OhShit

    There’s definitely something to be said for time together in terms of giving you experience. But on the other hand, what if you go years without any shit? My last relationship lasted almost three and a half years, and there was very little shit to be had. All that happened the year before we started dating (parents’ messy divorce, Mom’s attempted suicide, ostracized by friends). We had our tiffs, but it was really just normal life rather than any “tough stuff” on the scale that we’re talking here.

    I suppose my point is this: time is a good thing, but the really tough stuff – death, illness, unemployment – is generally out of our control. There might be people out there who have dated an acceptably long time (which is subjective) without going through anything truly tough, and I think that’s…okay. Really, I think I’m just looking for reassurance that getting married before Bad Stuff happens isn’t impulsive or unwise or that you should sit around til you get through something crushingly difficult.

    This, of course, all depends on how you define shit…

    • Kestrel

      Exactly. My fiance and I have been together for 5.5 years. But honestly, it feels like shit hasn’t really happened. Sure, we’ve been long distance for 3 of those years, I went through a bought of suicidal depression due to a bad reaction with a birth control, we both graduated undergrad, and now I’m dropping out of grad school and we’re currently navigating the two body problem (two people in high-ish powered, location dependent careers) but now that doesn’t feel like much shit at all in retrospect.

      Sure, it sucked majorly to be depressed and making the decision to leave grad school wasn’t easy, but it didn’t really put a strain on our relationship.

      No one close to us has died, we’ve not had money problems, no one’s been really sick (I say this even with my experiences with depression as it seems like nothing similar to things like cancer – which my brother went through 7 years ago) all of our parents are happily married, hell, we’ve never even had a real fight.

      In some ways, I’m hopeful that this means it’s a good foundation for us. In other ways, I’m terrified that when real shit hits the fan, we’re just going to crumble.

    • Sarah

      My fiance and I had this discussion about waiting until we go through some “tough shit” before we got engaged. I was of the mind that going through some tough shit wasn’t super important before we decide to get married simply because it is stuff that you can’t really control, and why are we waiting for something awful to happen before we make this commitment to each other? His stance was that we should go through at least one hard thing, just to make sure we could stick it out.

      At some point, he kind of came to share my view, but we also realized that we HAD been through some tough stuff, just…that it didn’t seem super tough because none of it threatened our relationship. He lost two different jobs in a three month period, and we went through him being unemployed for the better part of the first half of last year. I’ve been having some health issues, which landed me in the hospital at one point, and renders me unable to take care of stuff around the house sometimes, AND some anxiety/mental health issues. But all of this feels external to our relationship, weirdly. It doesn’t touch it. It’s just kind of like, we get through this stuff together, and that’s it. Our relationship feels separate from these hardships. I’m not sure how to explain it.

      So no, I don’t think its crazy to get married before you go through some tough shit because of precisely what you said, you can’t control it and it seems kind of silly to be like “well I just don’t think I can commit to you until something indefinably horrible happens.”

      • Amy March

        This. My guy said the other day “man, you’ve had a rough year!” And I was like “um, what? Met you. Best year ever.” And then he pointed out that in the less than a year we’ve been dating, my parents have had multiple major health issues. But to me that’s just life, and we got through it, and mainly I remember the love.

        • Sarah

          Same! The year we met was one of the best years of my life, but it was also the year that my chronic health issues began, and he got laid off at the end of that year and we were living together at that point so we were also dealing with some money issues.

          Actually, I knew he was the right person for me when he left work to take me to the hospital after being together for four or five months. He hung out with me all day at the hospital trying to make me laugh, and calm me down. I know all of these things happened, and I still don’t think we’ve been through hard shit because none of it has been a danger to our relationship.

      • sara g

        This! My fiance and I were together about a year and a half before getting engaged, and we’ve been through a fair amount of things (including 5 months of long distance, problems getting a job, moving, and minor health problems), and I feel like while they were hard, I never had the feeling they were going to hurt our relationship. Right now, even, we’re both going through hell at our respective jobs, and I’m dealing with some un-fun medical issues, but at the end of each day we always just know that we’re here for each other, and we’re in this together.

    • Cathi

      I’m not 100% sure I can reassure you, but I can raise my hand to say “my relationship has been blessedly shit-less too”, and I’d say my husband and I are doing just fine–6 years of dating and 2 years of marriage in.

      I do think that message is in Kelsey’s post–the struggle that she learned and grew from was about a cat. The really hard shit (deaths, illness, etc…) is, indeed, unpredictable and so are our responses to it if you’ve never been through it before. I have no idea how I’d act if one of my in-laws died; maybe really poorly. I’ve never known someone going through fresh grief. But I do know how I act when my husband has a frustrating day at work, or (like right this very moment) he’s panicking about his oral comprehensive exams for his Master’s (2 hours left! ah!). I know how he treats me when I have A Moment and get crabby and mean about a random thing, or how he responds when I’m driving and we’re lost and late.

      I do think it’s important to see each other in bad lights as well as the happy shiny ones, and tying the knot after three days of knowing each other in a whirlwind, blissed-out romance is a pretty sure way to do your marriage as a Trial By Fire, but never having gone through really, really hard stuff doesn’t disqualify you from being a “real” or “strong” partnership. It just means you have longer to prepare, and to practice treating each other with kindness.

      • OhSh!

        That was really well-said and helped me put a few things in perspective. I especially loved the last paragraph about not being disqualified. We know enough to where I could make an educated guess that YES, this is still the right person for me, and hard stuff is coming and it will be a first when it does. It pales in comparison to a family death, but like you said – maybe it’s the cat that teaches us a lesson in the end.

        These responses have been really good; I’m very thankful for this community.

      • Kelly

        I needed this today. My fiance and I fell asleep last night discussing how my life (not his) has been so incredibly easy thus far that I feel both guilty and scared for when shit arrives in the future. It isn’t exactly the same as these posts, but they helped none the less.

    • jashshea

      We decided to get married after dating for ~5 years and THEN the bad shit started. Then it was like a g-d deluge: both of my remaining grandparents & a cousin died, his brother died suddenly, my mom got cancer 2x). We’re…learning a lot & stumbling a lot.

      You can’t pick when bad stuff happens. Know that at some point it will (though I really hope it never does!). Pick a person who you like enough in the good times to see through the bad times, come what may.

      • Meg Keene


    • Meg Keene

      Oh dear god. Don’t hope for awful stuff. It will come. Just pick so done you like enough you’ll stick with… Even days you really hate them. Because those days come too… Often right with the shit.

  • BB

    I also needed to read this today. My husband and I have been together for nearly 9 years and had many trials over that time, but over this last year we have had to deal with chronic illness (him) and it has been really difficult to find equilibrium again. We will though.

  • Bets

    I love this. What a beautifully crafted piece of writing, Hayley – the premise of what your friend told you, the shit you and Julie went through, and the cat that brings about the realization. I’ve lived with a cat like that, a cranky one that has to habituate to newcomers, and it’s such a victory when they do come around.

  • Casey

    Thank you for this! My husband and I have been married less than a year and are dealing with serious family illness (his mom) and it has made me realize we’d never been through “the shit” or at least this serious of shit before. On the one hand, I feel totally helpless because there’s only so much I can do to comfort him. But on the other hand, I know our marriage is growing stronger because of this, and it’s taught us to value each day together because you just never know what will happen.

  • Alison O

    Yeah part of me wants to say at my wedding, “for better or for worse….but hopefully better” because man, there’s been some SH*T these past few years (and there is guaranteed for the next 2.5 due to legal issues). I do think going through something BIG can be a helpful proving ground, but everybody experiences stress and even just figuring out if you deal with the everyday stress really effectively can help you know whether a relationship might weather bigger storms.

  • Morgan

    Thanks for this. My boyfriend of over 2.5 years is in grad school now. We moved in together last fall and have definitely been through some shit already, but the place we’re (I’m) in now feels more permanent. He works more than full-time as a science grad student and also took on two other jobs. He’s the fixer in the relationship, but he doesn’t want to fix his schedule so we can have more time together. He’s thinking of job opportunities when he graduates in about a year and of providing for us and I just want more time together. Part of the problem is that we’re stuck here while he’s in school, but most of my friends from college have moved on. I’ve also put my “career” (or lack thereof because I’m not sure what to do with my life after deciding not to go to law school in this market) on hold in the sense that our city is not good for much more than sleazy sales jobs, finance, and the healthcare industry. It feels right now like I’ve given up a lot and have only gotten to this lonely phase in return, even though that’s not a fair characterization. I’m hoping we’ll find a happy medium soon and both feel fulfilled in the next stage of our lives. I don’t want to be so dependent on him for company and support, but as long as we’re stuck here for his career, it will be hard to fix.

    • chamamama

      I am in a very similar situation, have been for 2-3 years now. My partner took a well-paying job 3 years ago, but has to spend lots of time in the middle of nowhere, and I have been following him to these places for a couple of years. We have made the decision to relocate soon, and he will have to travel for work (which means more time apart), but I will be near friends and be able to focus on my career, and I can finally start nesting (my favorite pastime!) The loneliness of putting your life on hold for the relationship can be almost unbearable, I feel you sister!

  • MisterEHolmes

    Regarding the cat melodrama: My cat didn’t like my fiance when we started dating: he’d gone from my #1 companion to suddenly facing this new interloper, and he didn’t like it. In fact, one of my SO’s favorite stories is the one time my cat tried to kill him with a shard of glass…
    But I feel strongly that a pet can’t just be gotten rid of when inconvenient, so we had to fix it. We initiated a “He’s Awesome” campaign — maybe others will find it helpful.
    Every time my SO came over, the cat got treats. I kept a pouch in a drawer on the way in, and SO would come in, greet the cat, hand him some treats.

    It took a little while–and a good amount of treats–but they’re friends now, and though he doesn’t get treats anymore, the cat is always miffed if my SO doesn’t greet him IMMEDIATELY when he comes in. So it is possible to improve that.

    • Chop

      My dog used to bite my SO when he touched me. She’s a terrier (and the love of my life) so she’s protective of her family, which at that time was me. It took a good year before she no longer thought he was a threat. Now she adores him and is offended when he doesn’t let her jump up and kiss him when he walks in the door.
      She’s my family. I would never get rid of her because of SO conflicts. These things take time.

      • Ally

        My dog would do the submissive pee thing on my husband for the first 6 mo. – year we were together. His pants and shoes were peed on a few times but flash forward 4 years and he (the pup) snuggles on dad’s pillow as soon as he gets out of bed, and wiggles so hard when he gets home, and craves his approval all the time. They’re definitely family now.

  • lady brett

    “We started spending time together because we liked each other again, and not just because everything sucked and we couldn’t imagine foisting ourselves on anyone else.” oh, goodness, yes.

  • Violet

    Oh, I love this piece. Getting married is always an act of
    faith in yourself and your partner. People can definitely do some due
    diligence first (examples: living together before marriage, going
    through tough times, counseling, being together many years, etc). But as
    we say here, ducks are wily. You certainly can’t set up each and every
    conceivable hoop for you and your partner to get through as a test to
    decide whether or not you are “qualified” to get married. You take the
    hoops that do come (a cat, in this case!) and work with those. Then hold
    hands and jump!

  • Moe

    There were two telling moments with my then boyfriend that showed me he was in it for the long haul.
    He was there for me when my mom had to be transitioned into assisted living. Moving back home for two years trying to take care of mom pushed me to a really dark ugly place personally and with my siblings. He saw me and my family at our very worst and never once backed away.

    Then when my little dog got sick he went to pick her up and take her to the vet before the office closed so that I could meet him there after work. There was nothing wrong with her, she was actually just responding to all the stress in the home. A friend sent me a message shortly after that and said “that man took your dog to the vet for you? Marry him!” which is exactly what I did.
    It wasn’t really the romantic moments that made me fall in love with as much as enduring the really shitty stuff of life. It’s the dark moments that bring a balance to life. You can’t really appreciate the highlights and ‘mountaintop’ experiences until you’ve been through some valleys together.

  • Laura

    Oh, Kelsey – this is beautiful. Thank you. I think it’s very cool that you have a furry symbol of something you endured.

    I was convinced we had to go through something HARD before we got engaged, to see if our ways of handling big life-changing tragedies were compatible. (This was a weird hang up, I know.)

    Well. I discovered my dad’s affair(s) a month after my fiancee moved to town and we transitioned from a long-distance relationship to living in the same town. It was harrrrrrd. She didn’t know how to help and I didn’t know what help I needed. Over time, I learned that I didn’t want a partner who solved the problem, I wanted a partner who sticks by my side when I’m hurt and cynical and distrustful until I make it through my shit.

    This line totally resonated for me: “sometimes doing nothing and trusting that we’ll make it through is the best action we can take.”

  • Daniella

    I love this! So often I want to see “lesson” right away after a fight or a tough-time. But like Mustache’s presence, sometimes the “lesson” doesn’t come until much later, when it is so clear you really don’t even have to look for it.

  • Jacky Speck

    “It’s a hard lesson for a fixer, but sometimes doing nothing and trusting
    that we’ll make it through is the best action we can take.” It’s a hard lesson = YES x a million. 4.5 years into my relationship, I’m still pretty bad at recognizing when it’s necessary to just hang in there because there just ISN’T anything to fix. But fortunately I have learned that no matter how bad stuff gets, we’ll eventually get through it. As awful as they seem in the moment, those examples of getting through “the shit” do at least help enforce that “this too shall pass.”

  • Sharon M.

    Since we’ve only been together romantically 6 of the 20 years we’ve known each other, my husband has been with me through a lot of shit, including breakups (3 for me, 1 for him), poor health, and deaths in the family. Strangely enough it’s the little stuff, like replacing the empty roll of TP, that cause more tension between us than any of the big difficult things.

  • Michelle

    I very much appreciate this post about going through it, but as many others have already stated (nor do I think the author is implying), time does not equal having gone through shit. My relationship with my fiance started in trial by fire, the end of each of our previous long term relationships (11 years of monogamous relationship between us) and LOTS of feelings. All the feelings. Too many feelings. We spent a good deal of our first six months having difficult, emotionally intense, and sometimes all around painful conversations about the merging of our lives, while also experiencing the crazy intensity of a wild-on-fire kind of love.

    We made it through, the sun shining all the brighter on the other side, with a deeply open, healthy way to resolve emotional difficulty and laid a solid foundation to resolve and support each other through big, messy, life problems as a team. One thing I love about the themes of many posts on this blog is one of “even if it’s shitty, we’re better slogging through this shit together than we are apart.”

  • Kirstin

    “We’ll get better at handling some of it, and some of it we won’t. But we’ll have an example of something we endured. Something we struggled with and felt deeply about, but didn’t make us walk away from each other.”

    This was an awesome post! Thanks so much for this.

    I think the big stuff matters. AND the small stuff does too. I have found that for us it is sometimes small stuff that makes us struggle and question even more than the big stuff. Because it’s not usually about the issue, it’s more about how we communicate and express our emotions, and how we handle ourselves during a conflict/crisis, and what that says about our identity.

    We have gone through some larger issues (unemployment, family issues, health stuff, etc.), and yet the conflict that we both remember the most was a fight over the dishes. I think I learned the most about how we communicate because of that thing we do every day (or don’t, which was part of the issue). It was the first thing we discussed in our premarital counseling as an example of something we needed to work on. I think that after some of the bigger stuff we had gone through, we thought “we’ve got this.” And it was the fight over the dishes that really did shake us to our core and lead us to think “Nope, we still have to work at this. But we are both here trying.”

  • Julie

    Kelsey, I pick YOU to go through the shit with. :) Yet another beautiful post.

  • Anon

    I don’t think waiting to go through bad times before you qualify for marriage is a good philosophy. But for myself, I think part of the reason we dated two years ( before getting engaged and we didn’t move in together until even later) is my concern about how we would be at supporting each other though difficulties.

    I think this is because of a previous relationship of mine. I broke up from a serious boyfriend because of what I learned about him during tough times, after we had already been through tougher times together. The thing is, that all was fine when the disasters were primarily his ( his mother dying for one major example). He was focused on his problems ( understandable in the case of this example). I was the supporter and it worked, but then when I was going thrugh difficulties, we fell apart. Our ways of seeking support and supporting each other just didnt work. So on one hand, the earlier tough times of his just distracted me from recognizing that we weren’t a good match, but the later, less tough tough times clarified the mismatch.

    Btw, the man I ended up marrying has a support seeking / giving style very different from my own, but it works for us. We went through completing our grad degrees (very stressful) and seeking jobs, longish-distance for 10 months, working while in grad school, not being able to find work, sickness of a temporary and non-serious but debilitating nature, financial stress, and family weirdness. I’m sure more tough times are ahead. And good times too. Tht is life, and doing it together is what marriage means to us.

  • ElisabethJoanne

    I remember saying our vows (“for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in
    sickness and in health”) and thinking, “We’ll be fine. We’ve already been through all that.” We’d been through long-term unemployment, chronic illness, yelling, walking out, bad times at work, even a death in the family. And then we got married, and new health issues came up, and I started seeing (and paying) the bills for the old chronic illness, and generally there were a lot of days that seemed all worse, poorer, and sickness and no better, richer, or health. And I didn’t think we could make it, and I actually said, “If this is what the next two years* are going to be like, it’s not worth it to me to tough it out.”

    *A doctor had said one medical issue would take 2 years to resolve.

    We’ve been married 18 months now, and I realize now that I was naive about both the bad and the good of marriage. All sorts of things have gone wrong that I just didn’t know were possible to go wrong, but there have also been all sorts of small indescribable better moments that now make it worth it to me to tough it out.

  • Hayley

    I love this Kelsey!! Especially this: “We’ll know from experience that when things aren’t going well, we can outlast until they are.” Because sometimes it feels like “outlasting” is the name of the game in relationships, really. (I also love this: “I respond to challenges by getting in there and fixing something,
    so obviously I went looking for something to fix” because that is
    how I respond, as well :) I hope Julie’s dad is doing well!)

    • Kelsey

      Hayley, I am so happy to hear of your fellow ‘fixer’ identification. I think this calls for virtual drinks sometime :) Jules’ dad is doing great! Thanks for the well wishes.

  • Brianna K

    I’ve been with my fiance for over 3 years, now. We’ve definitely been through some shit. But never, ever, since we first started dating has breaking up even been considered as an option. All of the shit that happened (me getting kicked out of my house, him being kicked out of HIS, his dad and brother moving into our one bedroom apartment with us, family deaths, etc.) and we never once considered breaking up. There were a few times when I barely wanted to interact with him but as there was never any anger I had that was directed towards HIM specifically, I guess breaking up never seemed like it would solve anything?

    Being with him is usually wonderful and our life is full of lots of love and affection and companionship, but even when there’s too much stress for us to experience the love as fully as we usually do, it seems to me that if we ended things because LIFE got hard it wouldn’t solve our problems. All it would do is leave us without each other when things finally got better.

  • Miyax

    Oh! Kelsey, the same thing happened to me, my roommate (and best friend for years before), and my cat … the cat was a little monster to her, and it caused some serious ish that culminated in text fights, passive aggressiveness, and me sobbing while I eventually agreed to find him a new home. But then … I just never did, and they slowly bonded. The cat and I moved out a month ago and when she came to visit us said, “I never thought I’d say this … but I miss Ole.” Cats are funny.