No my marriage isn’t in trouble. I’m guessing that was what most people immediately thought when they read the title of this post, but that’s not where I’m going with this. The truth is, my marriage is rock-solid.
My husband and I have known each other for twenty years. We have been together for five years, and married for almost four. No relationship in my life has ever been this comfortable. Until we started dating, I believed that relationships required work. He believed the same thing. Together, we don’t believe that any longer.
Not all relationships require work.
I’m not saying that it’s true for everyone, but it’s definitely true for us. We both have a history of toxic relationships, both with family and with romantic partners. Until we got together, our romantic relationships were basically textbook examples of what dysfunctional relationships look like. I confidently speak for both of us when I say that we both fought tooth and nail to hang on to relationships that never should have been fought for.
So what made THIS relationship different?
I’m not entirely sure. What I do know is that we both came into this relationship pretty broken. We were both tired of the fighting, ugliness, and pain that previous relationships had brought into our lives. Don’t misunderstand me. We were both guilty, previously, of actively participating in the drama in those relationships. We weren’t innocent bystanders as someone else brought chaos into our lives. However, we had both reached a point of refusing to continue in that type of behavior.
When we started dating, we talked, A LOT. We were open about our pasts, and because we had known each other so long, there wasn’t much opportunity to keep things hidden. We both accept responsibility for our own faults, and we know what we will and will not tolerate from one another. All of this was discussed early on in our relationship, and it was a natural part of learning about one another. There was never a “let’s talk about this” moment. It just happened.
Five years later, I am still amazed that nothing about our relationship feels like work. We have faced many obstacles together, but none of them caused us to feel a need to actively “work” on us as a couple. We’ve gone through things that would be a strain on a lot of relationships, and while they were stressful, they didn’t change how we interacted with each other in any way.
We’ve dealt with other people trying to interfere in our relationship. We’ve been through job losses, money struggles, and at one point, homelessness. We’ve dealt with my illnesses, and being separated because of his job for months at a time. We have always been able to see these problems as things that are separate from who we are together. The problems don’t define our relationship. The problems don’t change our relationship. Together we solve the problems.
I’ve read so many times that it’s healthy to argue in a relationship. I’m not sure I agree with that. My husband and I disagree about a number of things:
He loves slapstick comedies. I can’t stand them. If he wants to watch one, I find something else to do. We don’t argue about it.
I wanted a dog. He’s allergic to dogs. I got a dog. He takes allergy medication. My dog is now officially my emotional support animal and he loves her as much as I do. We didn’t argue about it.
He loves mushrooms. I can’t stand them. I cook food with mushrooms in it then pick them out. We don’t argue about it.
These may seem like trivial things, but they are the kind of small things that in previous relationships would have turned into full-blown shouting matches that ended in silence for several days. Neither of us is willing to fight over the small things. Somehow, that helps us to not fight over the big things. When something major comes along, like our move from Alabama to Ohio this year, we discuss it when it happens. We weigh out the pros and cons, listen to each other’s concerns, and come to a decision that we both agree on.
You may be thinking that this sounds like “working” on our relationship, but we look at it more as simply how it should be. Labeling it as “work” makes it sound as if there is something inherently difficult about it. The truth is, it feels as natural as breathing for us.
As a writer, I will compare it to a book. My husband and I are writing the story of our lives. We are doing it together. We stay in the same chapter, on the same page. We don’t know when or how our story will end, but we are filling it with respect, laughter, support, and love. It wouldn’t be a best-seller — not nearly enough conflict — but it might just make someone believe in happily ever after’s again.