Monday, February 27, 2012

The Choice to Stay

For a long time I wasn't sure how to start this post.  Or if I should write this post.  Recently, one of my favorite blogs posted: The Mommyland Guide for a Marriage that Doesn't suck Gonads.  I read it and I even contributed a comment during their earlier post that was collecting advice.  Not because I am an expert, and certainly not because I have been married long but I had recieved some good advice once too and I wanted to share.

Blogging for me has been therapy.  I re-read my own posts all the time, its my equivalent of shouting it off the mountain tops.  Blogging helps me get it off my chest and express my true feelings so that I can deal with them.  I can't tell you how rewarding it is to feel supported by friends and family and I enjoy the advice and suggestions I have gotten from others who read what I wrote and say "been there, felt the same way".  It honestly makes me feel better to put my feelings out there and know that others can relate.  So, knowing that this is my own therapy and that I often share absolutely everything going on with me I have a big topic to cover today. 

Sometimes marriage sucks.
There are days when I would rather throat punch my husband than be married for one more day.
I have times when I am engulfed with regret and I am unhappy in my commitment to my husband.
There are moments when I just want to walk away, get out, and not come back.
Screw the consequences, I have thought of ending the relationship.

I have had a lot of these days lately.

I'm not going to go into the details of what has been going on with us, because honestly its not a simple thing.  There isn't even one clear problem to address.  I can pretty much sum it up by saying that when life changes or when people change it can be hard to accept those changes.  There are hard moments when people don't live up to your expectations, when life is different than I thought it would be, when it becomes really  hard to live every day with someone when I am mad, frustrated and very sleep deprived.   There are clear times when he is wrong, wrong, wrong and I feel right, right, right.  Feelings are hurt, score is kept, words that cannot be unsaid are spoken, and damage is done.  It can feel like I am banging my head against a wall and he just doesn't understand.  And more often than not, the messiness of relationships can make it feel easier to just end it all rather than try to untangle the emotions and decisions that got me to where I find myself today.

I have had more than a few friends who have walked away from marriages after only a year or two.  When I was first married this was such a perplexing thing to me - how could they do that?  They had barely given the relationship a chance and they were already divorcing?  I was shocked, and couldn't understand how something had gone bad so quickly.  Now, I get it.  There are times when it can be VERY HARD to keep loving, to keep working, and to keep choosing to stay together.  It wasn't so much that they had chosen to separate, it was that they had stop making the choice to work to stay together. When people told me a marriage takes work, what I now know that to mean: marriage takes work in order stay committed even when it's easier to go.

This post isn't about lining out all the reasons why I have struggled for the past few months.  If I wanted to, I could tell you all the ways my husband has been "wrong" lately.  I have a list of all his sins from the day we met that I could pull from, and believe me the list is long.  I could make a very compelling case for why it would be OK for me to leave.  But my transgressions are not absent from my relationship either.  Over a couple of beers I am sure my husband could point out a few of my flaws as well, maybe more than a few.  It's never completely one person's fault is it?  It's never black and white.  I am not the perfect wife, and my husband is not the perfect husband.  If we both started throwing stones, it would take a long time to be done with that petty war.

If I am completely honest I can acknowledge that I have not been very happy.  That statement alone was hard to admit.  This isn't about my hormones, or lack of sleep, or getting on medication to make me feel better.  This is about admitting there are things in my life that I struggle with.  There have been moments where the miles between me and my family seemed to have swallowed me up.  I have struggled with finding the energy to deal with my own frustrations and anger when all my enthusiasm is given to taking care of my new daughter.  I have found it easier to slip into anger and blame than to deal with the actual problems.  I have accused more than I have taken responsibility.  I have yelled more than I have prayed.  I have pointed the finger more than I have asked forgiveness.  I have not been blameless but I have been fast to point out errors.  I have asked for consideration for my own feelings but not understood his. 

I  can recall the day early in our relationship when we faced a fork in the road.  We had been dating for about 8 months, and I knew I loved him.  As I began my final year in graduate school it was time to begin my job search and choose my next step that would likely take me far from this small Oklahoma town.  Chet and I met for a date at the lake to grill dinner and I knew the conversation that would address our future was going to happen.  I thought for sure that when I laid it all out for him, he would walk away.  I told him in no uncertain terms that I was not willing to limit my job search and professional career just because we were dating.  It was time for us to move forward and get serious or to go our own ways. Though I expected a break up that day, Chet surprised me.  He told me he saw a future together.  He told me he was already serious.  A couple months later we were engaged and 3 weeks after I graduated we were married on a sunny beach in Jamaica.

That day at the lake I saw one path turn away from Chet and toward a limitless career and new direction and one path firmly planted in Oklahoma soil with Chet by my side.  I knew I had two options that meant two very different things and I made a choice.  I choose the path with Chet.  That decision meant I choose lots of other things too, things that are hard to accept some days.  Things like being far from family, accepting a very limited job pool and career path, and a permanent home in a state that will never completely feel like home.  I didn't think about the consequences of that decision, though they were not all bad, there were many dominoes that fell after making that choice to take the path with Chet.
The choice to be with Chet also meant I would feel moments of enormous homesickness, for which the only cure I have found is detailed early planning for future trips home (yes, this is why I am always talking about my next trip to PA or vacation plans).
The choice to be with Chet meant I could start the family I had always dreamed of but it also meant my family would only get to see my daughter a couple times a year.
The choice to be with Chet meant I lived the life of a police officer's wife of worry and sacrifice.
The choice to be with Chet meant he could always make me laugh but also cut me down with his jokes.
The choice to be with Chet meant we lived on salaries in low paying careers.

Some of those choices were harder to live with than others, and some days I was resentful of the things I gave up and have to live with every day just because of one decision I had made.   Worst of all, some days that choice felt like a mistake because I felt entitled to a different situation, a better paycheck and a more understanding and loving husband. 

In our lowest low, the conversation that finally got to the bottom of it all, I oddly found myself calm.  We were facing another fork in the road.  One path lead away from my marriage, that freed my feet from red dirt soil and opened new job prospects and zip codes.  The other path meant I was going to need to fight to keep my family together and reconfirm my commitment to stay and work through a hard, unhappy time in my life.  I won't lie and say it was an easy choice.  It can be very appealing to think that it would be easier to walk away, start fresh with things I thought I really wanted in my life.  Its easy to think that I would find happiness in a different situation and justify quitting the relationship was OK if it meant I would be happy elsewhere.  It was much harder to face the problems we both were offering and chose to live up to the vows we made.  Hadn't I promised to stay in sickness and health, in good times and bad and in joy or sorrow?  Perhaps, for the second time, my relationship surprised me.  We both choose to stay, to try and help each other better understand and to find ways to heal and be better spouses.

One of the bits of advice a reader provided to the Rants from Mommyland post about marriage advice was a story her grandmother told her.  She said in 50 years of marriage she had been happy for 45 years.  That meant there were weeks or months, even one stretch of 2 years, that she was unhappy with her husband.  But she stayed in the relationship despite that unhappy time and it led to much more happiness, a lifetime of happiness in fact.  When you think of it like that, aren't short times of unhappiness worth 10x as much happiness? Doesn't enduring a time of challenge help you find a path to happiness?  Relationships grow stronger when they survive hardship, they become better when they overcome problems. 

This past week has been rewarding.  I found myself laughing and playing with my husband and really enjoying the time together.  Last week when we had a minor tiff, we both handled it differently and I was so thankful for the change.  To expect the problems to simply disappear would have been stupid, to expect them to disappear without making changes would be even more stupid.  Did you know the definition of insanity is repeating the same action over and over again, expecting a new outcome?  So, if I want something to change and get better, part of that change needed to come from me.  Even better when as a husband and wife, it can come from us both.  We are not fixed, I still struggle but I am coming to terms that leaving is just not an option.  That my happiness comes from within myself, not by finding the perfect relationship or situation.  I falter, I fall but I keep my promise. 

I wish as a society, more people would try this approach.  I believe that in most circumstances, divorce is not the right option and people say "We wanted different things" or "We didn't make each other happy" in order to justify decisions that defy what God wants in marriage.  I could have said both of those things in the past six months and it would have been true but it wouldn't have made leaving the right thing to do.  I could make plenty of excuses to chose divorce but I'm not because I want to be a better wife even if it means times of unhappiness or problems.  I want to be a more Godly person so I can role model sacrifice and dedication to my daughter.  I want to build a stronger marriage and a deeper love by working through a time when leaving was a very real option and staying meant a lot of work.  I certainly didn't stay because it was the easy choice, but it was the choice I can be proud of.  In a society where divorce is so common people don't blink an eye, I want to be different.  I want to be honest about this time of trial but also to lean on my decision to stay committed to my husband and follow the Lord.  I made a choice that will continue the fall of dominoes in my life in the future; some I will like, and some that I will not.

An article my pastor shared with me this week was a great read on this topic : Should I divorce if I am miserable? 


  1. Your honesty is so refreshing. Your choice to honor your commitment and "do the work" is even more refreshing. I hope your story helps many others and I pray that you and your marriage be covered with Grace in the process.

    I was impacted by my aunt who said after 30+ years of marriage..."man its just getting good. the joy of these dividends makes the years of deposits worth it.“ I remembered calling her my crabby aunt when I was younger but in that moment she was beaming. Her and my uncle are still happily married but that testimony pops in my head when life gets tough.

  2. PS it's much harder than I thought to raise a child so far away from family!