Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Work and Magic of Marriage

I woke up and wasn't feeling all that great this morning. Luckily I was able to take it easy today, however, it's a very weird feeling when children become so independent that they truly don't seem to need you anymore. My three children are old enough to go an entire day or more without requiring me or my husband. I find myself thinking, "I could make dinner but I don't HAVE to". So as I took time to rest on the couch, I got thinking of a certain conversation from a few months back.

Over the holidays, when my parents came to spend Christmas with us, Dad and I got talking. He reflected upon how in life, we fall in love and we go from "one" to "two" and get married. (Or maybe he said we go from "two" to "one" when we get married? Either way, I understood what he meant). He said how we then start a family, and then there's "three" or "four", or in the case of my parents, a total of "seven" after the birth of my parents' five children.

He continued. He said how each child grows up and moves away, as each should, to build his or her own marriage and family. Soon the number multiplies with son and daughter-in-laws and grandchildren, but the number also dwindles when you think of who then lives at home. As lovely as it is to have a family grow, soon it's just the couple again. I, of course, thought of how he and my Mom were reaching the milestone of having been married to one another for 60 years. SIXTY YEARS!

Dad's point was the importance of keeping a marriage strong. I agree. I know how important it is for my husband and I to be good parents; it is what we work our hardest to achieve, but our marriage, the friendship between us, cannot be neglected in the process of raising our children. Sometimes, times get tough. The stress of work, money, the necessities of home, or children can frazzle us. It's easy to feel defeated at times or to become exhausted by life's numerous responsibilities. That's when insecurity sets in or arguments arise. The pressure of what needs to get done or the frustration over life's hardships can be trying. Life constantly can throw new challenges at a marriage. And when one's health or employment changes, that's a huge hurdle.

Now, I know that not every marriage can last. I would never pretend to profess that I know what is right for couples who have had to face divorce. I have a lot of respect for couples who raise their families responsibly, even when a marriage must dissolve. But I also applaud couples who work hard to not lose sight of the importance of building upon the friendship and the love within their marriages. It takes strict vigilance, I believe, to keep a marriage strong. And that vigilance must be there for each person in the marriage. There has to exist a level of dedication, of reflection, or selflessness. Even if you find that special someone, you can't stop working when you want a marriage to stay fresh and fun. Marriage, in my experience anyway, is not easy. There are times, many times, when being married makes life easier perhaps, but the give and take of a marriage requires full attention. And of course, it helps immensely to maintain perspective. Whether through a sense of humor, through one's faith, or with the help of others, having a solid foundation in a marriage gives stability for those unavoidable storms that blow in unexpectedly over the years. Of course, it makes a huge difference if your spouse feels the same way about the work of a marriage. It always "takes two".

In November, Eric and I will celebrate our 23rd wedding anniversary. I've been thinking of our life together a lot recently. We married young. We've both worked so very hard to keep our family happy and healthy. We have given so much of ourselves to the roles of Mom and Dad. But even though we do get stressed at times, each of us has remained dedicated to being each other's best friend, partner, love. Sure, he can really tick me off at times and I know I do the same for him, but we still make one another laugh. We still have each other's backs. And beyond our obvious friendship, there's an intense passion between us that has been there for 28 years, since our early days of dating. Call it magic, call it a spark. Call it whatever you want, but it's always been there.

So, I know that I can afford to take a day when I am not feeling well, and relax. I know that my children will not starve as I nap and I also know that although my children DO need me still, there will come a day when they will each be completely independent and building families of their own. Eric and I, in the meantime, will continue to sacrifice to provide for our family, and that will perhaps sometimes shake us, but we will still work hard to give our children the best gift we could ever give them: parents who show them what it truly takes to be married to the love of your life. Parents who genuinely like spending time together. Parents who honestly can't get enough of one another.

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