At the risk of losing a lot of people with this opinion, I assure you that I mean well, speak from the heart, and definitely speak from experience.
As a 12-year (and counting) veteran of marriage, I am no stranger to the trials and the complexity that come with a traditional marriage. It’s kind of irrational to vow your life to another person until death. Don’t you agree?
I mean, does a person even know what that means, especially if making the vows in their 20s, as I did? In my 20s, I was only starting to figure out who I was. In my late 30s, there are still roles that I’m curious about exploring.
How can you promise yourself to someone else when you’re not even sure what it means to be you and what you want most out of life?
Marriage can be beautiful in tremendous ways. To share your almost everything with another being is also madness—conventional crazy talk.
To devote to marriage is a promise that, no matter what, you will stand together through what life may throw at you. That’s a lot of stuff to agree on while people are supposed to be changing, maturing, and growing. You hope for growth in the same direction, but sometimes, that is not the case.
My point is: marriage can be the greatest adventure of all time, but it is also difficult.
I don’t know about you, but I’m a different person than I was in January 2006 when my now husband and I went on our first date. My husband would argue that he has been relatively the same person all these years, but I assure you, he is not. I think he’s a better human today than he was this time last year, and most definitely different than he was in his green mid-20s. If every seven years humans are new people due to having shed completely new skin and replacing new cells in that time, then we have literally dated and married different people twice now.
Through our changes and as we discover who we are (like everybody is supposed to do), I’m a firm believer that we are all a work in progress. One doesn’t arrive at who they are and who they become. Maybe, yes, in a lot of ways. But I don’t believe there is a ta-da moment. Growth, progress, and discoveries are a continuum. As a health coach who works with people on making behavioral health changes, I work with a wise man of 89 years old who is settled in many ways but striving toward improvement. Change comes with life experience. It can be intentional, and sometimes, I believe change just kind of happens.
As life molds and shapes us, disagreements between life partners are natural. We are human. We are not the same two people viewing life through the same lens. And while it’s natural to put out there that my marriage has not been perfect, it’s certainly hard to say, type, and admit that my husband and I have lived through dark spaces in our marriage.
The “D” word has been thrown out in our household before. It is the absolute most difficult emotional space to be in. It is uncertain and draining. It is dark, lonely, and confusing. It is a God-awful place to live through, and I wish it on no one. And while we’ve been able to make it to the other side of that darkness, we are still married; it’s still sore as f*ck.
In the heart of that difficult time, I confided in my support circle. They, of course, showed love and concern for my well-being and that of my husband’s. But I also received words that were said with the best intentions but felt heavier to me than a massive boulder on my back. The words: “I am praying for your marriage. I am rooting for you both.”
These words are kind. They’re special. They let me know that they love us both. They want to see us happy. They want what’s best for us. But to me, these words also discredit my genuine feelings and concerns. To me, they mean: “I rather see you both together and married than happy.” They said to me, “Don’t share any more of your problems with me. They are too heavy for me to hear.” In the heat of my anger and frustration, I walked away feeling deserted.
They didn’t say they would pray for our marriage to cause burden, pressure, or bring me sadness. Of course not. But, to me, it felt that way. In their eyes, out of their mouth, to my ears and my brain.
Prayer warriors, don’t get worked up. I believe in prayer. Prayer has helped me through day-to-day gratitude practices, my marriage, and the deepest woes in my life. But when I pray in regard to relationships, whether it be for me or the people I love, I pray for love, clarity, and joy.
When I hear about friends’ separations, I feel sadness in my heart. I’m sure divorce and separation are not what either party envisioned, especially not the day they said their vows. But I won’t allow myself to sit in sadness for too long because I was never in their marriage. I’ve been a cheerleader on the side, but never in their game. I will never know all the details that led to the contemplation of separation or divorce.
Because I know marriage and because I know that considering ending one is a gut-wrenching emotional process, I decided that when I learn of a loved one’s experience in this area, my initial response will not be about me and what I believe their marriage should be.
I will validate that I am hearing their truth. I will express love and care and offer my sound compassion. I will offer my listening ear and suggest they see a professional, should it warrant that.
But I will not ever say that I will pray for their marriage. I will, however, pray for their happiness—both of their happiness. May that be in or outside of their marriage. I pray they are guided exactly where they need to be.