Friday, April 4, 2014

Marriage Doesn't Have to Be Hard

By Brittany Makely
Guest Contributor

Everyone who is engaged or married has heard the warning – Be prepared. Marriage is hard. Maybe that’s true, but can someone please tell me what stage of life or life-altering decision does not include a challenge? It seems like too many people (intentionally or not) paint a picture of marriage as a toilsome, yet worthwhile, endeavor. Let’s be honest, being single is often at least as toilsome as being married. Staying in school and graduating takes roughly 18 years of focused, often-hard work. Succeeding in the professional world requires dedicated effort.

I’m not necessarily saying that marriage is or should be easy. What I am saying is that I think the seemingly inevitable “Oh, marriage takes a lot of hard work” from all the aunts at your bridal shower, coupled with those knowing nods and glances sends the wrong message. On some level, the fact that our society continues to proliferate this line about marriage contributes to a cheapening of the permanence of the institution. Part of what got us to a point in our nation where no-fault divorces are as common and accepted as corner coffeeshops is the mindset that says, “Well, it’s really hard, so you really can’t fault them for trying and failing.” WHAT?! No parent tells their 5th grader that because fractions are hard, they can just quit taking math. The roundtable response when a niece announces a promotion at work during Thanksgiving dinner is not “Wow, that is going to be a lot of hard work.” It seems like marriage has become one of the only “difficult” things in life that we as a society have decided to let use that difficulty as a partial excuse for quitting.

The impression I get from observing various (real and tv/movie) marriages from an outside third-party perspective is that much of the “hardship” of marriage is a result of mismanaged expectations and priorities. Granted, my husband and I have only been married for 4 ½ years, but we have been together for over a decade at this point, and I confirmed with him last night, that our marriage has not been difficult in the way we were warned it would be.

We have made it a point to stress to those younger than us (and will do the same for our children) that we do not by any means recommend as long of a dating or engagement period as we had because of the many near occasions for sin. Still, for us, dating for so long when we were in no position to actually consider moving onto marriage yet provided opportunities to lay the foundation and build a framework for a marriage that I would not categorize as easy, but that is definitely not “hard.”

Here are (some admittedly cliché) reasons I think we have thus far enjoyed an imperfect, but overwhelmingly happy and smooth marriage:

1. We share our faith in both denomination and importance. I cannot stress enough how important unity in both of these is for a successful and happy marriage.

2. We spent a very long time being friends and talking about the big and small, foundational and surface-level issues individuals wrestle with throughout life – religion, politics, money, education, family relationships, children, sports teams, entertainment, hobbies, etc.

3. We grew to love most of the same things. Observe – we are the anomaly that cheers for BOTH the Chicago Cubs AND the St. Louis Cardinals because we consciously decided to adopt each other’s team (EXCEPT if they ever meet in the World Series, in which case we all know the Cards will smoke the Cubbies.)

4. We defer to each other’s strengths. My husband is by far the better money-manager, so I look to him for wisdom and guidance in our decisions there. I tend to be more attuned to the social and educational landscapes, so he looks to me for perspective when we make decisions in those areas.

5. We focus on the good. Honestly, I have a hard time staying grumpy about an exhausting day with the girls, waking up to dirty dishes after a late night, or even a short-tempered comment from my husband after a taxing day or week at work because as soon as I start brooding on how I have been injured or inconvenienced, inevitably I realize that I have done at least as annoying or hurtful things myself. And really, truly, if I am being completely objective, my husband is a pretty perfect husband and father 99.98% of the time, so WHY would I risk that kind of record by focusing on the fact that he doesn’t do chores the way or when I want or that he is human in the amount of stress he can bear without a slight crack.

6. Our priority is a happy marriage. We CHOOSE to be happy and we CHOOSE to be cooperative and we CHOOSE to each swallow our pride (rather frequently) because we have decided that living a smooth and happy marriage is more important than any of the secondary or tertiary disagreements that might arise. We are not going to let those things make our marriage “hard” or “stressful” or “unhappy.”

Sadly, I get the impression that too many people “sweat the small stuff” in marriage, which eventually leads to a build-up of discord in their relationship that creates a very real world of difficulty and unhappiness. I prefer to encourage couples to purposefully focus on all that is good and right and joyful in their marriage, in much the way Alice von Hildebrand does in her “By Love Refined:Letters to a Young Bride.” Because, honestly, it is pretty much the most awesome thing on earth to be married to your best friend and love 99.98% of the minutes you spend together.

Brittany Makely currently works as a full-time wife and mother of two, as well as an elementary latin teacher for a local classical, inclusion, Catholic K-8 school. Since her graduation from North Carolina State University, where she earned degrees in Economics and Political Science with a Public Policy concentration, she has also served as assistant director of policy and editor of the quarterly magazine for a statewide public policy organization dedicated to the promotion of family values.

Even though Brittany is a proud native Texan, she was raised in the Old North State of North Carolina. She and her husband of four years love raising their two young daughters in Wake Forest, NC. Among all of Brittany's favorite things about her life in North Carolina, being parishioners at St. Catherine of Siena Catholic Church tops the list, followed by dressing the girls in matching outfits (tights, hats, bows, and shoes included), finding any excuse to eat ice cream, sipping flavored coffee or sweet tea, exploring North Carolina's four full seasons from the mountains to the beaches, and cheering on the Wolfpack. With gusto. Go Pack! Go America!

1 comment:

  1. "Because, honestly, it is pretty much the most awesome thing on earth to be married to your best friend and love 99.98% of the minutes you spend together."

    YES! I completely agree with this. I waffle over what I want to tell engaged couples, I think because there needs to be balance. Some virtue-minded people give the impression that as long as you don't move in together before the wedding, everything will be easy-peasy and you're guaranteed that everything will be butterflies and roses. I think that's wrong. Other virtue-minded people give the impression that marriage is basically miserable, and I think that's wrong, too. Or they say "you think this man is great, but just you wait, he'll cheat." I think that's a horrible thing to say! I think you did a good job striking a healthy balance.

    I think it's normal to have a difficult time sorting out how to "be a couple" at the beginning, figuring out routines and how to come to an agreement where you disagree, etc. There really is no way to "prepare" for that -- you just have to make your marriage and each other a priority and figure it out together, and you'll probably step on each other's toes more than you thought until you start getting it right more often. But looking back, most of the stuff that was "hard" for us at the beginning probably had more to do with not having a job, being geographically uprooted and socially isolated, and having some health issues -- all things that are hard no matter what your marital status.


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