I confess. I love celebrity gossip. I love all those magazines that crowd the checkout aisle at the grocery store. I love the fashion. I love the makeup. I love the gossip. But with kids, our budget made me decide between diapers and Us Weekly. Assuming that the girls wouldn’t enjoy their bums being swaddled in pictures of Alicia Silverstone’s new baby, I choose to go with diapers.
But this past weekend we took a mini-vacation and visited my parents in Houston. So I splurged and bought the juiciest looking mag I could find.
As I flipped through the pages I was not disappointed. Beautiful dresses and gorgeous handbags. The newest trends in shoes. I was almost giddy. But then I started reading about couples that have separated or divorced. While this isn’t new — celebrities not having long-lasting relationships — I read about some couples I thought were going to be together forever. Courtney Cox and David Arquette? When the heck did that happen? I thought they were rock solid. I had to run to the computer and look up Sarah Michelle Gellar and Freddie Prinze Jr. just to make sure they were still together so I could feel a little better about the state of marriage in the celebrity world.
I kept reading and found an interview with Blake Shelton about his recent marriage to Miranda Lambert. Ok, this has to be a happy; they just got married. But then they asked him how he had dealt with a previous marriage and divorce. He responded, “Life isn’t perfect so you find what makes you happy and you do it.” That’s it. I threw the magazine across the room.
I hate that. I hate it when people say, “You’ve got to do what makes you happy.” There’s no commitment in that statement. There’s no maturity. There’s no room for another. It’s just plain selfish. Now I know there are situations that come up that are grave enough to warrant separation or divorce as the right course of action. But what I am taking issue with is this idea that marriage is worthwhile only as long as the happiness lasts.
Being married is not about being happy all the time. Actually it means that you will probably have to do lots of stuff that doesn’t make you happy but you love the other person and you do it. Marriage is about binding yourself to another person for the rest of your life and always striving to put your spouse before yourself. Of course this doesn’t mean that you lose yourself, but it’s always a balancing game.
Our marriage has been filled with lots of ups and lots of downs. Some of the ups last a long time and some of the downs last even longer but we believe it is our vocation and we chose it. We made the commitment. Brandon and I have barely started to scratch the surface of what it means to sacrifice for one another. There have been moments in our marriage where I’ve been so mad I could have socked him in the nose. There have even been a couple nights that I’ve cried myself to sleep. And we’ve been married less than three years. I cannot imagine what challenges life holds for us in the years to come.
The key is that marriage takes constant work. We can’t just put our relationship on cruise control. I may not have the same butterflies-in-my-stomach, giggly love that I had for him when we started dating but I love him dearly. But it doesn’t just happen. Both of us have to work to stay in love. It really is a daily decision.
Once during confession I told the priest that I had been particularly uncharitable and resentful toward my husband. The priest gave me the shortest piece of advice I’ve ever heard — change. Don’t be uncharitable. Don’t just complain about it. Do something to change it. Sometimes it only takes a conversation to fix things. And sometimes it takes months of very slow and purposeful change to get back to a good place. But the need to effect change is still the same. If there are problems in our marriage, we need to do something about it.
A recent NYTimes column talks about how recent college grads are constantly told that they need to do what makes them happy. But making ourselves happy rarely changes history. When our only goal is to do what makes us happy, we don’t even begin to understand how much happiness we are truly capable of.
I don’t want to make marriage sound miserable because it’s not. It is really wonderful and really, really hard. But all good things are hard and if people think that marriage is just a bunch of puppies and rainbows and good feelings 24/7 then are they in for a rude awakening.
[As a related aside: I forgot the magazine at my parents’ house but I really wanted to use the Blake Shelton quote. So, for a second, I want you to picture my dad—stoic, strong, not very chatty, Mexican man—picking up the Us Weekly, flipping through it to find the article and then proceeding to read aloud the entire interview to me over the phone, including all the gushy stuff that Shelton said about his new bride. My dad, what a good sport.]