Marriage is Hard Work

The other day when I was signing on to my Yahoo account I saw a headline: “Gwyneth Paltrow Wonders if She Should have Stayed Married.”   I admit I did not read the article but my immediate thought was what the heck were you thinking when you got divorced.   What was marriage to her?

Before I go any further I will tell you I have never been divorced so I am speaking from a point of view, of which I have no first-hand knowledge.   Second if you are in an abusive relationship get out, you can not fix it.   I have seen and experienced this by both female and male abusers.    They got that way without  you, aka before you, and they can only change themselves without you.   An abusive person must become whole alone, you can not be one of the tools to resolve it.   Lastly I don’t have a red phone, nor do I know anyone with a red phone line directly to God, so I am not anti-divorce there are times I am sure it is the better choice, nor am I against same-sex marriages, and lastly God has not whispered in my ear that what I am about to say is absolute truth.  I do believe a life with someone who makes you better and encourages you to be all you should be is invaluable.   I digressed there with my disclaimer.

Back to the subject of marriage is hard work.  For  so many reasons and with so many challenges many marriages fail.  Marriage is the only friendship where there is no time out and you can each step away and perk on the conflict or change.     Marriage is the only family relationship where there is not a stage when you leave and strike out on your own and start over.  In a marriage there is no physical time out, you live in the same place.    Hence in the good and the bad, in sickness and health you are stuck together, and it takes a special sort of relationship to thrive.   It takes a relationship where each of you get to drive for a while and the other is willing to let you lead on and have faith you will drive the relationship in a manner it will be sustained when you reach the destination.   A marriage is where you want the other person to aspire and reach toward their dreams knowing that if they do that they will be better in the marriage, even if the journey your marriage takes for that time is a little circuitous.  Your partner is there supporting, if not cheering, you on.  Being a spouse is being the person who is the strong one or the voice of reason when you don’t want to be, but knowing that this is your time to be so.  It is also knowing that if it were not true your  partner would know intuitively that it was there time to fill that role and do so.  A marriage is a relationship that makes you better and want to be better, not seeking for yourself.   A marriage is two people with the same fundamental core values, but who don’t always see the same way to achieve those.   You get how the other person’s life experiences make them look things in a way you can not imagine   You don’t see their point of view or method  as wrong, but an amazing difference that makes you a more respectful open person, not just of your partner but of humanity.    A marriage is ever-changing.  The partners know when the change is an endangerment to the relationship and fight back, but recognizing when it is just change and together you will  ride your way through this change as you have done before and will do so many more.    The relationship of a marriage is the only place you can truly let your guard down and be your most honest, vulnerable and raw self, knowing that your spouse is there for you only wanting what is best for you.  Not there to fix, exploit, use or change you but be with you unconditionally.      Marriage is hard because there is no rule book and what works for you, only works for you two because of you and your journey.   It is ever-changing.

I have been married for over 34 years and I find myself reflecting on so much right now as we are on the cusp of making decisions that will affect us as we move forward.   There is no easy answers, no sure things, no promises that what we choose will not make our life more difficult.    Yet I don’t worry that we will not come out on the other side of this together.   When we married all those years ago life was so different and our expectations don’t even come close to the life we live today, and yet I can not imagine having traveled this life with anyone else.   Were there hard times and difficult moments?   It is never all smiles, nor always easy, and at times we were unsure and sometimes we were fraught with great difficulty.  Yet I know that life with RangerSir my life has been richer and better because I traveled it with him, not someone else and not alone.  Marriage has not been easy, but it has made my life the best it could be.

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Time to Learn More

I have a 7am physical therapy appointment twice a week in town and until last week my shoulder was immobilized.  It meant I needed a chauffeur with all the wicked weather and nasty road conditions we have had as of late.     It mean RangerSir and I  I have been spending lots of time in the car together.      Road time  is often spent by couples listening to the radio, talking about friends or family and sharing the trials of the job.

Since I don’t enjoy driving RangerSir and I developed a different road routine long ago.  We did this partly because driving long distances can become monotonous and memorizing.    Many of the places we have traveled have no radio coverage over the years, so all we have are one another. We ask “What if?”  It is a game of sorts where you ask questions.    It has allowed us to keep in touch with one another’s wishes, dreams, thoughts and evolving opinions.   We have asked  everything  you can imagine.   In nearly 38 years some of our answers have stayed the same while others have evolved with our lives.    It never gets old and the questions never quit coming.    Some of the things that we have asked over the years.

  • You won the lottery and have to travel abroad where would you go?
  • Money no option where would you retire?
  • Who was your best boss ever?
  • In our present reality where would you like to retire?
  • Which relative of your spouse do you most enjoy chatting with?
  • Who would you invite to dinner who is dead?
  • Worst president since you have been alive?
  • If you could give me any gift what would you give me?
  • What place have you visited that I haven’t, do you want to take me to?
  • Which house/condo/apartment we living in had the best neighborhood?  (Since we have been together we have lived in nine places)
  • Who did you vote for you wished you didn’t in retrospect?
  • What would be your perfect meal?
  • What food did not not expect to like but do?
  • What is your perfect vehicle?
  • Worst US city you have visited?
  • What is your favorite book?
  • Best stupid gadget.

You get my drift.   It is a most amazing insight to a person you have lived with and think you know.  One would think not much would surprise me after all the years and all the questions.    In many ways it has helped us to stay in touch and on the same plane as we evolved.  When it came time to transfer with the Forest Service, we both knew it was coming and where we wanted to go and why.    When we bought vehicles we were on the same page, no discussion.   It made it possible to each of us to buy a house sight unseen for the spouse.    When I changed jobs, RangerSir knew it was coming long before I talked about it.    It makes gift buying much more insightful and personal, but makes it possible to find that perfect quirky gift.

Yet occasionally there are still surprise answers to questions.   I asked RangerSir last week, what secret goal are you likely to not achieve?     He told me it  was to go into space.   That was a “Boy Howdy” moment.   I knew my husband was fascinated with space, and he considered the walking on the moon a pivotal moment in his life.   He has been a sci-fi, the space kind, TV and book junkie all his life.   But I would never have guessed that like old Walter Cronkite he had aspirations to travel into space.   I am not sure that there is anything I can do to support that dream, but it just go to show that there are some dreams we hold on to nearly forever.   It also reminds me that when you have a committed relationship you always need to be listening to your partner.   You never know what you don’t now and there is always time to learn more.

Shift of Duties

In over 30 years a couple settles in to a division of duties they don’t think much about until something happens to rock the boat.   In our household,  we  are in a routine and take so much for granted.  Now that my husband is laid up with his injury we are seeing a shift of  the household duties.   Until at least December 2nd he will be in a cast with his toes pointed and no weight on the ankle.   What this means is that there are a whole host of household duties that I am going to have to suck up and provide cover him  on the household chore list.

RangerSir is sure that no one can do laundry as well as he can.    Since he thinks he does it best, for the most part I have gotten  out of the way and let him have at it for over 30 years.   Our laundry room is on the lower level, and most of our living happens on the main level.   He can get downstairs, but honestly he is not very stable doing stairs on crutches.    I am now the family laundress.   He has already raised his eyebrows when he sees what I have put in the same load.   He has questioned items that went through the drier that he would have put on hangers or the drying rack.    So far the most I get is the look of horror, but as long has he doesn’t end up with pink underwear or shrunk clothing I suspect that my skill-set will suffice.

The other household chore I have been forced into is running of the vacuum.  My migraines are audio sensitive and even when I don’t have one, noise is very difficult for me.    The noise generated by the vacuum puts me over the edge, even when I am not suffering from migraine pain.     In the time RangerSir and I have been together the number of times I have run the vacuum I can like county with the fingers on one hand.   He runs it when I am in the shower or out of the house.   He is a real is peach  and so sensitive to my needs.   Though if he is a little put out with me, he has no qualms running it at any time he thinks is most effective to make his case.     Now I am going to be forced to run this nasty tool at least once a week.

Bottom line is I don’t mind.  I know if the roles were reversed he would have my back the same way. I  am reminded to appreciate all that he does.    I sometimes forget that it is him that makes many things happen, not some magic trick.

33 Years and counting!

A friend of mine has been blogging about lasting committed relationships, marriages.   It made me reflect a bit on mine.   I have been married to my husband for  33 years today  and been with him for 36 years.  People grow and change  so much between their 20’s and their 50’s.  What makes some relationships last and others not?

I think first and foremost a last relationship is based on people with the same core values.   Your core values must be fundamentally the same.  I am not saying that you have to be the same in how you get to your destination.   In fact, it is more interesting if the you see the method to achieving the core values differently.   I love the mental challenges of a debate.  I love it when my husband plays devil’s advocate challenging me to look at things from the other side, and questioning my methods.  It drives me nuts when he will argue a point of view neither of us hold, because he likes to jerk my chain and see me explain how I got to my position.

Second you need to want the best for the other person in a relationship.     Our wedding vows stated that we wanted  each other to become all that they could be, and we support one another in that quest.   It wasn’t what you  wanted to be, it was that you could be. That is a pretty tall order.  In your 20’s you think you know what you want to be, but you will change and evolve struggling to find your destiny through out the years.  Sometimes we think we know what our spouse or partner should be or we want them to be.  It takes great faith to allow them to find themselves and evolve.  To stay together through that evolution that you did not sign up for that is part of that vow of wanting them to be all that they could be.    What they can be in the 20’s will be a long way what  they will need to be when they get to their 50’s.  This is that time that the core values support you as things change and yet the core values are still the same.

Lastly  you  need to be your own person but be one half of a whole.   I find that to be an oxymoron as I write it, but if you have it you know exactly  what I mean.    It is sort like you  need to like to spend time together and  just as importantly you need to spend time apart.     Too much togetherness  or too much time apart can be damaging.   I love to spend time with my spouse, but also crave that time that we spend apart.   He likes to do somethings I can’t imagine doing, and I don’t care to try.   I have some friends he can’t figure out what our connection is, but one of the friendships is nearly 20  years old and isn’t going anywhere.   Those differences are what we bring to the table and makes us together better.  We like to do lots of things together, and are always looking to find new ways to spend time together in ways  that don’t involve sitting in the same room watching TV.  Being together is a state of consciousness not a state of physical proximity.  It does not mean all the things we do together we like equally, it means that we like each others company and want to do them together.

I don’t know if this is really the magical answer, but it has work for 33 years for me.  It is what love has been.   It is what love is for us.

30 and Counting

30 years ago today we were married in Judge Allen Oleisky’s office in the Minneapolis City Hall Building.  Judge Oleisky’s office was in one of the curved turrets in the historic building. It is a great, beautiful, historic place to have been married.    One of the things that has stayed with me in my marriage were my vows.   They  were non-traditional and stated each of us would support and want the  other to become all that we could be  to achieve our individual potentials.  That statement has been a driving force for the 30 years through all the trials and changes we have had.

When we married our license had two spots that were reflective of the changing times.   It stated here after we would be known as ?????.  Women at the time would often keep their maiden name and the form supported that, but it would have also allowed John to have picked a new name as well.   John could have chosen to change his family name back to its historic spelling, but we both opt’ed for Ericson.   It has served us well for 30 years and hopefully many more.