Saturday, April 9

The Hard Stuff

Marriage is hard. I knew that going in. We even wrote about it on the back of our wedding program. Yet, right from the start I was surprised by just how challenging I found our marriage.

While we were engaged, Adam and I took this relationship inventory (it was not, we were told, a compatibility test). Our results came back very high. The only number I actually remember anymore is a 100% we got for communication, but all the scores were high. In the hubris of young love, I rather expected we were starting off ahead of the game and I supposed marriage wouldn't be as hard for us as it was for most couples. It's been quite humbling to find I'm not so gifted at this relationship thing after all.

In the years since our engagement, I've discovered that what I had thought made marriage hard, the sacrifices, the compromises, the refocus on us rather than me, has been a breeze compared to the real hard stuff: complete and utter honesty with myself and my husband. Marriage requires me not only to recognize that I am not perfect in some vague theoretical sense, but to take responsibility for my imperfect actions and reactions that hurt the man I love and do damage to our relationship.

I have to set aside my Suzy-on-top-of-it mask, step out from behind the screen of "I've got everything together; I don't need any help" and trust Adam to show me mercy, compassion, and grace when I have failed utterly. It requires me to be transparent, vulnerable. I don't like vulnerable. I like to be able to trust myself and not have to count on anybody else. Adam says I'm a control freak. Or, when he's feeling more generous, he calls me high maintenance.

Sally Albright: Well, I just want it the way I want it.
Harry Burns: I know; high maintenance.
    from When Harry Met Sally

It's just so much easier not to have to rely on somebody else, especially when I know he is going to let me down. Maybe not today or even this week, but, because he's imperfect himself, Adam lets me down sometimes. He says and does things that hurt me. I don't like that. And, if I am being honest, I say and do things that hurt him. I don't like that either.

Still, if I don't let Adam get close enough to hurt me, he's not close enough to love me either. Just why these two must go hand in hand is part of my ongoing argument with God about the necessity of free will. However, until I can convince Him otherwise (I'm not holding my breath waiting for that day), this is the way of the world. I don't like it, but if I refuse to accept it, if I hold back or try to hide the real me in an attempt to keep from experiencing pain, I miss out on real love.

That is very, very hard.


  1. Congratulations on achieving another level of understanding in the ongoing coursework in the college of marriage, a college that has no graduation. The achievement, though "very, very hard," is greatly rewarding. Mom and I were discovering that right up until the last months of her life, during which we experienced some of the most loving and fulfilling times of our more than thirty years of knowing each other. I identify with so many of the statements you make here, which probably means (a) you are my daughter, and (b) your experience of these difficulties are common to humans.

    God’s blessings on you and Adam as you continue together down the rocky path of marriage, knowing that some of those rocks have flecks of pure gold in them.

  2. Thanks, Dad, for your congratulations. I would guess that these experiences are pretty common among high-maintenance perfectionists. Most of us don't like to admit it, of course.

    Maybe if we all would talk about such things more often, starry-eyed newlyweds wouldn't find themselves so shocked by marriage and wonder if they're the only ones who struggle with its very nature.


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