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Saturday, July 14, 2012

What's so great about my marriage?

It's been five years to the day, on a very similar Saturday, that Jude's mom and dad were married.  Married in the late afternoon at our college church, surrounded by well-wishers, who judging by the looks and smiles of our friends and families, you'd have thought were saying goodbye to our troubles and challenges.  This is likely the biggest myth of marriage and the married life.  Marriage solves few problems.

Should you take the time to ask my mom her thoughts on marriage, a wife of over 30-plus years, she'll be the first to tell you marriage might be the hardest thing you ever do in your life.  In no way is she speaking to the displeasure of her union, but rather the daily commitment that is needed in order to maintain its health and sustainability.  She and my father have a great marriage by the way.

It didn't take five years for me to recognize that my mom was right (as usual).  There absolutely must be a daily commitment to pursue the healthy state of one's relationship.  This won't happen if you can't tell yourself why it's worth preserving though.  It would be easy to allow it to fail or drop into disorder; as easy as diets, exercise routines or New Year's resolutions fall to the side.

Our marriage isn't different from those before us, in truth.  We disagree, annoy each other, and knit-pick.  But I think we do a good job recognizing what's at stake and what's worth preserving here.  If I woke up each day without an answer to "what's so great about my marriage?" chances are, it would be harder and harder to convince myself to stay a part of it.

So, what's so great about it?

When we married, we really joined two loving families.  Those families have shown up in spades for us, certainly recently.  I couldn't imagine living without the model and support of our parents, siblings and extended families.  I know Joanna loves the relationships she has gained by marrying into my family.  Truly I feel equally blessed and supported from her side.

Certainly our children are our marriage's greatest gift to each other, but they also test our collective will more than anything else.  I like to think that Joanna's work with the children, and hopefully my work, allows the other to experience more of the pleasures of parenting than the pressures.  We are shouldering this responsibility together, reducing each other's load.

It is even more evident when I consider Jude and the needs he has and will likely continue to demand.  By this I am considering what it will take to allow him to succeed.  Not to say it can't be done by a single parent, but I bet it's less likely to happen.  We are in this together.  Among the greatest things we've recognized throughout this trial is that both of us can cry and be sad- just not at the same time.

We've done a great job of expressing our individual fears and supporting those fears of each other throughout this time.  Should Joanna say to me that she is sad or scared about something upcoming for Jude, I am happy to be a calming presence.  She does the same for me and is my strength.  We rarely allow ourselves to lose it together- thankfully!

Marriages seemingly far sturdier than ours have failed, to the surprise of many.  And similarly alarming are statistics that say divorce rates among parents of children with special needs are much higher than national averages.  Don't think I don't know why.  No marriage is too great to fail, no relationship immune to stagnation and dissatisfaction.  But like anything worthy of our daily attention, we must ask ourself what's so great about my marriage?

From my opinion, you're what's so great about this marriage, Joanna.  I want to be old and slow and weak and bald with you.  I want to look back in many many years and see our children with their children, even Jude's of course.  I want to share that picture with you.  But, for this picture to be painted, it starts today all over again, as it started five years ago, waking up knowing what's so great about my marriage.

St. Jude: Pray for us.

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