Marriage and Playing House
I was eight and playing at my best friend's house. We were playing our favorite game: house. Of course we each had a perfect husband and a baby that never cried. Our little game was suddenly interrupted by yelling. Her mom and dad were in the living room. My friend and I followed the noise out her bedroom door. We both still held our baby dolls softly in our arms. Her dad was crying, mad crying. Her mom had a bag of luggage in each hand and was standing too close to the door. My friend quietly and fearfully interrupted, "Dad? What is going on?" My heart was beating fast. Something was really not right here. I wanted to go back to playing house. I wanted husbands that don't fight and families that don't cry. Her dad looked over at her, but it was almost like he didn't recognize her. He didn't look like himself. He was too mad, too hurt to be a dad in that moment. "I don't know! Ask your mom! She is the one who is leaving!" I saw my friend's eyes turn watery and confused. She looked over at her mom. There, her mom stood with luggage and a flushed, scared face. "...Mom?" I ran home. I felt sick. It was like something had crashed inside me. A few days later my mom explained that my best friend's parent were getting divorced. I didn't want to play house anymore.
Divorced. I would think about that word. It sounded so final, so official, so scary. I didn't know much about it, but I knew that fighting led to it. Her parents had been fighting. I never wanted anything like that terrible, scary moment to happen to me.
I listened to people at my church give talks. I noticed they would say things like, "My wife and I have been married for 47 years, and I have never heard her raise her voice." Ok, I just can't ever yell. I would watch couples that seemed perfectly in love at family parties. They seemed to always agree with each other. Ok, I just have to always agree.
Marriage and Fighting
I dated lots of different types of people before I found my Taylor. He was everything I dreamed a husband would be. This was my chance to not be worried any more. This was my chance to go back to that game of house I had played before. We were in love and so similar. This surely would be easy. People gave us lots of advice and books on marriage. They were all about how to communicate well and not fight. We wouldn't fight.
We had a fight on the drive down to our honey moon stay in San Diego. We had a fight moving our things in to our tiny studio apartment. We had a fight at the grocery store. We had a fight. We had a fight. We had a fight. We weren't always agreeing. None of them were about anything important, but I was failing. Maybe I could still be the wife who never yelled.
I yelled at him from the stairs because I was stressed about something. I yelled at him in the morning because I couldn't sleep anymore with a newborn. I yelled at him when he had to leave for study group agin. It seemed like my game of house was turning out to be a lot more difficult than I had imagined.
Most of the time we were not fighting. I loved him more than the day we were married. He always forgave me, and I always forgave him. But we were still not doing it "right" in my head. If you do marriage right, you don't fight.
Marriage and Pefection
We have been married seven years now. Two weeks ago we were in New York City. One minute I was thinking how great my Taylor was, and the next minute we were mad. Fights are funny that way. They seem to sneak up on you out of nowhere. He did not like something I had said, or was it me who hadn't liked something he said? I was so frustrated that this happy day was getting ruined by an argument that came out of nowhere. I was angry with myself for letting it happen.
We said sorry. I explained to him how frustrated I feel when we aren't both happy and in sync on a trip. We don't get to be in New York City every day, and I don't want to ruin it with a fight. He looked at me with a smile that seemed to remind me how well he knows me. "Tess, we are traveling with two little boys in one of the biggest cities in the world on a crowded street trying to get somewhere we have never been with hungry stomachs. There are going to be some fights. And that's okay!"
Sometimes a sentence is said at the perfect time for your brain to actually hear it. "There are going to be some fights. And that's okay." All the advice I had gotten on marriage had always been about how to solve fights or how to not have them. The marriages and couples I was basing my "perfect marriage goals" after were small snippets I had heard a happy couple say or tiny moments I had captured while watching couples that "probably NEVER fought." But what nobody had ever said was that fighting was simply "okay." What I never got to see was that happy perfect couple hungry and running on no sleep with two kids that were crying and getting lost in a place they had never been before.
Fights don't feel so dangerous any more. I can feel the feelings. I can think the thoughts, but I don't have to fight "the fight" because I know sometimes it's just a fight. When I think about it, most of our fights have been accompanied by too little sleep, not enough to eat, new circumstances, a big change, or a difficult stage. There is a marriage course (which has changed my family forever, you can find it HERE) with Trina Glines called Taming Jane. She teaches that in marriage we often fight because we are expecting the other to be a version of ourself. She says, "Don't compare your man to the perfect version of yourself." I fail constantly next to the perfect version of myself. Mix in hunger, and success will pretty much be unattainable for either of us.
Choose Courage in Marriage
Life will always give me sticky moments. There will be fights. Brene Brown says, "Choose courage over comfort." It takes a lot of courage to realize that on my BEST day I'm not perfect, and I never will be. It takes a lot of courage to accept that life will not often be comfortable. And it takes even more courage to tell your tired, hungry, stressed out wife in the middle of a noisy, crowded New York City sidewalk that there will always be fights (Thanks, Taylor). The surprising thing, to me, is how much more comfortable I feel in my own skin, in our marriage skin. It's okay if we fight. It's okay if he doesn't like me when he is trying to navigate us. It's okay if he drives me crazy when I am really hungry. It's okay if I yelled at him when I hadn't slept in two weeks because of a baby. It's okay.
Marriage Advice for Newlyweds
You know how they always ask you to write marriage advice down for the new couple at a wedding? I know what I want to write, what I wish someone would have written to me. "You are now traveling through life together. There will be stressful moments with hungry stomachs and one of you will be tired. There will be cars that don't work and kids that cry. You will get lost and your phones will break. You won't get the job sometimes and you will forget what he asked for or what she wanted. Neither of you are perfect, so don't expect your reactions to be. You will fight. And that's okay. A fight is one sentence in your chapter, and it doesn't have to be the title. Have the courage to call it what it is, a sticky moment between two people who love each other enough to try to do even the hard moments together. There are going to be some fights. And that's okay." Or something like that.