Excerpt from Surrendering to Marriage
Here's what I've learned about marriage to a sexy and imperfect man who is the father of our four perfect sons. There is plenty of hate that comes with love, and although I wish I didn't have to try so hard to make marriage work, I know that I do. Everybody does. If they say they don't, they are either lying, or never see their spouses.
Marriage is difficult and mysterious, but essential. Indeed, a good marriage means a good life. This book is about staying married, and how to transcend the ambiguity and temptation caused by mid-life malaise. Thus the choice of titles, Surrendering to Marriage, a yielding to a spiritual force greater than ourselves.
This is not surrendering as in cowering in submission to another's will, as preached in this passage from Ephesians: "Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church ... Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything."
Surrendering means submitting to your own integrity, to your wedding promise, for the duration. This in the face of the fantasies, boredom and darkness that arise in long term relationships. This in the face of the statistics of doom that have hovered over American couples for the past 30 years – that nearly half of marriages end in divorce.
We, the members of the Baby Boom, have found thus far the notion of traditional marriage as the ticket to eternal fulfillment tough to swallow after spending our growing-up years moving on to The Next Big Thing, from sex, bongs and the Grateful Dead to sex, Prozac and a misguided obsession with staying young.
Making it to the 25-year anniversary mark and beyond requires relinquishing our cravings for novelty and ego gratification -- no simple feat for the generation with the longstanding mantra: "Me, me, me, me." We are the dreamy believers in author Tom Robbins tantalizing promise: "It's never too late to have a happy childhood."
In my first book, Surrendering to Motherhood, I spoke of the surrender that comes from sublimating personal desires, and yielding to the higher power of raising children. Yet, as challenging as the shift into parenting can be, it is effortless compared to the concessions and compromises that must take place in marriage.
Our love for our children is uncomplicated and spontaneous, pure and immense. Our children who we bore and who resemble us in body and face are natural extensions of ourselves, like our legs. We love them without condition, without doubt, without any brain games.
In marriage, no matter how deep the love and devotion, our partner is still The Other, someone we may think we know very, very well, but who is always somewhat of a stranger. We share neither blood nor genes, perhaps not even common interests. Yet we met and married and now share a home, in-laws and children.
It can be hell.
Surrendering to marriage means we must be forgiving and flexible, when what we really feel like is spewing venomous remarks. We must give back rubs or our bodies when we feel like reading or sleeping. We must keep our marriages alive, particularly during those times when what we really want to do is find someone more exciting.
We must surrender to reality, and let go of fantasy.
Ultimately, surrendering to marriage, if it's with a spouse who isn't destroying us with hands or words or by total apathy, means coming to know there is nothing better out there because wherever we go we still have ourselves to lug along.
People who leave a marriage for someone else often end up finding the next love-of-their-lives carries heavier baggage than the partners they left behind. Without the old imperfect partner around to blame any more they find it was their own imperfect selves that was the cause of their pain all along.