Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Secrets Matter (a follow-up to the Seven Year Itch)

There is an understood rule among most couples, if you tell me something and tell me not to tell anyone, you must make it clear that it also includes my husband or I will most definitely tell him. When it comes to secrets, couples are considered one person. However, if keeping your secret will somehow lessen the trust that my husband has in me, then I can't do it. Before we were married, Chris and I were required to attend the Catholic Church's marriage encounter weekend. During that 48 hours, we discussed everything....budgets, kids, family, jobs, sex, you name it, it was discussed. However, at no time were we asked to talk about the past. Whether you realize it or not, the past matters. When you try to keep things about your past hidden, it can often eat away at you like a parasite inside your body. You constantly wonder if someone will find out and what they will think of you. Sometimes the secret involves someone else and then you feel like telling that secret will somehow cause turmoil between them and their significant other. A word to the wise....all secrets matter when it comes to a marriage. Things that happened a decade ago can turn your marriage upside down. Often times you have to deal with the reprecussions all alone and that is not what a marriage is about. Marriage means that another person has chosen to spend their life with you, good and bad, and that they are willing to share in both your happiness and pain. I had dealt with a secret on my own for over 12 years. I thought I was doing a wonderful job of internalizing everything. However, it finally boar a hole right into our relationship. Chris knew something was there, but he couldn't figure out what. It hurt him to think I didn't trust him and it hurt me to keep the secret. Luckily for us, everything was discussed and settled prior to him leaving the country this year. If not, the time we are spending apart could have been much different. Remember that no matter what has happened in your life, your partner is the person who should love you no matter what has happened. They should be the one you turn to when you need a shoulder. If they can't listen to you tell them about the one thing that you are either too embarrassed or too afraid to tell anyone and still put their arms around you and kiss away your tears, then as I said before, it isn't real love, so move along.

The Seven Year Itch

About 2 years ago, I was attending my 10 year college reunion (I know, I can't be that old, right?), some friends and I were trying to comfort another classmate who was deathly afraid that her marriage was in trouble. As I listened to her talk about what was wrong, I knew that all she needed to know is that it was normal. In case there are any of you out there reading this who have not been married for 7 years or more, you need to know too. The 7 year itch is real. Actually, throughout the table of married ladies, some with kids, some not; the concensus was that the years from about 7 to 9 are the roughest, almost painful years of your marriage. You fight constantly over the smallest things. Sometimes you think that there is no way you can wake up next to this person for the next 50. Most of the time you stop communicating unless it is about work or the kids. Usually at this point in your marriage you have at least one, but often more, kids. Trust me, do not have a child to save your marriage because all children do is complicate things more. You are so exhausted by the time they go to bed that you nearly pass out. If not, you are washing the pile of clothes that never goes away and wondering how little bodies can possibly increase your wash loads so much. When they are very little, they are constantly climbing on you, wanting to be held, sitting in your lap, etc and your body is often so sore that if another person, including your husband, so much as brushes up next to you, you want to break his arm. Sounds bad, right? Truth is, marriage is one of the hardest things you will ever do in your life. It is work; real work and if you aren't working at it, then it won't last. You can't expect for everything to work out like a fairytale. There is a reason the first year is called the honeymoon period. Everything is wonderful. Each person makes special effort to do everything they can to look perfect in front of the other. Pretending to be perfect is hard too and eventually, you just can't do it anymore, so the mask comes off. I remember my mother telling me that she used to set an alarm to wake up early and get dressed so my dad never saw her without makeup and hair done. She would make breakfast, keep the house spotless, make him lunch which she often delivered to him at work hot and then go home to make sure dinner was on the table. He never washed clothes, or anything around the house. It was 1973 and she was the perfect housewife. Thirty-six years and two kids later, she leaves him to-do lists on his day off, which often includes at least one load of clothes. He makes her breakfast on Sunday mornings and it is a good day for him if dinner is on the table when he gets home and lunch consists of a sandwich, which he fixes himself. They don't pretend to be anything they aren't. Yes, they annoy the hell out of each other, but they still work to make it last. Their advice to me has been that once the lust of newlywed bliss is over, you better like that person laying next to you. When the kids are gone, along with the lust, you have to be able to simply live. They live and love one another everyday. Sometimes it is the little things like a cup of coffee left on the bedside stand for my mom or when she makes his favorite dessert for dinner. I know they had a hard time once too. I said all this to say, if you are approaching that time in your marriage or if you are dead in the middle of it, don't give up. Anything worth saving is worth working for and if it isn't worth the work, maybe it wasn't real love.