Thursday, April 7, 2016

We tend to think happiness in relationships means the absence of conflict, but nothing could be further from the truth. Being together longterm means seeing all the “ugly” parts of one another — the bad moods, the dirty socks thrown on the floor four inches from the hamper, the complete lack of grace under pressure. Sometimes it even means not liking each other all that much.“There are days when I’m completely sick of him, and there are days when he is completely sick of me,” admits Bell. “But we’ve chosen to love one another and to be a team… Marriage and a relationship is hard work, and it’s a lot of compromise. But if you compromise a lot, it’s worth it, and you’ll be able to make African vacation music videos.”

from article about Kristen Bell and Dax Shepherd

I was struck by this article I saw online a few days ago. I don’t know much about Kristen Bell, but I loved Dax Shepherd in Parenthood. Parenthood was a series about the trials and tribulations of a family that stuck together under pressure but showed much of the “ugly,” the “moods,” and the meaning of compromise.

In my almost 23 years of marriage, the second for both of us, we have seen the ugly, we have endured the moods, and we have struggled to compromise. No one told us when we were Bell and Shepherd’s age that it was going to be hard work. No one told us that it’s ok, even normal, not to like each other sometimes. We really believed that you just found the person of your dreams, and you lived happily ever after. Our parents were survivors of World War II and the Depression; they weren’t reading parenting manuals. They knew nothing about the difference between brain functions of boys versus girls. They never even thought about “negotiating” with their children. We grew up watching them model marriage, and we figured we would just do what they did, and everything would be peachy keen. Well, Dax and Kristen are way ahead of where we were, and that’s a good thing.

What we’ve learned in our 23 years is that at the very least, we are best friends. Sometimes that friendship has carried us through the tense times when we weren’t sure we would make it. We’ve learned that some battles just aren’t worth fighting, but the ones that are, we still battle to the finish line, even though we know we may only make 2% progress. We’ve learned that every marriage has its own dynamic, and the rules don’t work the same for every relationship. We know that we are not perfect, even though sometimes we think we are. We’ve learned that romance never dies if we choose to keep it alive. 

Now in our seventh decade, we have lost friends to illness and watched others fighting horrendous battles just to stay alive. We’ve lost our parents and most of our distant relatives, and we pray that the good that we model will be remembered and shared by our four children. We are still learning to let go of things that don’t really matter, and we’ve embraced the special people in our lives who reminder us of what does. 
The older we get, the more we realize we have to learn. There is never one “best” year; they all have their ups and downs, and we’ve endured enough of the latter to value the former.

Hats off to Kristen and Dax for recognizing early on what needs to be done when there are issues and to celebrate the good as often as possible. What matters is the now.