Our marriage predicament:
My husband and I have been going through a rough patch, and it made me wonder about the emotional stability of our marriage.
There was an attic fire in our home last November. It began in the chimney shaft upstairs and spread to the attic, sending smoke and soot throughout the whole house. Our smoke alarms worked well, the security system alerted the fire department, and three fire trucks arrived in eight minutes. More than fifteen firefighters extinguished the fire by dousing the upstairs and attic with water and chipping away at burnt boards around the chimney shaft.
Next, the clean-up crew dried out the house, tore out attic insulation, removed sheetrock, ripped up carpet upstairs and removed hardwood floors downstairs. All had been ruined by the water. Fabric covered furniture and every pillow and mattress was carried away, all ruined by smoke.
We moved into a small rental house in South Austin. For the first few months my husband argued with the insurance company about providers and services. For the next few months, we waited on the City of Austin for permits, and now – six months after the fire – the restoration has finally begun.
This year, we divided up the labor in our marriage, and he lost.
The problem is that I allowed my husband to manage everything having to do with the fire, while I kept on doing other things. The choice of a general contractor was his, the arguments with two insurance adjusters were his responsibility.
My husband created spread sheets describing every item in our home that needed replacement. He made phone calls galore. He documented everything in detailed emails. One day he journaled about his intense fury and frustration from working with challenging the insurance adjusters.
While he was serving as supervisor-in-chief of everything fire-related, I was busy writing my blog, marketing my book on podcasts and radio shows, posting on social media, exercising five or six days per week, and babysitting grandchildren. In my spare time I read books (many novels chosen by my book club), scoured parenting articles, and consumed The Atlantic and the New York Times.
Marriage is not supported by living separate lives or having separate duties.
Here’s the important point: After the fire, we created separate lives doing nearly everything apart from one another and, as a result, we grew apart. Yes, this can happen in as short a time as six months. Living in a small rental house, not feeling like our “home” surely contributed.
Marriage is built on not only love, but also on connection and shared struggles. Our shared experiences in the past always provided the basis for empathy, compassion, and understanding of each other. In addition, we have always been each other’s best friend.
When our children were younger it was easy to share things. Someone always needed something – some extra attention, our presence outside of work, our personal support. We always managed our child rearing challenges together, and we grew closer as we struggled to get it right.
We bounced ideas off or each other, and we asked each other for help. Sometimes we carved out time to be alone, to discuss the situation, to consider our alternatives, and decide on a plan together.
Marriage is built on sharing and connection.
We have had many ups and downs in our marriage over the last thirty-eight years. This little dip will not stop us from coming back together, because we are truly committed to our union.
Saying “I do” is the easy part. Negotiating life together with two jobs, three children, many pets, and two families (of origin) is the hard part.
It takes work, and love, and patience to make a marriage strong. Like Scott Peck said in The Road Less Traveled, “Love is a verb.”
Wherever you find yourself today in your marriage or relationship – please know that it will require work, good communication, love, and understanding. Marriage is not for the faint of heart, nor is it for the uncommitted.
So, if you are married, please give yourself some grace. And remember that grace for your spouse or partner, too. What you are trying to do – stay married – is not easy.
(Take this quick and easy marriage stability quiz.)