I grew up in a Baptist home as the second of eight children. We were all home-schooled because my parents wanted us to have a Christian education and protect us from worldly influences. We weren’t allowed to watch The Smurfs and in order to see Clarissa Explains It All and Are You Afraid of The Dark? I had to sneak over to a friend’s house. Once, I even got grounded for watching The Simpsons.
My parents were dedicated to creating a sheltered environment for our family and one of the many things they promised was that they would never divorce. “It’s a sin,” they often told us, and for the longest time, I believed them.
I’m grown up now. So many things have changed. I’m married. I watch The Simpsons on a very regular basis (usually while drinking beer) and my parents are getting a divorce after 30 years of marriage. My dad isn’t leaving my mom for another woman. My mom isn’t leaving my dad for another man. My dad just decided that he couldn’t live in his marriage anymore. So, now he is trying to live outside of it and my mom is trying to understand.
As an adult, I feel torn. I’m married and I understand that marriages are more complicated than promises and rings. But my parents were my first model for marriage. They showed me what a family and what love should look like. Together they worked through infidelity, grief, relocation, laundry, bankruptcy, buying shoes for eight kids and more. And now, they are moving apart. While no child should ever judge her parents’ marriage, watching my parents together and watching them apart has taught me a few things about my own marriage.
1. No marriage is fail-proof
It doesn’t matter if you are the perfect couple, soul mates, destined to be together from the dawn of time, etc. every marriage needs work. Hard work. And the most dangerous thing you can do is rest on your laurels. Once a friend’s grandmother offered me this advice, “the best way to ruin a marriage is to think it’s perfect.”
2. Love is a choice
Emotions are fickle. Some days I am head over heels with my husband and other days I wake up and think, “him again?” But every day, I wake up and choose to love him. Affection and lust ebb and flow, but staying together is a choice born of commitment rather than emotion.
3. Every marriage has broken promises
Whether it’s your promise of fidelity, your promise to love, to honor and to cherish, or smaller promises to do the dishes, sweep the floor, get your underwear out of the bathroom before company comes, every marriage holds a thousand broken promises. What holds a marriage together is not the ratio of kept promises to broken ones, but how you work to fix what’s broken.
I never want to be so arrogant as to say, my husband and I will never divorce. I don't know what life will throw our way. But I do know, that I am committed to loving him, no matter how many broken promises we accumulate.
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