Stories and thoughts about family and life

Terms of Endearment

on April 3, 2012

If you actually know what this is, you’re likely my age and have seen the movie.  If you don’t, we won’t discuss how young you probably are.  🙂  I’m struck by the things that we endure in our lives, and how those things shape us as the people we are.  It’s pretty awe-inspiring when you think about it on the large scale.  I guess it’s the news lately that’s brought this out for me.  There seem to be a lot of stories lately of spouses (usually husbands) killing their wives and then trying to cover it up.  The most recent story of a man in Utah who they believe now murdered his sons and killed himself in order to cover up his wife’s murder from over two years ago breaks my heart.   Why didn’t he leave her?  What was going on between them?  Was it an affair, or did he just “snap” one night?  A relative of a very dear friend of mine shot and killed her husband late last year after enduring various kinds of abuse and fearing for the safety of herself and her children.  No one knew any of that was going on.   It’s amazing to me what can stay hidden in a world of such incredible transparency as we have today.    The stories go on and on.

I have friends who are all enduring different things, and having been married 20+ years now myself with two small children, I’ve certainly experienced my share of frustration, heartache, and struggles.  I’ve done things on principle because I’ve felt a conviction to right some wrong, but I’ve also done things because emotionally I was incapable of processing what was going on at the moment and just had to endure until I could do otherwise.  I watch friends of mine who are now going through similar things, and I’m aware of how I must have looked from the outside.  I think about how the things I’ve learned may help them, or may at least help me to support them and vice versa.  I’ve learned a lot from my friends and their experiences when I’m going through one thing or another, and I’m motivated by them when I think I can’t move forward anymore.

I remember being young and thinking that you meet a person who completes you, you fall in love, you get married, you have children, and you’re still together 50 years later and living the good live in retirement.  Even watching my parents struggle sometimes to keep things going on our farm, the relationship things were still there.  I never wondered if my parents were faithful to one another.  I never wondered if they fought.  Sure, they argued.  But I never even gave a second thought to what might go on when we kids couldn’t see.   As an adult now, and having had a variety of friends go through various circumstances, I realize all those things that I took for granted as a kid.  The number of men who really aren’t faithful to their wives.  The number of wives who do abusive or manipulative things to their husbands.  The lies, the deceit.  The fighting for the kids, about the kids, even in front of the kids.  The cussing at one another, about one another.

I’ve watched relationships which could be supportive and loving on a Monday, and have the two partners ready to tear out one another’s eyes by Friday.  I’ve seen spouses spend money to spite one another, or drink to slip away into the quiet so they could stop hearing the fighting.      I’ve got friends who are afraid not to “put out” for their husbands regularly, and others who can’t stand the thought of it.  My heart hurts when I know one of us is going through something tragic, but I think it hurts even more because that image of what love should be isn’t quite so clear.  Really, though, how realistic is it to believe in relationships so beautiful and wonderful?  Are they?  In talking to a friend recently about a mutual friend of ours who is in a bad place in her relationship, we marveled at how she doesn’t seem to “get it” that the relationship is over.  The person she loves simply doesn’t love her.  They’re not married, although they talked about it, but he doesn’t feel the same way anymore.  Instead of accepting that and moving on with her life, she’s stuck in the image of what she thinks their relationship should be.  She believes that she can make him love her.  She is doing ‘everything right’ so that he sees how much he means to her.  She’s missed the point.  We have all worried about her, and have tried to tell her.  She nods and smiles and then comes back in with the same story again the next week.  It’s dizzying, and exhausting.  It’s heart-breaking.

If there’s anything I’ve learned watching all the married people my age, it’s that love comes in many shapes and sizes, and it’s not always ideal.  It’s not just about being able to talk, or liking the looks of one another, or enjoying the sex, and every couple has some struggle they’re enduring.  It’s not just that one friend who can’t quite get along and you wonder might not make it.  Some days you may not like your partner very much, but it’s whether you love each other or not that truly matters.  I’ve learned from several of my friends that even when things aren’t going well, they work to make it improve.  It’s intriguing to me that with a divorce rate in our country so high, what’s happened all the sudden that all these people my age are willing to endure what it takes and work out their problems?       Is it really that we want to work to solve our problems, or is it that we don’t want the work of ending it all?

I can’t imagine at this point in my life, having to start over.  I could, of course, if I had to.  I just shudder at the thought of disrupting the lives of my children and having to be “single” again.  Maybe that’s part of the motivation.  Or maybe it’s life a comfortable old pair of blue jeans–you really know they should be replaced, but that hole in the knee isn’t really bothering anyone, and a new pair wouldn’t fit quite like this one.  I love my husband, and  I love my life, but there are always things to improve upon.  I watch so many other relationships and realize how lucky I am, in spite of those things I’d like to “fix.”  Like one of my friends says “marriage is hard.”   I suppose that’s true of any relationship.


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