I still remember sitting in the hard wooden pew at sixteen listening to my pastor speak about marriage. It was my first time back at church in years, because I could finally drive myself. I sat alone because no one recognized me and I was worried it was a mistake to come. ow could I benefit from any discussion of marriage? I wasn’t married, not even close. I prepared myself for another speech about the sanctity of marriage and saving one’s “virtue” for their spouse. However, that wasn’t what was discussed at all.
My pastor told a story about how he and his wife were arguing after they had been married about a year. Finally they stopped in the middle of their argument and made a promise that they would never get divorced. That sounds ridiculous. Isn’t that what you promise at the altar? Til death do us part? Why would you have to make that promise again? He went on to explain how if they hadn’t, they’d never push the other hard enough to solve a problem. If you live in fear, however minimal, that something might cause your spouse to run, you will never push them hard enough to solve an issue. You will be in fear of pushing “too hard.”
That stuck with me. I remember that sermon as vividly as I remember my first kiss, my wedding day, and the birth of my son. It has proved to be an important aspect of my marriage and an idea that I think is lost in our society. While my husband and I were engaged, we sat down and discussed this. I told him that if I was going to marry him we had to have the agreement that divorce was not an option. It was not a topic of discussion or even a word to be said. If we were to be married, it was for life.
He asked me “So if I cheat on you, not that I’m planning to, you won’t divorce me?” I said “No. I’ll be furious. I’ll be hurt. I’ll demand counseling, but I won’t leave you.” He thought it over a little and nodded. I then added, “If you continue to have an affair, won’t go to counseling or follow through on the repair of our marriage, then that becomes emotional abuse. I won’t tolerate that. Then divorce is an option.” We discussed it a little while longer and agreed that the only acceptable reason for divorce is abuse, of each other or our future children.
I’ve mentioned this agreement to coworkers and acquaintances in the past and they this it is preposterous. “What if you just grow to want different things?” “What if you are just completely unhappy?” My answer is always the same “I chose my partner for life. Anything broken can be fixed.”
Marriage is hard, unbelievably so. It’s also completely worthwhile to me. There are days I’m furious at my husband (as I am sure there are days he is furious with me), but it has never crossed my mind to quit, because quitting has never been an option. I had the same approach to childbirth. I wanted a natural labor so I made it clear that no one was to offer me medication. There were moments it was extraordinarily difficult and all I wanted was a break. Had someone offered it to me, I probably would have taken it, and I probably would have regretted it later.
We live in a very individualistic society and there are good things about that. People feel free to voice their opinions, come up with new ideas, and create astounding works of art, literature, etc. That’s the incredible thing about individuality. There is a huge drawback to individuality too. It has led us to think about ourselves first and foremost. It’s all about what I want, what makes me feel good, what I need. Marriage and individualism don’t fit together. Marriage means giving up yourself for your team. It’s what is best for the team, not what’s best for you. Sometimes those things can go together: getting alone time for your favorite hobby can make you a more well rounded person and therefore make you a stronger member of the team. But to give up on someone because they impede you from having what you want all the time (maybe even for a few years) is selfish, in my opinion. I think it is ridiculous to think that’s how marriage should work.
Sometimes your spouse will need more attention, more resources, and more time than you. This is true regardless of your gender. My husband, for instance, has spent the last year giving up so much of himself so we can overcome my postpartum depression. It can be frustrating and seem unfair, but there will absolutely be times in your marriage that you will be on the receiving end of that too. If it’s not working, then fix it. See a marriage counselor, talk to your spouse in plain words about what you need, and come to some solution. These are not quick fixes. They take time and effort.
In two and a half years of marriage, my husband and I have already been through a lot, but we have always come out the other side a stronger, more devoted couple. I anticipate many more difficult times, even more difficult than we’ve already faced, but I’m not scared of him leaving. I will push him as hard as he will push me until we come up with a solution. Divorce is never threatened, because divorce is not an option. Our marriage is for life.
Photo Credit: Mackenzie Maeder // Photo + Video