This weekend was my little sister’s bridal shower, and, as Matron of Honor, I was responsible for a great deal, chiefly the entertainment. One of the ideas I had was to designate an area where guests could write a message to the bride, whether it be advice, encouragement or well-wishes. I’ve been married for three years now, and I sat there in front of the station, agonizing over what to write. Here I had come up with what I thought was a great idea, and I couldn’t execute it. What advice could I give? I’m hardly an expert on marriage, being so young in my own. I decided to spy on the other guests’ words of wisdom for some ideas, and I saw a cliché that has always seemed like the worst bit of advice to me: Never go to bed angry.
I am a horrible verbal fighter. Admittedly, I am cruel, cold and cutting when I get angry. I go for the jugular and leave wounds that still haunt me. That is why, as a wife and mother in my thirties, I have learned the valuable lesson to shut up, to just walk away and go to bed angry. If I go to bed angry, the morning will bring clarity and a much calmer ire than I went to bed stoking. If you have a temper like mine, going to bed angry is almost vital to staying married. I’d rather let myself cool down and get clear-headed than fight it out, hoping that a situation significant enough to make me angry in the first place will somehow be resolved in a single evening of mental sparring.
As I stood there, shaking my head at this bit of marital advice, I started thinking of love clichés that just drive me crazy. The one I just mentioned is the top, for sure, but another honorable mention is this one: Nobody is worth your tears, and the one who is won’t make you cry. W.H.A.T.E.V.E.R. The one you love, and the one who loves you, will definitely make you cry. He or she will make you cry when they disappoint you or let you down. He/she will be the person who knows you better than anyone else on this planet, and that gives them power over your emotional pain. You will fight with your spouse, and sometimes, it will get very ugly, and this person you’ve married, this person who knows you so well, knows exactly how to hurt you, and he/she will. And they will spend the rest of their lives hating themselves for it, too, and trying to redeem themselves. But the fact of the matter is that the people you love, and who love you, can and sometimes do, hurt you the most. So, a cliché like that is misleading and wrong…and just so Hollywood.
Another: If you love something, let it go. If it comes back, it’s yours. Well, if I love something (or someone since I don’t really love “things”), I fight like hell for it. I don’t let it go until I feel defeated, especially in a marriage. If I thought my husband’s love for me was waning and he might be looking elsewhere, the last thing I’d do is let him go, especially because if he did end up coming back it would only be to get his…um…jewels removed.
“There are no perfect people, only perfect love.” Gag me with a spoon. Even if love is perfect, it’s a love that’s being acted out by imperfect people, which is going to change the nature of it.
Now, I am not even remotely suggesting that I know what I’m talking about. I could have it all wrong, but I can only be honest about what love is to me. Romantic love is a heady, awesome feeling that is inconstant. I don’t always feel the same degree of love toward my husband, and we’ve been together for six years this time around. I don’t always feel the same kind of love toward my husband. Sometimes, I love him as my champion. Sometimes, I love him as my best friend. Sometimes, I love him like my favorite piece of art; I just want to stare at him and admire his beauty. Even still, my life is not always full of sunshine and rainbows, and I don’t really believe that any marriage is…even if it is full of perfect love.
So, with my limited experience of love on this Earth, I picked up the pen and wrote these words of marital advice to my baby sister. They may seem cynical, but they reinforce what love in a marriage is to me: an action. It takes work and will and stay:
Give – even when you don’t want to.
Love – even when you don’t feel it.
Hope – even when you don’t see it.