Saturday, January 2, 2010

Our marriage will last because he leaves me...and I'm okay with that!

The running of our family depends upon separation, and without a willingness to be vulnerable and trusting, our marriage would never last through this phase of our lives. I look at those magical couples who are with each other more than they are apart (most often the kidless-dog-owning-ones), and I am partially awe-struck and generally impressed, but I think the major emotion I feel is one of sadness. For a while I was sad that it wasn’t us. Although I hadn’t spent any childhood energy on fantasizing about my husband or our relationship, I think somewhere in the depths of my heart I had hoped that once I was married I would be “with” that person forever. My current sadness for those have-to-be-together-all-the-time-couples is that statistically many of them may never see the other side of married life, and have a chance to enjoy the confidence that comes with knowing you are loved and honored even when you are not in the physical presence of your spouse. I see heart-linked couples and they sometimes seem more concerned about continually reminding each other that they are connected than they are about simply enjoying each other’s company.

Now granted, I know that not every husband is completely honest about what he might be doing when he is not with his wife, nor does every wife make only faithful decisions when faced with temptation. I count myself among the lucky that I am in a relationship based on open and genuinely honest communication. I have come to trust my husband with every fiber of my being, and he generally does exactly what he says he is going to do. I, too, try to be true to my word, and we’ve even talked openly about what it would mean if one of the two of us wanted to cheat on our marriage. We both agree that if there was a desire to be adulterous, there would be nothing that the other spouse could do to keep it from happening. It is so hard to imagine him stepping out on us, that I don’t even think I can fake what it would feel like. My ability to identify with the “cheating wife” is also such a foreign concept that it is easier for me to just talk about why trust works for us.

My husband and I have been married nearly twelve years, and he has worn his wedding ring one day. For our wedding and reception, his band was on the ring finger of his left hand, but starting on the first full day of our marriage, and every day since, he has kept his ring on a gold chain around his neck. He has been to bars, he has been around single women, he has gone to raucous parties and that entire time he has gone with a naked hand. My seven-year-old daughter asked him one day how anyone knows he is married if he doesn’t wear his ring on his hand. His answer was simple, “It doesn’t matter if anyone else knows I am married, it matters that your mom and I know we are married.” It’s true, and I am starting to understand the depth of that statement more and more.

I do a lot of things alone with our kids, and on and off through the last couple of years, I have allowed negative emotions to creep into my thinking about what that must look like to the casual observer. I know that my oldest overheard a family talking about us at church and one of the kids whispered, “I think they don’t have a dad.” My kids know they have a dad…they have a great dad, and I know I have a husband…what does it really matter what anyone else thinks? Our lives are goofy, and for two months of the year we have a long distance, commuting relationship. My husband lives 900 miles away while I hold down the fort with the kids. For one month we are high-fiving each other as we both head out of state to work on the weekends and a parade of family and hired help keep the schedules running and the house afloat. For four months we work together from home during the week and then evenings on the weekend I am home alone or running kids from here to there. For maybe one month total through the year we are the “typical” married couple with our own work to do and we come together for the weekend as a family. Normal is most definitely the exception in our house, and I feel blessed that I am finally starting to embrace that.

What does it mean to be “with” someone without actually being “with” someone? That’s what forced separation has taught me. It means that you know someone out there makes decisions that include you. It means that you make decisions with that person in mind too, and there is a movement toward a common goal that happens every day no matter where we are. Some people never get to this point in their relationships, and for that, I am sad for them. I no longer prescribe to the ideology that everyone deserves that family picture that looks polished and beautiful but that is based on the gloss more than the goodness. What everyone deserves is someone who loves them unconditionally and who sacrifices for their goals and dreams. What everyone deserves is a chance to confidently go through life knowing that they’ll never be hurt on purpose. What everyone deserves is a chance to be missed and the joy that comes with reuniting. When a marriage is based in truth and grounded in love there is not one way that the family photo looks from day to day, and even if I have to photoshop my husband in, I know he is my husband, and I am his wife.

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