Happy Monday! I checked out the WBLS-sponsored Bridal Expo at Hotel Pennsylvania in NYC on Saturday. I uncovered exciting new resources and connected with many (hopefully) new Triple B family members. While there I met and chatted up a photographer who shared that three of his wedding clients last year had hit splitsville before they even picked up their proofs! Is that bananas or what? It immediately reminded me of why I wanted a place on the site dedicated to marriage.
That gave me the final push I needed to share the below article by writer Alex Kuczynski. I read it in an issue of Harper’s Bazaar recently and was moved. FYI – I don’t know Alex from a can of paint but I dig this piece. Take your time and read in it’s entirety.
I’ll never forget learning the difference between a successful long-term marriage and a failed one. I was in a hair salon on Madison Avenue a week before my wedding, and the woman next to me getting highlights offered her advice. I knew her nephew, and she thought this was enough of a connection to be candid. “Don’t let it become like mine,” she said, sounding flatly unimpressed with herself. “It’s been 10 years, and we’ve had our children. Now we live in the same house and sleep in the same bed, but it’s not really a marriage.” She stopped and peered at me from under her tinfoils. “Don’t become brother and sister. Make a choice to be something else.”
Now that my husband and I have been together for 10 years, married more than eight, from time to time I pause to reflect on what that woman said. There is so much literature about making marriages work, and so much conversation about how much work it takes to have a good marriage, that it’s hard to believe anyone has a good marriage anymore. Instead, it sounds like we all have second jobs.
You never see happy marriages on television, of course. Satisfied, calm marriages don’t make for high ratings or good gossip. Most celebrities discuss how hard they work at their marriages; discussing an easy one doesn’t sell magazines. No one writes about his or her good marriage. Yawn. Memoirs sell off the wreckage of people’s lives, not the pleasant successes. Wreckage gets you on Oprah.
But the notion that we ought to choose to remain in love doesn’t wash with me anymore. Love is a commitment, but the idea of choosing to work at your marriage sounds like a drag. I’m going to write something that might irritate people, but here we go: Sometimes you luck out. Sometimes being married is easy. Sometimes — strike up the violins and cue the Hugh Grant voice-over — love chooses you.
Frankly, it should be easy. It should be a joy almost every day to be married, to feel relief and gratitude, and if it isn’t, you’re in the wrong marriage. The secret to a happy marriage isn’t hard work, as if we should behave like dogs gnawing over the bones of a relationship until we discover marrow. It’s not convincing yourself that every good marriage takes work and hauling yourselves to therapy twice a week until the wheels come off. The secret to a happy marriage is finding the right person and remaining faithful. Call me a boorish American bourgeois (and all my unhappily married friends in Europe will), but that’s pretty much it.
Beyond that, the ideal is to fall in love, then — surprise — to fall further in love each passing year, from the first phase of romantic love (which can last up to three years, say psychologists) to the attachment phase of love, the long, forever period when you either remain attached or become detached, like the woman under the tinfoil who felt like she was sleeping with her brother.
I’m bored with people who tick off with a dreary consistency all the noble tasks they do to make their marriage work, as if they should be congratulated for accepting the connubial call to arms. A few years ago, a friend told me she bought a Roomba as a relationship solver because neither she nor her husband could be bothered to vacuum the kitchen. I watched the dark little disk wander the linoleum floor until it stalled in a corner, and I thought to myself, “This relationship is doomed. These people don’t even like each other enough to make their apartment presentable to each other. That’s not hard work; that’s basic respect.” Two years later, they were divorced.
Imagine that your spouse might disappear from the face of the earth tomorrow. For so many people- — think of people in combat, war correspondents, police officers, emergency responders — that’s a terrifying, potentially sudden reality.
If that thought doesn’t cause enough panic and heartbreak and sorrow to overwhelm you, you’re in the wrong place with the wrong person.
As for the woman under the tinfoil, I e-mailed her nephew the other day. She made a choice. She’s still married.
Do you agree with Alex? Is staying in love — especially in a marriage — a choice? Does staying happy in a marriage always have to be a chore? I personally don’t think a couple not wanting to vacuum is doomed for divorce…
P.S. – The reason I have chosen to profile married couples like Steve & Sheona and Christy & Freddie here in Marriage Matters is because they’re still under 45. They listen to Jay-Z and probably shop at H&M. Yet they’ve been married over a decade. They’re accessible to twenty and thirty-somethings but just as Alex, they definitely have wisdom to share.
[Click here for original article.]