Marriage is, as with most things, not what we expect in many ways. It’s nothing like a Nicholas Sparks book or movie, it’s not always poetic, and it sometimes fails at easing our loneliness. In being married, I’ve learned to broaden my definition of romance and to accept and even embrace the ebbs and the flows of long-term love.
I’m finding myself in a season of break-ups–not mine, but those around me. When couples who’ve been partnered for a significant period of time split, especially gay couples, I often experience feelings of sadness and fear–feelings that go beyond a genuine sympathy for the trials these couples face as they transition into life outside a partnership. Yes, I feel sympathy for them. Yes, I wish them well as they learn to live in this new phase.
But, more than that, I wonder what went wrong. I look at my relationship and wonder if we’re engaging in the same patterns that may have led to the split. I look inside my home, inside myself and experience real fear that separation and divorce could be an epidemic. And we could be next.
I understand that many couples view relationships in a less conventional way and don’t necessarily expect to stay together forever, rather until it no longer makes sense. Know that, in this instance, I am only referring to marriages like mine–which exist with the intention of a lifetime together.
The bottom line is, my wife and I have a solid relationship, but this doesn’t exempt us from the divisions that real life struggles can create. Our commitment to and love for one another doesn’t guarantee us a lifetime together. Something my wife has taught me is that it’s okay to acknowledge that. She and I don’t know what tomorrow will bring. And pretending that we do would be shortsighted and just plain silly. We made promises to one another to do everything in our power individually and as a couple to live and thrive together as partners for the remainder of this life. I believe I will, and I believe she will. But, I can’t ignore the inevitable obstacles that we will encounter. And I can’t discount the fact that we may come to a hurdle that we just can’t cross together.
I used to think that, if I acknowledged the possibility of my relationship ending, this would imply that we’re not strong, that we’re not stable, that we’re not solid. My way of thinking has changed. Anything can happen—anything. And I can’t plan and prepare for anything. And stating this will not make it come true. In fact, I’m learning the opposite to be more accurate. I’m finding that, in speaking the truth and not pretending to know the future, there is freedom, less pressure.
Relieving myself of the strain of planning for forever has allowed me to be more present in the here, in the now. I’m taking joy in the day to day and even in the minutes that pass with my wife by my side. We’re checking in with each other and staying connected through the excitement and sometimes monotony of our daily lives. And I can’t help but wonder if, in this more free way of thinking, which allows for no unreasonable vows or promises, I may just be solidifying our forever.