Making its way around the Facebook recently is a post by Seth Adams Smith. And people have posted their praise of the column, saying how lucky they are that their spouse or significant other is just like this.
My problem with it? A real marriage isn't about one or the other person. Its not about your kids. It's not about you, and yet so many people write about their marriage as if it is only about them and how their happiness is paramount.
A real marriage, like so many of the quiet, dignified folks I see in real life, is about US. It's about being able to come together when you need to and come apart when you don't. You are always yourself, but your naturally selfish nature comes to you when you are alone, and hides in the corner when you are with your spouse. You are a team, a force to be reckoned with. Your stuff becomes our stuff. You work together even through the hard times, the arguments, and the major life changes, and even the small life changes. You ask each other advice because you've learned to broaden your life view to include someone else as a part of you. And yes, sometimes there are selfish periods. And yes, you have to learn that there will be some of those times that go up and down and that your spouse is just as able to forget that you are "our" rather than him or her. Further, your marriage is not your children - if the only thing you have to talk about in common is your household bills and your kids, then well, you're headed down a rocky path, because you've both forgotten your collective identity, and that's not a good thing. Your children enhance your life and become part of the "US" but there's still going to be hours of the day where you need to remember to work together as spouses and be that force.
But you stick together through all of that, and that's what brings you happiness. I can't imagine a life without my husband. He's broadened my world view so that I'm not the selfish person I was when I was young. But he's also taught me that I need to guard myself, too, so that my giving nature isn't abused or overtaken. I have my selfish moments, but they are less often, less long, and less strong than when I was first married. We've moved into that phase where I see marriages becoming real and less tenuous and both of us are committed for the long haul, not willing to give up because we're in one of those bad times.
So what I'm grateful for today is that my husband gets it. He's not there to throw rose petals on the floor after me, make me happy by serving my every whim, its that he's a part of my life from which I derive great happiness because we are together. And I do the same for him. We take care of each other and live the un-Disneyfied marriage. And why yes, those Fiats do represent us - he's tall and I'm short, but complement each other perfectly and I wouldn't have it any other way.
[Side note: written 11/4/2013 8:00 pm. And I apologize if any of the language in this column offends or grosses you out.]