*Rachel here. Throughout Chris’s and my engagement, I kept a more private blog that I updated occasionally with my thoughts about marriage and relationships as we went through the engagement process. Most of the posts I will leave over there, but I wanted to share this one. I’ve updated it a bit, as it was written over a year ago.
On Marriage and Work
And no, this isn’t about balancing marriage and your career.
An interesting discussion cropped up on A Practical Wedding the other day about the concept that marriage takes work. It’s a concept that’s fairly well-known in our society, but what does it really mean? Meg (the head honcho of A Practical Wedding) kicked off the discussion with a piece of advice she heard in her 20′s – “If it’s right, it’s easy”. It’s a piece of advice I 100% agree with, but I need to elaborate on what I mean.
“Easy” doesn’t mean your relationship is completely devoid of conflict or disagreement. It doesn’t mean you never argue or lose patience. It doesn’t mean life never throws anything incredibly heart-wrenching your way that you need to get through.
But it does mean that your conflicts are handled rationally, without spewing insults or festering anger. It means that when you lose patience, you are humble enough to apologize (eventually). It means that when life gets tough, you’re stronger and more capable of handling it, because you’re together.
Easy means your relationship feels like a partnership that makes you feel empowered and ready to face the world and go after your dreams. If it feels like anything less, if it saps your energy instead of renewing it, defeats you rather than empowering you, it’s probably not right.
All relationships will have periods that feel like work. When money’s tight, or you have a new baby, or some external stressor is imposing on your relationship, there will most certainly be times when it feels like more of a struggle than usual, but those times shouldn’t be the norm. The majority of the time, a healthy, happy relationship should feel easy, grounding, and comforting. In the slightly over 4 years Chris and I have been together, it has always felt easy, and always felt natural. When we first said I love you early in our relationship, it was real and genuine and natural. When we moved in together 6 months after that, there were no ‘define the relationship’ talks or complicated transitions or struggles to adjust to the others constant presence. Again, it felt natural. We didn’t need to define the relationship because we both knew exactly what it was.
In the 3 and a half years we’ve lived together, our relationship has been joyful, steadying, and empowering. I’ve tried more new things in the time we’ve been together than I likely tried in all my years combined before that. New foods (anyone who knows me knows this is a big deal for me, I’m the pickiest eater on the planet), new music, new hobbies, new ideas. I finally summed up enough confidence to get my driver’s license. I started a business. Chris has started to pursue his career goals, and developed the confidence to break out of his comfort zone. Our relationship doesn’t define us, but it gives us the freedom and sense of empowerment to try new things and become the best versions of ourselves.
In our wedding ceremony, we included a passage inspired by something Meg Keene says in her book:
A good marriage makes you free. Marriage allows us to support our partners to become the people they were meant to be. To empower them to pursue their dreams, and to live bravely and honestly. It allows us to live bravely and honestly ourselves. Marriage gives us the strength to continue to say yes to what is right for us. It gives us a foundation on which to build and the strength to dream big dreams.
To sum up, I’m going to borrow a quote from one of the commenters on the discussion at A Practical Wedding, (who unfortunately goes by ‘anonymous’), who said: “The good kind of relationship work is like tending a lovely garden or putting effort into a well-loved hobby. The bad kind is like, well, fixing a toilet that breaks every day or having to put in overtime at a telemarketing job.”