Friday, February 18, 2011
Thoughts on the Permanence of Marriage
This is the last day that Tom will be away! He should be getting back home pretty late tonight. I did miss him, and I'll certainly be happy to have him back. But the separation was not as difficult as I expected. The first night he was away, it took me longer than usual to fall asleep. I wasn't used to having an empty spot next to me in the bed. But by the second night, I was really starting to enjoy having the entire bed to myself, and being able to sprawl luxuriously across it! And the first night, I was the one to call him in the evening, and to protest when he said he needed to get off the phone and get to bed. But after a couple days, I was no longer watching the clock anxiously for the appointed time of his call, and I was the one to call an end to the conversation with, "okay, well....I should probably get going..."
This is such a change from the way I used to be. When Tom and I were dating, I couldn't stand being apart from him even for one day. I wanted to be with him every moment that I could. And if we couldn't see each other in person, I expected at least an hour-long phone call that night. It used to frustrate him sometimes that I was so suffocatingly attached like that. And it's only in retrospect that I can understand why!
Back then, I would look at the way married couples interacted, and I was sure that would never be us. How could I ever get "comfortable" enough around the love of my life that I could sit on the couch with him to watch a movie and not be snuggled right against him? Or be happy to sit at separate ends of the table when out with friends? Or just spend an evening at home, each of us engaged in separate pasttimes and not even be having much in the way of conversation?!
One time, Tom was telling me a story about how he and his younger sister set up a tent in their backyard when they were kids. They wanted to sleep out there for the night, but were too scared to do it alone. So Tom's dad joined them in the tent. And when I heard that story - this was while we were engaged, I think - my very first thought was, "oh man - how could his mom bear to have his dad sleeping apart from her for the whole night?!"
Haha - oh how silly that sounds now!
No matter how well you prepare for marriage, there are just so many little changes that will happen - slowly, and subtly - that you could never expect them, or even notice them while they're happening. I'd say one of the most profound changes - but one it took us a while to be aware of - was just a small shift in the way we understood our relationship. It was a small realization, but it changed so much about how we relate to one another. And it is this: Marriage is permanent. And I don't think the truth of that really sinks in until you are married.
One day, a few months into our marriage, Tom and I realized that we never got into those stupid fights anymore about all the unimportant things that used to incite arguments all the time while we were dating. And it's not necessarily that those things that had been problems just went away as soon as we were wed. It's that we were then able to put them into perspective. Once it sinks in that you are going to spend the rest of your lives married - no matter what happens, no matter how much love you "feel" for one another - you want your relationship to be as strong as possible. I think the first few years of marriage are probably the most crucial, too, for setting an example for yourselves of how your married life will be...which things should be hashed out, and which ones just "let go." To lay a solid foundation now, before unforeseen future trials. If you can learn how to love for real (sacrificially) now, when the force of newly-wedded bliss is helping you out, then you will be better prepared for the day when it's not quite as easy to call up those tender feelings.
This is just one of the many beautiful things about being Catholic. With the knowledge that marriage is forever, and nothing (except death) that we do could ever end it, we are encouraged to put as much of ourselves into it as we can. There's no escape option. "So let's make the best of this we can," you say. I sincerely believe that if Tom and I accepted divorce as an option - even if we never sought such a thing - our marriage would be innately weaker.
So Tom's been gone since Sunday. Did I miss him? Yes. But it was certainly bearable. Because I had the sure knowledge that not only was he coming back to me, but that I would have him with me - with only occasional, small separations like this - for the rest of our lives.