It occurred to me that each year I’ve written some sort of year end review about my marriage for my anniversary. Today is my third anniversary. Without looking back at my other essays on it, I know I’m not as happy and not as profuse as I was one year in. I don’t want to shy away from the realities of marriage and the Army, but I do understand how sensitive of a matter being honest actually is.
I am not as happy as I was two years ago because stress exists, namely the fact my husband has been on a different continent for the last 5 months and I have been pregnant for 7. I’m also not as happy because being married is not the least frustrating experience I have on a regular basis. Being home alone during this time has afforded me the opportunity to reflect on this.
One of the differences in this year and last year is that I was convinced my husband had committed an array of new offenses against me mainly resembling neglect. I had started working and expected more from him as I had less time for myself. This year I understand he doesn’t choose to neglect me; that’s how I have chosen to define his actions. The unchanging fact is that my husband loves and literally hasn’t bothered to imagine any level of a future without me. And he hasn’t actually done anything offensive to me. Still I’ve been quick to assign his actions or lack thereof to disregard, finding reasons he doesn’t actually love me like he should. Why would I want to prove that? What I understand now is that what is most important is that we share the same definitions of love, disrespect, effort and we currently do not. I accept I can’t label his actions for him, just as he can’t qualify or disqualify any feelings I have about his or my actions.
I went through a period of thinking he was refusing to do what or be who I want, which made me angry and feel helpless, then I started to believe he could not do those things, which made me feel helpless and desperate. At this point I understand this predicament is that other meaning of “marriage takes work” because my husband can be what I need and I can be what he needs, we just have to learn how to do that.
The first bit of marriage was easy because of the novelty of being married. I finally got to live with my boyfriend! And I wasn’t responsible for taking out the trash. Bliss. When you marry someone you think you know them in this intimate way, which is probably as intimate as you can know someone before marriage, but there are still levels to your spouse and yourself you have yet to discover, both higher and lower.
I knew my husband’s polite passion for me and general desire, but I did not know he would ever put me second. I knew the Army would be the priority but I did not know it would take every ounce of energy he has. I didn’t know my husband would not need me on a practical level, but I love that he needs me on a spiritual level.
So at moments I have felt bereft about what I haven’t had, but more recently I have felt clear about what I actually need. It is important for me to acknowledge the ways my happiness and contentment have nothing to do with my husband (not to mention the fact he hasn’t done anything wrong), but I have still placed it on him. My self-actualization and current job, isolation, his spirit, and my relationship with God have more to do with how happy I am than whether or not my husband surprised me with a date, but I at times have chosen to only focus on the date because that is the only factor I seem to be able to affect or that I can remove from my own responsibility. (More on my roadblocks with God in a much later post).
The reality is, he is not super happy. I have learned that being in the Army can be difficult, but apparently being Infantry is the bottom on the barrel. Given my high opinion of my husband, the way Infantry units run is detrimental to him. He is intelligent, assertive, responsible, respectful, and athletic, but he seems to be redirected into nonsense at almost every turn. My husband, having not experienced adversity as I have and not being a woman in general, is not most adaptive to these conditions, and that’s why I am second, in my opinion.
I have thought “how happy would I be if we just lived in St. Louis with near our friends and family with nice jobs?” I would like to think I would be happy, but let’s face it, its human nature to find any situation wanting.
I would be “happier” if my husband were more needy. It would give me purpose. As my husband says “idle hands are the devil’s workshop,” and makes for this nonsense I’m entertaining now- finding ways to be unhappy. But if he were needy, I would have long ago collapsed under the pressure of his needs, work, and my high standards. Most importantly, I would be happy with this person if stress didn’t exist, but it will and all the more, so we must adapt.
Thinking about the constant resistance to ease and grace in my life, I have thought about what it would be like not to be married. No, I haven’t considered getting divorced, I’ve just thought about what if it never becomes easy again. The prospect of being apart from my husband is the most miserable feeling I can conjure and even makes me cry right now. I chose him for a reason and I have to remember that because it will always remain true. Even at his worst or my worst, being divided from him is still the worst. Because of this fact and my realizations about self and the spouse as an individual, I choose to initiate the actual thoughtful work of sustaining a growing marriage. I need to pray for my husband for the specific things I think he needs. I need to pray for myself. I need to seek peace in my life and promote peace in his. I need to always look inward instead of outward because my emotions and beliefs are always my choice. If Paul can sing shackled in a jail cell, I can smile with my fake nails, loyal spouse, apparent health, and iPhone.
But, this still has to be a joint effort. I’m writing this on my own. These are my choices and all I can control. Given who my husband is, I am not sure he is required to make this same conscious distinction or decision. I’m the over-analytical one. The frustration comes with not having the tools to navigate the both of us to the same place, and maybe someone who does can help. Until then, I am here.
Marriage is like math classes. Not to say Asians are better at it, but some of us may have found algebra easy, but geometry difficult, calculus impossible. Most of us will have to practice and study. Some of us eventually make our way through, (some of us cheat our way through), some of us need tutors, some of us do better the second try, and some of us really should stick to art.