I was your typical(I think) teenager who dreamed of fairy tale love and happily-ever-after. I'd heard the story repeatedly of my parents meeting my mom's freshman year, how my dad taught her clarinet (they had one lesson), how they fell in love and were married after just a year and a half together. So romantic :)
Ahem. This was a lesson my mom didn't have to say as much as others -- I watched it in play. My parents had a very challenging marriage for the first thirty or so years (too bad I'm not exaggerating, huh?). My dad had serious blood sugar problems, but they didn't discover that until they'd been married for about fifteen years.
My mom was raised to believe that when you married, it was forever. Period. So when things weren't going the way she thought they would, she shrugged and thought, "I made my bed. now I have to sleep in it." But she was in over her head with my dad. My dad was an angry man. Really angry. Full of rage -- when, and only when, his blood sugar was off. The rest of the time, he was sane and calm, patient and wise. But we never knew which person he'd be that day.
Before anyone gets too worried, he never, not even once, abused any of us in any way. But being in the presence of that anger, even when it's not directed at you, is still scary. Certainly it was for my mom, whose own father didn't seem to know what the word 'temper' meant. My dad punched holes in the wall, broke glass, yelled, swore (though my brother and I rarely heard any swearing) -- I'd say it was a problem.
So as I grew older, my mom started mentioning that to me, reminding me that yes, dreaming of falling in love is part of growing up. But don't expect life to suddenly be perfect when you marry. Know there will be problems -- period.
It sank in. Even though, by the time I was in college my dad's temperament had changed dramatically (because they knew about the blood sugar then, and they've regulated it through diet since then), which meant their marriage was getting stronger all the time, I still listened and believed.
I was single for many years in my 20s -- I met my husband (well, I already knew him -- but we started dating) when I was 29. I'd had a tough relationship before that, while I was still in college, and that gave me a firsthand experience of problems in a relationship. AFter that, I decided that I would only date another man if I could handle his weaknesses (those he revealed), and if my life just wouldn't be the same once I'd met him.
My brother was much younger when he married, and despite both my parents telling him that he'd have problems, I don't think he believed them. He truly thought he'd have the fairy tale (can you tell he was a romantic at heart?). But...right, he didn't. They had some doozies of problems -- however, they're still together and seem quite happy 15 years later (though they just had their first child, so I always wonder how that will change a relationship).
I have a good friend who's going through some problems in her marriage right now. She was also older when she got married, and she knew, realistically, that problems would come. But she didn't expect the ones she got (do we ever?), and it's been tough. I feel for her -- and my advice to her, which I learned from my mom, was to allow herself to be unhappy. You know, we don't have to be happy all the time -- we don't have to keep that facade. sometimes you just have to accept that you're unhappy -- and remember, it will pass.
My mom lived through a dozen+ years of mostly unhappiness (in her marriage; she claims my brother and I helped the other aspects of her life)...but it slowly improved. Today, she and my dad have been married for 42 years -- and they're best friends. My mom has learned how to deal with the now-rare blow-ups; my dad has admitted that my mom's opinion of him is the most important in the world. They're not the type of couple who share a house but not their hearts...and perhaps the problems in marriages, if we can get through them, are what give us that type of closeness. what do you think?