Ah, marriage and relationships. They are great. They are fulfilling. But we can all admit they are really freaking hard and take work? I remember watching a talk show once when I was younger, and there was a male celebrity guest (I can’t remember who) who’d been married about four times. He said, “Once a relationship feels like work, I’m out. It shouldn’t feel like that.”
I’ve thought about that a lot over the years. For a long time, because of that damn show, I believed relationships shouldn’t feel like work. I also watched my parents get married and divorced six times between the two of them. I thought there must be something to that — relationships shouldn’t involve work at all.
But now, after working hard for almost six years to save my own marriage, then getting a divorce of my own, I’ve realized relationships are tough. And some of them are worth fighting for.
Hell, I’m in another relationship now that’s on the new side, and it takes more work than ever since we’ve both been divorced and have kids.
And if you talk to people, really talk to them, you’ll find they’ve all had struggles in their relationships — even the really, really good ones.
I have a friend who I always thought had a picture-perfect marriage, but I’d never really asked her about it. I’ve come to find out, they have been close to divorcing a few times but were able to do the work and turn it around. Just because someone isn’t airing their marriage troubles (your marriage, your choice) doesn’t mean they aren’t struggling or they’ve never had complications.
When I read about former president Barack Obama’s interview with Oprah about how he and Michelle Obama struggled with their own marriage during his presidency and what they had to do to get back on track, I was like, Yes! This is the stuff we all need to hear about because it normalizes marriage and us all know our relationships aren’t flawed; they are normal.
He told Oprah, “I think a lot of couples understand and have experienced when you’ve got external stress and pressure that in some ways can simultaneously bring you closer together in a marriage, but it can also put strains on the marriage — and our marriage was no different.”
He talks about how he knew his decision to run for President affected her and the sacrifices she made.
Today shared an excerpt from his memoir and it shook me: there were nights lying next to Michelle in bed when he’d “think about those days when everything between us felt lighter, when her smile was more constant and our love less encumbered.”
And he goes on to discuss how he was afraid those times were gone forever and they might not be able to get them back.
Now, I realize he was the President and she was the First Lady, but if that doesn’t sound like real life, I don’t know what does.
We’ve all had those nights, those times, when we are with someone we love and we feel the weight of the world and think back to when times were better and didn’t seem so stressful.
It could be after having kids, after getting a more stressful job, or losing a loved one. You might look at the person you are married to and long for those earlier days when things didn’t feel so complicated. It can be such a helpless feeling, and I think there are very few people who are masters at turning it around — it takes work, and it takes two people who are willing to do that work.
Obama says what kept him and Michelle going was communication and “fundamental love and respect for each other and prioritizing our kids.”
What we can all take from Obama — someone who is so smart and distinguished — talking so candidly is this: we all struggle in our relationship regardless of what we do for a living or how we live our life. There is no perfect recipe. You have to realize there are going to be times when it doesn’t feel light and easy and instead of thinking it has to be the end. It can be, of course — in some cases it’s just time to call it quits. But if you feel like it’s an uphill battle, it helps to remember that no one has their shit together all the time. No one.
We need to stop focusing on this fantasy that just because a relationship seems flawless to us, it is. We just don’t see anything but the good parts.
We are all humans who will make mistakes and probably suck at our relationships during one time or another. And if the two of you are willing to work it out, that’s all that matters.