18 Years of Wedded Bliss -- and the Truth About Why I Stayed

Take Charge on 01.24.12
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Did you see the news that Heidi Klum and Seal are separating? Now, I don't know them any better than the average Joe, though I did once interview Heidi years ago while hosting that network morning show. She was pregnant at the time,  so real and down-to-earth that I was bummed to hear they were breaking up. The couple released a joint statement that said:

"We have had the deepest respect for one another throughout our relationship and continue to love each other very much, but we have grown apart. This is an amicable process and protecting the well being of our children remains our top priority, especially during this time of transition. We thank our family, friends, and fans for their kind words of support. And for our children's sake, we appreciate you respecting our privacy."

My husband and I are celebrating 18 years of marriage this week and what struck me most -- no, hit me right between the eyes -- was the part about growing apart. In our years of wedded bliss (who coined that term anyway?), the last year has been much tougher than the previous 18. Kids, jobs, illness all conspired to drive distance between my husband and me. At one point, I looked up and we were almost living separate lives. This was truly the year I thought I was leaving; I really did. Why didn't I? The reasons fall into three main categories:

  • Emotional: It seems obvious, but what I mean is that I have a connection to this place. Not the physical space, as in my home, but rather the mental and emotional space I am in. My family (including the husband who frustrates me at times (and I, him)) and I have our tentacles deeply intertwined around and through each other. I can't see my way clear of that, nor, when I really think about it, do I want to.
  • Financial: Divorce is a painful process, not to mention expensive, and frankly, we can't afford it. I know you don't hear the music swelling under that reason but it's the truth. We are a family of average means, with two kids bound for college in a few years. One of the things we have worked hard on as a team is building a sound financial life. Couples therapy or separate vacations every now and again is probably a better and more fiscally responsible approach for us.
  • Understanding Reality: I mentioned wedded bliss a moment ago. The fact is, marriage is hard work. No, I mean REALLY hard, especially when you hit that first real bump in the road. I wish I had a dollar for every time I wanted to cut and run. But I didn't leave and when times are good, I'm glad we stuck it out. When times are bad, I just remind myself that they're temporary and sooner or later, the sun will shine again. That's the ebb and flow of life, isn't it?

If we're going to make it another 18 years, we both know some things have to change, and I for one am willing to put in the work. I'll take charge by making just a little more effort.  I'll remember how I used to think it was cute when he bit his lip. I'll go a little easier him when he's wearing his baggy sweats, remembering there's a sexy guy in there somewhere, and I'll do my best to wear something other than jeans and a t-shirt seven days a week. In other words: more effort, more gratitude, less complaining. I think those things, at least in part, will get us through year 18 and beyond.

What's your marriage secret? How do you get through the hard times?

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