Staying married is so beyond “worth it”–a good marriage is the staff of life (better than bread!), the gateway to self-confidence, the reason to relax, the pride of one’s past, and the promise of one’s future, no matter its length.
Michael and I have gone through lots of years, almost all of them excellent; the non-excellent ones were due to unexpected, “imposed” challenges.
Like cancer. When Michael got throat cancer, that was the worst year of our lives together, because together we went through it (though I knew I couldn’t even fathom the pain and physical difficulty he was experiencing).
And the entire world is reeling from the impact of a virus, the power of which comes from our complete uncertainty. Nobody knows who will contract it; of those who do, old people are more vulnerable, but among even they, no one knows who will get very sick or suffer minimally. Children seem not to be affected, though they may be the vectors leading to the deaths of others, and a few may later get a strange inflammation syndrome that could kill them. Now there’s word that the placentas of pregnant women contracting the virus may shrivel, dangerously increasing the baby’s heart rate and possibly requiring a c-section to save that child’s life.
Facing isolation and radical, instant but then prolonged changes from Covid-19, affecting the most basic fundamentals of life, is much more endurable with another person, and even more so with a family or group.
But marriage is the bedrock, the one thing that grounds us as the rules of the entire world shift.
The political world is in chaos. It’s almost surreal how the Democrats can’t put forth their candidate and die-hard Republicans cling to a president fending off well-placed arrows piercing him from all sides. Now fending off reactions to his own tweets, his ego takes its boost from any sources he can find. He must not have been pleased when his doctors pronounced him officially obese.
Pardon the political aside; people in good marriages care about the work their partners do. They provide support and sometimes correction, all within an inviolate commitment to the relationship, and I try to be that reliably loving and strong support when my husband’s work requires it.
Good people become collateral damage in a milieu where there are only friends and enemies–rather than perceiving a variety of opinions from people who share the same aspirations and simply disagree on the means to achieve them. That’s when a solid marriage provides an essential anchor.
Key in any relationship is respect for others’ dignity. A leader–and a spouse– must be strong, and the Jewish “Ethics of the Fathers” admonishes: “Who is a strong person?” “One who can control his inclinations.” For our own benefit, we should strive not to act impulsively (and so much more should the person responsible for the well-being of 327 million).
Marriage encourages becoming a respectful person who is in turn worthy of others’ respect. When irritants and insults would otherwise set off angry reactions, a happy marriage to a trusted partner becomes the counterbalance. In a marital team, both work for the betterment of the combination; both choose to give even when inconvenient, and this inspires giving in return. A good marriage provides the steady, sturdy resource for dismissing anger and behaving reasonably–the antidote to jumping onto Twitter in retribution,
Marriage gets you through. It provides highlights in a dark night of lowlights. If you’re in a good marriage, you always have a safety net. You always have something and someone to appreciate. The most poignant stories of the pandemic tell of devoted long-married couples who succumb to the virus, occasionally within hours or days of each other. The stories are heartbreaking, and somehow heartwarming, of sharing everything right to the end.
I’m grateful for my husband, whose generosity and integrity continue through insecure times. We just don’t know how a virus or the political scene–or any other worrying concerns– will impact our prospects for the future. But we both wake up saying “I love you; I appreciate you,” and trading those words lets the rest fade, at least for awhile.