I’ve been hiding behind pictures and interviews for a while, and not talking about the raw parts of life—those bits that we all share but don’t share on Facebook.
For our fifth anniversary my husband and I went to marriage counseling.
He found a therapist, and after we got massages to celebrate our anniversary, we went to sit on her couch.
We went to see a therapist not because our marriage is on the rocks—in fact I would say that it’s the strongest it’s been. But the reason it’s strong is because we’ve hurled huge stones at it and had to find a way to protect it from the onslaught.
It’s strong. Like the skin on the bottom of your feet is strong.
But you don’t say that your calluses are the most beautiful parts of your body. Even if you think they are because they show your endurance, you sand them down while putting blush on your cheeks.
So these five years got me thinking. I recently heard Casey Affleck describing his movie “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” as the story of how a relationship grows from romanticism into real life.
Romanticism into Real Life.
You’ll enter Real Life after college, everyone said.
And I did, and I discovered Real Life was romantic: It was a wonderful circus of friends and road trips and faith and work and deep connections. And I was good at it.
It’s always been easy for me to connect with people. Wherever I’ve gone, I’ve woven together a strong net of relationships to support me should I fall.
So the minor blisters of Real Life were nothing in comparison to the tasting menus it would serve up.
There was one thing, though.
But we found each other, my husband and I.
And together we’re good at this thing. We’re resilient. We built a little house to protect ourselves from the huffing and puffing of Real Life.
And five years ago if I’d heard you talking about how a relationship changes from romanticism into Real Life, I would have nodded while adding seismic protection to my little house and secretly thinking, the romanticism can’t be shaken out of my real life.
But here I am five years later sitting on a therapist’s couch, and realizing Real Life isn’t a success or failure sort of thing. It’s not something I’m good at. It’s a survival thing. It’s endurance. And there’s nothing sexy or romantic about that.
Mortgages strain you. People die. Families break apart around you. Children drain the blood from your face and leave you pale and ashen.
It doesn’t matter if you’re good at Real Life. At some point your reserves will be depleted and you’ll be exhausted, and you need more fuel for the road. And that’s when it’s nice to sit on someone else’s couch.