Don't get me wrong - I consider myself among the fortunate few who are indeed, married to someone they still like. I got engaged at the wise old age of 21 years old, married at 22 (barely old enough to make a toast at my own reception), and between now and then we've somehow managed to clear the fences of 6 years. C and I have gotten this far without dismembering each other or developing a taste for hard drugs, which is what I think the author must have meant when he used the phrase "happily married".
But no, he uses it like most of the world does, as a finishing statement, like, "oh, I'm happily married now, so you might as well bury the coffin". In fact, it's almost as good a conversation ender as "and they lived happily ever after". If you've read any Disney story EVER, you know what that means:
Duh, duh, duuuuh.
But no! Wait! Marriage hasn't happened - it's happening! Some of us entered into our relationships with some seriously misguided expectations, primarily that we would fall into a love that brought us joy and completion - bam! - all of a sudden, like a crashing wave. But marriage is like the sun: a wildly twisting, dangerously warm, magnetic source of the good, bad, ugly and shockingly hot in life. What happens after your first real disagreement? The first time you accidentally roll over and elbow your husband in the face at 2 AM? Reach your first financial goal? Climb your first mountain together (literally) or canoe your first river? The first second time you accidentally deck your husband in the face at 2 AM?
This, friends, this marriage thing can be where the adventure begins. Don't let yourself settle for a marriage that is static, that happened at one point in time. Swing for the fences! Do marriage, live marriage, and with a little grace, you will love marriage.
This whole basket hangs on one very important nail, though, and I'm sure you've guessed it. Marriage is like a bicycle. If your front wheel is properly inflated, "trued" (aligned), and well... attached, that's a great start. But if you've got all of this, and your back tire tube is still stored in a Rubbermaid bin somewhere, or worse yet, your whole wheel is a half-mile back on the left, you're in real trouble. Likewise, marriage is a two-person affair (wait, not literally... or is it?), and you've both got to be in it for the whole ride. There are times when a wheel can be squeaky, or even bent six ways to Sunday, but if you can address the problem [with the right tools], you can, after some good hard work, find yourself pedaling along the Hudson again (or the Merrimack, or the Kennebec, or the Ohio, or the Fox - you get my drift).
I know that some of your minds are probably hovering on a wrecked marriage (yours, your parents, your child's) with feelings of anger, hurt and frustration. I'm really sorry - I wish that hadn't happened to your family. What I'm trying to convey in this post is probably something you realized in the midst of that falling out: that this kind of relationship - this commitment - is active. It requires movement and effort and sacrifice and laughter. I don't want anyone else to have to endure the pain of realizing that their marriage has suddenly stopped like a car in an intersection, waiting for the jarring hit from behind. No one wants to wake up one morning and wonder after so much time, who that person next to them really is.
I've never been sure.
And more than that, don't we want adventure and meaning in our relationships? I think that marriage, lived actively and purposefully can be exciting. Unfortunately, I don't have all the answers, and C and I have certainly our run our wheels off the road now and then. So my only advice is this: Bring along your bike grease, and a whole 'lotta patience, because you're going to need quite a bit of both.
Because the pedaling, though good, isn't always easy. And sometimes, when the chain gets gummy, I'd much rather get off the bike and walk than face another hill under those conditions. But even if I get off the bike and push it to the top of the hill, you better believe I'm going to try to clean that chain, because we all know that while you can't get a thrill by walking down the road, going 45 mph down a hill on a trustworthy set of wheels is about the best rush there is.
And every relationship needs a we-flew-off-into-the-ditch kind of story to keep things from getting stale, don't you think?
So saddle up and go get yours.