For Better or Worse

July 25, 2011

There was a point in my marriage I thought of leaving Sam nearly every day. At least every weekend. He would drink, we would fight, and by Sunday I was so miserable all I wanted to do was to walk out the door and never come back to the mess we’d made.

Because we’ve all been raised in a society that encourages our need to feel happy and comfortable above almost anything else, the thought of living as we were became unbearable. Everywhere I turned I saw/heard/read that I should leave. Because I deserved better. And when I didn’t go anywhere, I started to beat myself up mentally for that failure as well. I’d threaten to leave then went nowhere. Maybe around the block. It became a joke. The night before I actually did leave Sam, I told him I.was.done. He rolled his eyes and snorted. I can’t blame him, I probably had said those words a half million times.

When Sam stopped drinking, I still held leaving as a weapon for his behavior. Even if I didn’t say it out loud, it was always on my mind.

“If he pisses me off, I’m leaving.”

“If I catch him drinking, I’m leaving.”

“If we fight again, I’m leaving.”

Anytime he did something “wrong” or we argued, I experienced many of the feelings I had while he drank. Insecurity, insanity, the compulsion to control everything, and the ever haunting thought of separation. Because that’s what I was supposed to do. Leave.

I’d sit in my room, feeling enraged and used, yet terrified about what on earth I would do once I left as a single mother with no income. I made myself sick with worry and spend inordinate amounts of time on my life without him, which depressed me more. One day, after an argument, I had a sudden thought:

“I don’t have to leave.”

I realized in that moment that a lot of my fear and anger came from me having a sense of entitlement on what I deserved in a marriage. What our culture had convinced me on what a marriage should look like tainted my view on reality. I felt a sense of total relief. No one could guilt or pressure me into leaving but me.

It isn’t that I don’t deserve a good marriage, or a great husband. I already have both. He would do anything for me. But I had set the bar to “Perfection” level in my own mind. And my husband is human. He makes mistakes. He falls down. He disappoints me. He loves me in a way that isn’t always the way I want.

I’m just the same. I am his very imperfect wife. I make mistakes, lose my temper, make him feel like crap sometimes and do my best to love him through my brokenness. He has to feel the same insecurity and anger a lot of the time.

And he has never once threatened to leave me.

I thought, “What if I took leaving off the table? How would I react to situations where I feel like this? How would I handle things?” So I tried it. I decided to stick to my “for better, for worse” vows. In a situation where I wasn’t being abused, neglected, or anything other than feeling like an idiot – I had no right to bring up leaving yet again.

When I choose this, we end up with a better understanding of what went wrong. For one of the first times in our marriage, his mistakes don’t result in screaming matches with me strutting around pronouncing myself a victim and how I’m going to be gone in the morning.

It’s not always this easy to simply choose to not leave. There are cases (as there was with me) where you may need to leave to get a point across, because it’s unhealthy to stay, or simply for your own sanity. But it shouldn’t be a threat. It shouldn’t hang in the back of your mind.

You shouldn’t feel pushed to walk out the door every time you are wronged simply because our narcissistic society says if it’s not everything you ever wanted and dreamed of, if it isn’t Hollywood worthy, it isn’t worth hanging onto.

Because sometimes it is. Sometimes it’s worth fighting to hold onto even if you have to feel a little like crap in the process. No one should tell you otherwise – it’s unrealistic. It’s impossible.

Marriage – life – is taking the better and worse together and learning from it. There is a lot more happiness when you accept someone as a imperfect human, and know you are too.

23 Comments

  • Mary-Michael

    May 3, 2012 at 8:38 am

    A friend of mine sent me this article today. I cannot thank you enough for writing this. EVERYTHING you say is true and I am in the EXACT situation that you mentioned. I have struggled with it so much since I, myself, stopped drinking in ’09 and especially our daughter was born in ’10. I suffer no abuse or neglect, it’s just that communication is an issue for him due to how he was raised. I cannot put into words how much YOUR words have helped me. Leaving is always in the back of my mind and I realize now that it is because I am “told” my marriage has to be perfect or that i deserve better. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Without sounding cheesy, I think you just might be an angel here on earth.

    I was just told by my friend of your loss. I am placing you and your family on my heart and will storm heaven for you. God Bless you….

  • Susan

    July 26, 2011 at 8:14 pm

    I had come to the same realization at a point in our marriage. I’m thinking that so many of us have, when we decide to accept our spouses warts and all. I realized that no one is 100% bad, we are all a mixture of good and bad. I don’t remember who said this but it was said that our spouse is our divine sandpaper, knocking off the sharp edges in our personalities and helping us to realize our need for God in our lives. What a freeing thought. I see so much maturity in you Diana. And I love your posts.

  • Janelle

    July 26, 2011 at 7:54 pm

    Amazing post. Thank you.

  • Law Momma

    July 26, 2011 at 2:40 pm

    This is so true. But on the other hand? On the other hand… sometimes you have to leave.

  • Adam

    July 26, 2011 at 11:56 am

    I don’t think unmarried people appreciate how difficult being married is. I was talking to a newlywed just last night about how it doesn’t SEEM like marriage should change anything but the second you’re married EVERYTHING changes.

    The prevalence of divorce in our society, plus the attitude of “there’s something better, you should be happy every day” makes it easier to justify leaving, and many people take that route.

    I’m glad you’ve taken that option off the table for yourself. While sometimes it seems like leaving would be the easiest thing to do, in many situations it’s just taking the easy way out. And no relationship is going to be easy all the time.

  • Laura

    July 26, 2011 at 11:36 am

    I’m so glad you wrote this. I am amazed when people are able to see past the lies society tells us and hold onto the truths that create a solid foundation. I couldn’t say my vows until I was sure that leaving was off the table – for both of us. Thank you a million times for writing this and sharing this.

  • Teresa

    July 26, 2011 at 11:26 am

    Thank you for writing this and sharing it. I am battling a similar situation right now. You are very right, every time I open up to someone, they tell me to leave, that I don’t deserve to take crap from my husband. I have started keeping to myself about it. I do love him and I want to be with him. The only time to throw in the towel and leave (and not look back) IMO is if you are in an abusive relationship. My husband would never hurt me like that, so I’m not giving up on him.

  • Alena

    July 26, 2011 at 11:24 am

    I think we all build a happy Disney life in our head. They don’t show Prince Charming at the end of a tough day. They don’t show Princess Perfect home taking care of a crying baby. It never paints a pictures of flaws that the Prince and Princess have because LIFE happened to both of them.

    It’s so unrealistic. And I think it does a major disservice to families. Cody and I have both had to make the choice in the past 5 years to stay. To make it work. Sometimes it is work. And that’s ok. There’s nothing wrong with that.

  • Desi

    July 26, 2011 at 3:45 am

    I love this. I have only been married for a year, but I have learned that its difficult to be married. It’s also very easy to think the “I’m done” thoughts. It takes a strong person to change the paradigm they are thinking in and look outside the box.

  • Rebecca

    July 25, 2011 at 10:09 pm

    Such an awesome, honest post.

    I’ve actually never threatened Andy with leaving, but boy have I turned it over and over in my mind.

    Three years ago things had gotten really rough. Nothing that people on the outside could see, but I had emotionally checked out. I thought about leaving, planned how I might do it and even tried to imagine what it would be like.

    That was dangerous territory and fortunately God had other ideas.

    Now, there is no doubt in my mind that I’m in it for life. And I’ve never been happier 🙂

  • Noelle S.

    July 25, 2011 at 4:11 pm

    Love this post!

  • Cathy

    July 25, 2011 at 1:44 pm

    aw <3 this is definitely sweet. I have a lot to learn from you 😉

  • Erika @NAMAmmaSTE

    July 25, 2011 at 1:07 pm

    You are so right. That’s exactly it. I really need to start taking the leaving card off the table everyone I’m disappointed or angry. I do it a lot too and Andy never does that to me, plus I know how much it upsets him. Thank you for making me think 🙂 <3

  • Katrina

    July 25, 2011 at 12:41 pm

    LOVE this post – I am the youngest of five and have watched my parents and my older siblings go through some of the “for worse” stuff. I knew when I went into my marriage that there would be hard times. I tried to pick a man that I felt like would be a good partner in those hard times and not someone that I would ever have to leave and I feel like I did a good job at that. We certainly have gone through some tough times but I’m glad I’ve had so many good examples and a family that has encouraged me to tough out the worse times and work for the better times!

  • Krista

    July 25, 2011 at 12:13 pm

    This was brave of you to write. But I’m so glad you did. This line: “Because we’ve all been raised in a society that encourages our need to feel happy and comfortable above almost anything else, the thought of living as we were became unbearable” sums it up for me.
    So often we see people leaving before the dust even settles, putting themselves above their marraige, keeping score over who does what, and using divorce as a threat. Craig and I don’t fight much – we just don’t. And I think part of the reason is because we’re able to keep perspective. I’m not going anywhere because I have to do bathtime by myself while he coaches football. He’s not going anywhere because I never unload the dishwasher until I absolutely have to.
    That being said there are no huge issues – like abuse, cheating or drinking either. That would change everything.

  • Alexia

    July 25, 2011 at 11:47 am

    I’m with all the other ladies. Love this post. And you more than most people know why.

    It’s so easy to say ‘I’m gone’ and so incredibly hard to say ‘Let’s work it out’. But your family (and mine for that matter) are cases in point of why it’s so important and so right to make it work.

    Marriage is hard. Maybe wise old ladies tell you that at your bridal shower. Maybe they don’t. But no one could ever really understand how difficult it is until they’re in the thick of it.

    Thanks for always being honest and helping all of us out here in the blogosphere work hard on being married. You’re amazing.

  • LA

    July 25, 2011 at 10:30 am

    I love this! Its so true. My parents are divorced, my biological dad is a womanizer and a jerk. My step-dad is awesome. I firmly believe that God wanted that marriage to happen because 4 kids who get what marriage really is came out of it. My mom told me long ago, be careful who you pick because that should be it. Divorce should never be an option and the reality is you will just trade one set of issues for another. There is no perfect marriage and marriage is work. So work every days for yours. And she is so right!

    And really it is so worth it.

  • Jody

    July 25, 2011 at 10:06 am

    LOVE this. You are an amazing writer and so honest. I think a lot of things that you said really hit home with me. Maybe not exactly the same, but it really meant something to me. Keep on writing!

  • Cindy @ b.kate designs

    July 25, 2011 at 9:27 am

    I love this. Very. well. said. period. I have tried to always view our marriage as something we work through, it is hard. Sometimes I have been with you and thought well I will just threaten divorce, and be gone with it all. But, like you, my husband has never done this. So, I try to love him, love him for his faults, for his triumphs, for the man he is, and in return he puts up with me, with my downfalls, and my hard work. Sometimes it is funny, the person whom you love the most is the person you can hurt the most, but also the person whom you could not be without. I know this is true for me. Great Post, again, you are awesome! I am always soo impressed at the choices you and Sam have endured. <3

  • BA

    July 25, 2011 at 8:58 am

    God, I love you. I love this.

    So many times, I think people mean “for better or for better” when they speak their vows. Nobody likes to think of the “for worse” part, but sometimes it does happen. & that’s part of the vow I made.

    (because it needs to be said, I’ve also told my husband that if he ever abuses me or our children, I’m gone. No questions asked, no looksk behind. GONE. that’s not a “for worse” scenario that anyone should live through).

  • kirsten

    July 25, 2011 at 8:54 am

    this is a beautiful blog. im not married yet but I’ve seen situations like this with my parents im glad they held on and fought. and im happy you chose the same. marriage is sacred and society doesn’t have control over it.

  • Jenny

    July 25, 2011 at 8:07 am

    Well said.

  • Christi

    July 25, 2011 at 7:53 am

    Amen! I went through something similar w/my (also ex drinker) husband. When I finally decided I was actually COMMITTED and what that really meant to me, I was able to be a better wife & love him flaws & all, & bonus..because of that I got a better husband in return 🙂

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