Beauty in The Space Between: Lessons from 10 Years of Marriage

Marital bliss.

Its a term we hear people make about their relationships with their long-suffering brides and grooms in a almost always sassy "yeah-like-hell-its-bliss" sort of way. And its true, marriage can sometimes be anything other than blissful. Marriage is a lot of work. A lot of getting yourself back on the horse of selfless love after disappointments, regrets, feeling misunderstood, or even after the 3rd time of reminding your husband that the dishes smell in the sink and he promised to do them two days ago. (What? Huh? How did that get so specific?) 

In all seriousness and celebration though-- my husband Jeff and I just passed the milestone of 10 years of marital bliss last month. I'm so proud. I can't think of anyone I would have rather spent my adult years with, and he constantly knocks my socks off with who he is and how he loves me. In our 10 years together Jeff and I have had our share of moments; both of the extremely high and extremely low persuasion. He is the one I have experienced my biggest laughs with, most all-is-right-in-the-world moments with, biggest feelings of love with, and also who I have experienced the most despair, disgust, and anger with. Like other married couples I am sure- those moments have been the pinpoints on the map of our relationship. The moments we remember and define our relationship by. Polarizing, yes, and yes, they have brought much change and have been catalysts for growth. But I believe the true beauty in any thing is what it is at its core.  Its when you take away the high gloss and the ugly underbelly that you understand the essence, trueness, and goodness of a thing. Relationships are much the same. 

I believe true love exists in the space between the highs and the lows.

I had this realization the other day when I was digesting some information about the psychological process of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and how it is so helpful to examine our our conclusions about ourselves, our relationships, or the world around us, and how we arrive at those conclusions. I was thinking about my counseling experiences with teenagers who are struggling with something difficult. How they so often come in to my office with a list of complaints, describing everything as horrible, and after I take my due diligence to listen to all the negative talk, I challenge them to think about one or two good things in their life-- and they really struggle to do it. All they can talk about- think about- is how this one really particularly bad thing happened in their life, and now everything is ruined. They get stuck in seeing everything as doomed, not realizing that just by thinking that way that they are dooming themselves.

When I think about some of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in my quest toward the large life-goal of Being Good at Relationships, I think this is one I've learned a lot about through my marriage. There was a time I would commonly make the mistake of using our high and low points as markers in judging how I saw my relationship with my husband and subsequently how I felt about him.  When Jeff and I would have a particularly volatile argument, even if we made-up beautifully and learned a good lesson from it, I would color how I felt about Jeff in this negative way based on that one unpleasant, seemingly significant event. I would forget practically everything else, allowing myself to spiral into a mind space of focusing on the negative things he did, and it made me sour and unable to see the core of our good everyday experience.

Often times I think we miss out on beauty, love, and truth by allowing our emotional reactions to a low we are experiencing to cancel out all the middle and high ground we have in the other areas of our lives. 

For me, an argument or disagreement I had with Jeff tended to cancel out the good parenting moment we shared in reaction to our cranky toddler, or the lighthearted laugh we shared, or the comfortable silence between us while reading late at night. I couldn't SEE that stuff because I was too bitter, fearful, and worried about the argument we had; stuck on the thought that we would never solve it. I was acting like the teenagers I counsel, struggling to see that they have the power to choose how they react to and see their lives. And while they were stuck being negative after one particularly sour event, they were missing the boat on all the goodness around them.

How we see our lives, in essence, is how we live our lives.

Now I am more focused on seeing the beauty of the here and now, understanding that it leads to me living in the beauty of the here and now… The meadow of our common every day experience that we walk on way more often than the peaks and valleys. Its a great place to be. Instead of obsessing about a particular moment which leaves a mark, I take it for what it is, reflect and allow it to teach me, and then move on. Now when I get into a tiff with Jeff, as all married couples do, and I’m tempted to spiral into a state of How are we ever going to fix this? We just fought about the same thing again!-- I challenge myself to see it for what it is. An argument. The end. 

I think its important that when we evaluate anything in our lives, whether it be a relationship or a situation or a job or whatever, that we take caution to avoid the trap of allowing the extremes define how we see the thing. The reality of our lives is that nothing is ever going to stay in the state of our highest highs or our lowest lows. Our lives and our relationships settle somewhere in between that space, and that is a beautiful thing.


*pictures below are from our 10 year anniversary trip to Greece- Athens and Crete. (A high point!) We had a great time learning about Greek culture, snorkeling, and taking in some amazing sunsets.