I have been thinking a lot about relationships and marriage recently. Last October, my husband and I celebrated 11 years of marriage. Before the date, I read that the tulip was the flower associated with 11 years. I did look around, but couldn’t find anyplace to find tulips to send him a bouquet. I improvised and bought tulip bulbs which were being sold everywhere I looked. I planted the bulbs and looked forward to seeing them bloom in the spring. I just noticed today that those bulbs I planted last fall are starting to come up. In the past, deer always seem to bite off any tulips I have planted, but I am hoping they will leave these anniversary tulips alone.
Part of the reason that I have been thinking about marriage is that I seem to be hearing more and more about people that I know that are separating and planning to divorce. A few years ago, my friend told me that by the time my kids were out of elementary school many of their classmates’ and friends’ parents would be divorced. I was surprised by that, but even more surprised that her words seem to be coming true.
My own parents divorced when I was 21 and in college. People always think it’s bizarre that they separated after more than 25 years of marriage and 13 children. At the time, I realized it was for the best, but it did affect me in a way. I had often thought about them divorcing, but never really expected it to happen. At this point, they have been divorced longer than they were married. My relationship with both parents is good and they occasionally see each other at family events. Around the time my parents split, I was taking a creative writing class and had to write some poetry. I wrote a poem about my feelings one night during a particularly violent storm.
The rain beasts a drum on my window.
The thunder pounds inside my head.
Lightning severs a branch on the old oak.
The broken limb swings back and forth.
Thunder snarls in response.
The recent past fueled my anger
until finally the storm erupted.
The photos of our happy family clash
with the reality of my parents’ separation.
I hurl the memories from my sight.
There are no winners and only one loser.
An innocent picture frame flies to the floor.
Cracked wood and glass shards litter the carpet.
Keeling, I pick up each piece, carefully
examining the jagged edges.
The photos of my life have been spared –
only the framework is destroyed.
The thunder and lightning have subsided.
Only the rain taps gently on the glass.
I think the best piece of advice I got before getting married actually came from our parish priest and the man who married us, Msgr. Smith. He said many people go into marriage believing that it is a 50/50 partnership. When they believe that, the relationship is often doomed to fail. If you are only giving 50% of your effort, you will get used to doing that and there are days when you don’t feel so well or are just having a bad day. You may only give 30% and when your spouse sees that, they may only give 30% or possibly even less. Now you have a divide between the two of you. If you go into the relationship giving 100%, then there is more room for having a bad day. If you are both giving 70% of your effort, you are still together. He put his arms in front of him with his hands on each opposite elbow to demonstrate the 100% effort on both sides and to demonstrate the 50/50, he put his arms in front of him with just his hands touching and no overlapping.
That visual and his comments have stuck with me for the last 11 1/2 years. I think about it almost every day, during the good and the bad moments. Love does not always look like a fairy tale or Hollywood love story. All relationships take work, but the good ones are worth the effort. I believe that I have a good one and try to put in 100%. I look forward to seeing those tulips bloom completely this year and to many more years to come.