Mike Berry knows a thing or two about being married—and why he and his wife will stay that way.
Marriage. It’s an interesting institution. Back in the day, I had a college professor describe it as a business relationship. Not sure about that but I do know that it’s a commitment through the ups and downs of life. What really baffles me, however, about marriage is how easily people call it quits. Even after years of being together.
I’ve been married for over 16 years. Our life together has been far from perfect. In fact, as I’m writing this, my wife and I are flying across the country with our oldest son, on the way to his new residential facility. He’s there to find help for his extreme behavioral issues. They’ve nearly taken the life out of us at times. The past few years with him have been unbelievably difficult and tiring. No, scratch that- awful. Plain and simply awful. It’s taken it’s toll on our family but also our marriage.
Forget about intimacy. Often times we’ve just been lucky to make it to our bed at a reasonable hour to catch a few hours of sleep before waking up the next day and fighting the unending battle all over again.
It’s not that divorce has ever been an option for us. Sure, we’ve thrown it at one another here or there over the past 16 years, in the middle of heated fights, but nothing serious, nothing we would carry out. You know how that goes if you’re married. The woman or man you love deeply can also be your worst enemy. The person you fell madly in love with, even promised to never hurt, is the one person you spew poison at the most. My wife and I are both first children, so it’s World War III when we duke it out.
Yeah …. life is far from perfect, and we’ve walked our fair share of valleys to every mountain top. We’ve gone through police investigations, a miscarriage, driving our son to residential care, accusations from case workers when we were foster parents, police detectives standing on our doorstep looking for our daughter, and more.
That’s precisely why we’ll never get divorced. Actually, there are several reasons, but I’ll narrow it to 5 ….
1. We made a commitment.
As hard as life has been for us over the past 16 years, we won’t quit. Won’t even think about it, even when we’re in a standoff with one another. The reason is simple- we made a commitment. Commitment is a word that has slowly escaped the human vocabulary, not to mention our minds. We human beings are quite lousy at keeping commitments. We sign up for a gym membership, go for a week, feel too sore, then give up. We join a club or a social group, decide it’s too inconvenient, and bail. We do all of this to our marriages as well. We’re hot for one another in college so we get married. Then life takes over and we realize that 98% of the time, life is not like our engagement or wedding day. So, slowly we bail. It’s a shame too. The longer we stick to our commitment the stronger our commitment grows. It’s like running a marathon and reaching that runner’s high. It gets easier the longer you stick with it. That’s why I’m never getting divorced. I made a commitment to my wife, and she to me. That’s final!
2. We don’t want to start over. Every week I write on my personal blog, Confessions Of A Parent. In three years, this little dream has grown to an average of 20,000 monthly readers in more than 15 countries around the world. It didn’t start off that way. It’s taken thousands of hours or work, some extremely difficult, lots of consistency, and lots of commitment. It’s kind of like building a sky-scraper. Just didn’t happen at once. Every now and then, I’ll have a conversation with someone who’ll say, “You should start this site about this topic,” or “You should really think about developing that into its own product line and website.” My answer is usually, “Nah!” It don’t want to start over. I’ve put so much work into my blog that I don’t want to start from scratch. I feel that way when I look at people who call it quits on a long-term marriage and are now dating someone new. After 16 years, we’ve put so much work into our life together. The understandings we’ve come to, the battles we’ve fought and won together, the life circumstances we’ve weathered. It’s a ton of stuff. We’ve grown and learned so much. I don’t want to start all of that over with someone else from scratch.
3. This is an investment.
What you put into it is exactly what you get out of it. I have a Roth IRA. I’ve had it for several years now. A few years back I met with my investment guy. I was worried because the balance wasn’t as high as I’d expected. Tom (that’s my investment guy), pulled up a screen on his computer with the statistics of my IRA. He showed me how there had been a few months in the course of the year where I had not contributed. And there it was—I was getting out of it exactly what I was putting in, or in this case, not putting in. Marriage is the same. It’s a long-term investment. Of course, there are dividends that pay out here and there, but the greatest dividend pays out after years of investing.
4. Greener grass often has shallow roots. All over in the suburban area I live in, just north of Indianapolis, there are new neighborhoods springing up seemingly overnight. Seriously, they just kind of come out of nowhere. To make these neighborhoods appealing companies will come in and lay sod at the entrance and in the front yards of every new home. It looks nice and lush and green. Sometimes I look at my yard, which has been there for many years, and feel bummed because it doesn’t look as green and rich as the new neighborhood’s sod. But something interesting happens when we get to the dog days of Indiana summers (which is usually late July or August). Those nice new neighborhoods with their lush green sod all over the place, suddenly burns out and has bare patches all over the place. Mine, however, stays green. Maybe not as lush or rich as the neighborhoods but it doesn’t burn out. My point? It’s easy, after years of marriage, to look at your life, your wife, or your husband, and feel a bit bummed, especially when you see beautiful, younger, people all over the place, who look appealing. You may be tempted to think you need that to feel fulfilled. The grass may be greener but often times its roots are shallower and won’t stand the test of time.
It’s as simple as that. We love each other. And this love has grown over time. The love we had for one another back in the day when we first got married doesn’t come close to comparing to the love we have now. It’s love that has grown through hard-aches, trials, joys, and sorrows. We won’t ever call it quits because our love binds us together in perfect harmony. It’s not that perfect-looking, infatuation-driven Hollywood love either. It’s real. It’s been forged out of the fires of life. It can stand the test of time.
I love my wife. I believe in her and she in me. We’ve gone through a whole lot of shit together, but we’ve also walked through some beautiful moments as well. Our life is crazy and fast-paced, chaotic and very turbulent at times. But we wouldn’t trade it for a billion others.