Making a Marriage Work

Ohana means Family; Family means no one gets left behind, or forgotten. 

It's funny how moving away from something completely changes your perspective on it. 

When I got married, I KNEW I'd nailed it. I married a wonderful man who was supportive and fantastic and made my heart explode. 

Now, I realise that all of those things were, and are, true; but that's not necessarily an indicator of a successful marriage. 

The older I get, and the further down the marriage road we get, the more I realise that so much of our happiness is down to luck. 

When we got married, we were in the easiest phase of life. We had no responsibilities; we had so much time. We had flexibility and lots of choices to make. 

We could make those choices without really impacting on each other. If Gary had to work, I met some friends for dinner. If I was out with friends, Gary went to the gym, or went out himself. We flexed and we made it work. 

That life was so simple. No wonder we barely argued. No wonder we loved our lives together. Life was easy. 

Married life is a little (a lot) more complex. Even without children, we are tied together in a way we weren't before. 

Gary was offered a job in Qatar, just before we got married, and we had to make that decision together. 

It was the first time that we had had to make decisions that really impacted on each other. Gary's decision to take that job, meant me giving up mine and moving to another continent. We agreed the decision together, because it worked for us both at that time. We were planning to start a family, so giving up my job wasn't necessarily that much of a hardship as I'd be on maternity leave anyway. 

Then we had children. Gary's job took him away for a week or so at a time. Now his decisions at work impacted on both me and the children. I couldn't just swan off to brunch on a Friday or for ladies night on a Tuesday. I had children to take care of, to be there for, to get up in the night with. 

He couldn't just come home from a night flight and go to bed, or sleep on a sun lounger by the pool. He came home to a tired, cranky wife, who had long since passed her point of no return with either one or two children. He had to come home and pick up the mantle of Daddy, despite being shattered, because at that moment, I had nothing left to give. 

Then Gary accepted a job back in the UK. It was a decision made because it was the best fit for us all as a family. It was an easy decision to make. 

We could get the children settled at home, before school applications were due for Miss S; I could go back to work (and boy was I ready to return to the workplace) and Gary got a great new job, a promotion, and a new challenge. 

And we did, Miss S went to school, I went back to work and Gary got on tackling his new challenge (with great gusto). We settled into our new rhythm; albeit it rather more slowly and painfully than I had expected. We made it work. 

Then we had decided to have another baby. I don't think either of us had any idea of the impact a third child would have. We were in a great rhythm and routine, one which has been thoroughly thrown out of the window! 

My pregnancies are always rotten, 9 months of hyper emesis does not make it a pleasant exercise; but this time, throw in a kidney infection and SPD along with a 4 day a week job (with a daily 3 hour commute) and it was fairly horrendous. 

During said kidney infection, Gary had to go to India with work. HAD TO. There was no one else to go, and he had to go and see to his job. 

I was beyond pissed. I saw his decision to go as a betrayal. For the first time, I think ever, I questioned whether our marriage could work. I didn't know if I could forgive him. 

My friends rallied round, taking time off work and travelling cross country to come and help; for which I am eternally grateful and can never thank them enough. But the whole time I was thinking "you shouldn't have to be here, Gary should have been here". 

I also began to question the decision to have a third child. Had we bitten off more than we could chew? 

It took me a long time to see this incident from Gary's point of view. For me to recognise that him bearing the entire financial responsibility for our family, is quite a big weight around his shoulders. That he had tried to stay at home, but other things had prevented him from doing so. 

That he had felt he had no option but to go. 

It took time, and distance from the incident, before I could even begin to try to look at it from his point of view. I think I'm only now beginning to come to terms with it. 

Sometimes the decisions aren't easy. Sometimes they are really really hard and you can't win no matter what you do. 

Little S is a truly joyful addition to our family and I love her more than I can articulate. I am so glad that we made the decision to add one more to our crazy family. 

But the pressure of three children, and the logistics that go with them, have pushed me to the edge of my mental sanity. There are nights when I literally don't know how I'm going to get out of bed (again) because I'm so tired and mornings when eating ice cream is the only way I'm going to summon up the energy to keep the ball rolling. 

Having three children has compressed the time available to us; has severely restricted the time for us to be us; to enjoy time with each other. The additional workload (both from work and family life) pushes buttons and unleashes frustrations that we have never had to deal with before. 

Now, less decisions seem easy. Gary planning out his travelling with work is difficult. He has work deadlines and pressures (that mostly I have no idea about, and do not understand) which he has to accommodate; plus he is trying to accommodate our needs (my needs) and to predict the future. 

Gary cannot know that we'll all go down with the flu two days before he leaves for a week; but let me tell you, I'll resent him getting on that plane and leaving me with a house of sick children while I'm sick myself. 

The pressure to find some kind of balance is always there, pressing on us both from different angles and different places. 

Big decisions are also harder. Miss S is settled at school and I am settled at work (with no intention of ever needing maternity leave ever again). So what do we do if Gary's gets offered another overseas posting? 

Sometimes I'm terrified that an offer like that, might cause some permanent damage in our relationship. Who yields? We sacrifices? Who is making the bigger sacrifice? What is best for the family; and how do you measure that? Does the pay increase, which provides more opportunities, make it best? Is stability for all of us for the best? Even when it leaves Gary in a position where he can't advance his career? 

It seems ridiculous to be terrified by hypothetical things, which may never happen. But I have come to realise that the reason our marriage works is because of luck. 

I am lucky that Gary sees me as an equal, that he is 100% involved with the kids; that he commits himself to work and to us and lets everything else fall, even himself. Our money is family money, there's rarely a debate about finances, other than accepting that we have overspent (again). 

Neither of us had any idea of how the other might react to the things married life has brought us. Gary could have resented paying for everything while I was at home with the kids; had expectations that I would do every last scrap of housework, as he was working full time. He could have refused to do 50% of the night feeds, because he was working. 

I am lucky that he is every bit the wonderful man that I thought he was on the day that I married him. But I had no idea on that day, how those pressures would shape him (and me). 

I know he works hard for us, and with us. I know when he internally sighs when I'm sick and he has to take up the slack, even when he is supposed to be having some time to himself. I know he gets up, even when it is my "turn" because I've been up three times already and I have lost the plot. 

A marriage takes work. It doesn't just take us working together, it takes us working individually on being the best husband/wife and parent we can be. It's about biting your lip when your partner is in a foul mood; because you know they are tired beyond belief, and that this is not how they usually behave. 

I hope Gary knows that I'm working on our marriage too. That there are times that I pretend the kids slept ok, when the truth is that I'm sitting there in yoga pants trying to keep my eyes open because no one slept and I don't think I saw my bed much at all. 

That when he is sick, I try to look after him; give him time and space to heal; even when I'm quietly furious because he's about to travel with work, and his illness is bloody inconvenient and placing even more stress on me. 

Most of all, I hope that we both know that the other is trying their best. Trying to be everything to everyone and to get done what needs to be done. That we both fall short sometimes, and that we understand that.

That even when we are frustrated and mad at each other and at the world, that we are both still trying to make it work. 

This was a reading from our wedding. I hadn't even noticed it's significance until today: 

Extract from Les Miserables
Victor Hugo

You can give without loving,
but you can never love without giving. 
The great acts of love are done by those
who are habitually performing small acts of kindness. 
We pardon to the extent that we love. 
Love is knowing that even when you are alone, you will never be lonely again. 
And great happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved.
Loved for ourselves. And even loved in spite of ourselves.

Small acts of kindness. That's exactly it, I hope we continue to perform small acts of kindness for each other, even when its hard, even when it's easier not to. 

When we were planning our wedding ceremony, we wrote a version of our own vows. I have a copy of the ceremony safe in my emails, something which I hadn't opened until today. 

I meant those vows then, even when I didn't understand what they meant. And I mean them now. I know we will go through more hardships, we may lose people; we may lose jobs or money or our health, but I still promise to stay and to work, and to try to see the wonder in the man that I married. 

I, Lora take you Gary, to be my husband,
knowing that you will be my constant friend,
my faithful partner in life, and my one true love.

I affirm to you in the presence of these witnesses 
my promise to stay by your side as your wife

I promise to love you without reservation,
to comfort you in times of distress,

I promise to encourage you to achieve all
of your goals,

To laugh with you and cry with you,
To grow with you in mind and spirit,

I promise to always be open and honest with you,
I promise to be true to you

In good times and in bad,
In sickness and in health.

I will love you and honor you,
All the days of my life.


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