My Marriage Almost Didn't Make It. So Why Are We Still Together?

The cake isn't a guarantee.

The cake isn't a guarantee.

We went on a trip to Costa Rica, the whole family. One of the things I most remember is sitting in the passenger seat as we drove, looking out the window and thinking to myself, I want to leave, I want to leave, I want to leave.

I bought my husband a gift for our 10th anniversary since it seemed like the thing people do.  

I threw it at him.

That was six years ago. We are still married.

I believe in divorce. One person can keep a marriage together for only so long. Despite the hard years and the stress and the annoyance and so many other things, I’ve been married to the same man for more than 16 years.

Giving marital advice is a fool’s game. Each person and each couple have so many factors involved that it is impossible to speak to the specifics of your issues. I do know a few things for certain though:

  1. Your partner will make you want to throw up at some point. Pure, unadulterated disgust. Hopefully not too often, but it is going to happen and it is truly awful.
  2. Whatever worries you have at the beginning will stay with you even as circumstance may change. I worried about money those first years, mostly because we had none. We’re doing just fine financially right now, but I still stress about whether or not the debit card will work.
  3. You will change. Life makes you change. That’s the point. Why else would you overcome hardship or meet people or see the world unless these experiences make an impact?
  4. Your partner will change. See above.
  5. Even if you do everything together (ick), you and your partner will change in different ways. You have different DNA, different past experiences, and different chemical compounds. A sunset looks different to each of you.

Given all that, how am I still married?

First off, my husband is a really good guy. Seriously. That helps. Not all the time, but generally.  

We are also very compatible. We have different strengths and personalities. I’ve got lots more energy and conversational demands and sleep requirements. I also give up quickly, while my husband does horrible things all the way to completion. He’s steady and responsible, which I didn’t realize were some of the most attractive qualities a partner can have until well after we got hitched.

My husband has control of his temper, which is important to a long-lasting marriage. Both of us are careful with words, never saying something that can’t be taken back. Even at my most angry, I’ve always been conscious about the long term impact of my words and actions. I’m logical that way, and I think my husband is the same.

Sometimes I wish my husband would get mad, rage, or show some passionate emotion about something. His even keel makes me crazy. In the long run, it is of course for the best, but it can seem like he doesn’t care about things as deeply as I do.

I recently wrote an article that required interviewing a handful of couples counselors. I don’t think I have a very good marriage — there are things I really would like to be different. But after talking to the professionals, I realized I have a pretty good one. The Big Signs of Problems that they mentioned? Stuff like rolling your eyes when your partner talks. I can’t imagine treating my husband like that, even on my worst day.

There was a year, though.

A Very Bad Year.

Our 10-year anniversary was in the middle of the VBY. Why didn’t I leave? I wanted to, all the time. I fantasized about the logistics: Where I would live, how we’d handle kid-sharing, all that.  

We went on a trip to Costa Rica, the whole family. One of the things I most remember is sitting in the passenger seat as we drove, looking out the window and thinking to myself, I want to leave, I want to leave, I want to leave.

I did not keep these feelings to myself. I was not a pleasant person to be around.

And yet, we’re still here.

A number of factors combined to create the VBY.  My husband was not completing tasks — a bathroom remodel and a master’s degree, for example. There is little that makes me more frustrated than half-done stuff. Both were things I couldn’t do anything about. By ignoring my nagging (let’s be honest, it was nagging), the message I received was clear: “Eliana, your opinion means nothing to me. I hate you and am trying to drive you crazy. So there.”

Then I got pregnant.

I threw up every single day.  

I wanted to leave but felt trapped. I was unable to hold a job, given that I was subsisting entirely on Ruby Red grapefruit juice (don’t judge me). It was the most horrifying feeling of my life.  

After my second child was born, things did not much improve. I was viciously depressed, despite treatment. I recall very little of that time period.

About 15 months after I first started hating him, my husband decided to make some changes. Some time later, I asked him why. I don’t recall his specific answer, but I do remember his face when he spoke. It was tender; a bit sheepish.

He decided he didn’t want me to leave. He didn’t want us to be this way — our marriage hatefully surviving.

There have been other rough patches, of course. That man cannot grocery shop on a budget. His timeline for everything will always be different than mine. But how do you make it through a marriage? You keep going and don’t do anything drastic. You try to find the good qualities. That can be hard, I know, but you did choose this person for some reason.

Should you stay together? Hell if I know. Probably yes, though. If you are both willing to keep trying, do that. And do it for longer than you want. If neither of you are willing to try anymore, stop. It may end, but you’ll know you gave it everything you’ve got. At least you didn't leave it half-done.

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