Monday, June 21, 2010

Marriage Is Not About Love

Since falling in love with Jason, I have become a giant sap. If anyone ever caught a glimpse of my private mush and schmoop, I would have to call off the friendship from pure embarrassment. It's like my 26 years of pre-Jason relationship cynicism finally collapsed inward, nothing to sustain them, once these new lovely dovey emotions finally found cracks in the veneer of coolness and fully infiltrated my emotional equilibrium, thereby leaving me happy and content. It's altogether disconcerting.

But that's not why I'm marrying Jason. In fact, I think those feelings of love and contentment are fragile pillars on which to support a life-long relationship. I don't care how strong my love is, when it's faced with piles of poopy diapers and a vomiting sick child and only three hours of sleep, love just isn't going to cut it.  Happy and content probably won't cross my mind in the midst of sleep-addled justgethtisf*ckingoverwithalready resentment and frustration. No. I'm marrying Jason because I know we can handle the poop and vomit of the world together. I know we can figure out how to tackle problems together. I know we're both sensitive enough to allow the other a moment or two of unfettered frustration before we get back to getting things done. And I know everything is easier with him around, and we'll be playing with black humor and bad puns within a few hours as a way to accomplish the uglier tasks on life's to-do list.

Case in point: house construction. Dear lord, the bathroom construction this past week has been miserable and unavoidable, necessitated by our only shower leaking into and rotting the foundation. Taking showers at my parents' house each morning would be irritating enough, but we've also had the pleasure of learning about the unique physical properties of construction dust, which inexplicably manages to seep into every conceivable nook and cranny, even several rooms away from the bathroom epicenter. Our house is gross. I hate coming home and I hate adding an extra 45 minutes onto my already harried day for a shower detour and I hate not having our cats around at night to snuggle on our tummies and bed (they're safe from construction workers at my parents house.) But all of that is a manageable, temporary inconvenience. We've been complaining about the herculean clean up efforts next week and joking that Spring Cleaning came late this year, but it's not a huge problem overall. Fleas, however, are a nasty, horrible, MAJOR inconvenience that prove exactly why temperament and values play a much more major role in marriage than Love. 

Eww, yes, fleas. Which was better than the initial fear that the bites were bedbug-related. They're not, THANK GOD, because bedbugs are horrific in a way I don't even want to think about. But still, discovering fleas when your house is already covered in gross construction dust made me want to simultaneously cry, stand on a (wooden) chair and squeal, shower (which we couldn't do without taking a trip), and get a hotel room.  Fleas are, in a word, disgusting. We have no idea how they infiltrated our apartment, since the cats are indoor cats and arrived sans bloodsucking bugs. But they're here. And, after an evening of heebie jeebie feelings, we got down to just dealing with it.

The process of "just dealing with it" is where I really appreciate Jason and the full depth of this partnership. We can schmoop for hours on end, but it's when we we're covered in sweat, white dust and upholstery feathers (from taking all the sofa pillow cases off) and still in a relatively decent mood that I can truly appreciate just how great this partnership is and how strong our marriage will be. The construction won't be done til next week, but we dealt with thoroughly cleaning every corner of the house so the flea foggers could properly work, knowing that we'll need to scrub everything down again in a few days. We stripped every piece of upholstery in the house and took every bit of clothing down to the laundromat, because our in-unit washing machine wasn't enough for all the fabric. We cleared off every kitchen counter and taped up every cabinet in the house. We sprinkled (supposedly) natural, non-chemical bug powder on every upholstered surface and rubbed in the powder with a brush (given how much I coughed, I'm not sure it was non-toxic). We took our pet goldfish, Jimi Hendrix, out of his aquarium. And then we set off the flea foggers (terribly toxic, but there's no way around it really) and made our escape to my parents house for the next several days.

Sadly, Jimi didn't survive the move. We don't know if it was a problem with the bowl, his water, or if some pesticides somehow got him, but after our utter relief with accomplishing everything flea-cleaning related last night and getting to snuggle with our cats in my parents' guest room, we found the poor fish floating this morning. Jimi was Jason's first pet when he moved to Los Angeles.  I may not have understood Jason's love for this fish (though Jimi was one of the happiest, most active goldfish I've ever met) but I really respected how the fish represented Jason's compassion for the world. (He rescued Jimi from an event centerpiece. The event planner hadn't exactly thought about what to do with the "centerpieces" after the event, and Jason was horrified. Of the four fish he saved, Jimi was the only one to survive. He lived for almost four years!)

So this weekend has been hard. It was a ton of hard, gross physical labor and it was a morning of loss and sadness for a pet who's followed Jason throughout his time in Los Angeles. But this weekend has also been a reminder of why I'm so happy and content in this relationship and why I know marriage is the rightest step we can take together. Marriage is built upon these seven-hour stretches of cleaning up, dealing with utter grossness, and coping with loss. It definitely needs schmooping and private time too, but it's the shared effort and the joint approach to taking care of life's ugly necessities that really ensures an ongoing healthy marriage. Real love is about how a family makes do. Real love is about family, like how my parents opened their home for us (and the cats, now treated with flea medicine) without question. Real love and family is about rolling with punch after punch, and somehow getting by, together.

18 comments:

  1. I love it! You need someone to handle the poop and vomit with. That is the perfect description :) (Lucky you to have love too!)

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  2. This is beautiful and right. If you end up fighting at the first sign of difficulty, that will not last, and honestly can't be real love. Real love has at it's center a level of both mutual respect and mutual desire. When one of those things is missing, you've got problems.

    On the fleas -- make sure you redo the the flea treatment in two weeks. The foggers only work on live fleas. The second bombing gets the babies. I'm sorry Jason lost his fish. Sounds like a pretty rotten weekend. Hopefully it will get better soon.

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  3. So true! I read a post on a wedding blog recently where the bride and groom had a sign saying "don't marry someone you can live with - marry the one you can't live without". I think the reverse is true! Desperate longing is all very exciting, but it's the gentle and steady that will get you through life.

    Sorry about Jimi, and hope the itching subsides!

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  4. I was taught in high school there are three kinds of love: eros (romantic/sexual), philia (friendship), and agape (commitment). I think what you are describing here is agape, the kind of love that isn't about swooning and mush, but about doing whatever is necessary for the other person. It isn't the pretty love. It's the love where you are willing to make sacrifices. I think marriage is about love, just not the romantic kind of love everyone thinks about first. It's about the deeply committed kind of love that puts up with home construction and fleas and somehow multiplies in the face of those things.

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  5. I'm sorry about Jimi. Losing a pet is always hard, even if it's not a pet you can cuddle on your tummy. Also, as someone who's lived through a kitchen remodel and 2 bath remodels I feel you. Construction dust is the worst. And, of course, totally with you on romantic love not being enough.

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  6. Nice post. It's great that you already know you can support each other even through tough times :)

    And good for him for saving the fish, initially. Shame on that event planner!

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  7. Ooooh! This post made me all kinds of warm 'n' fuzzie. It makes me want to drive home and hug Josh right now!

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  8. Oh girl, I totally get it. We went through months of renovation and construction leading up to the wedding remodeling Mr Fix It's home before my daughter and I moved in. And then right when we got home from our honeymoon we had to deal with fleas from our beloved pet dog, Kuta who passed away just 2 days before our return! It is not fun dealing with the realities of messy life...but it is so great knowing that through the frustration, anger, and dirt, we can come out on the other side being able to still tolerate each other and find some fun in the love that we share. What great insight.

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  9. Beautiful writing and I am so happy you found someone you want by your side.

    I see all these posts lately about how marriage is not about love, it is about partnership, but I disagree. We go through the vomit, and poop, and fighting, and compromise and all the other tenants of partnership because of the love. I couldn't put up with his smelly man smell when he comes home from work, or his tendency to leave his dirty clothes in the middle of the living room, or the way every little thing he does can drive me crazy when I am in a bad mood if it wasn't for the love.

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  10. @Cupcake - I think the love and schmoop is absolutely necessary for a successful marriage. I agree, I wouldn't bother getting married to someone who I had a lock-step partnership/get-things-done approach but who I only really liked instead of loved. But I think life is much harder than it is easy, and love - romantic passionate love - changes over the course of that. And if it changes, I think it's really unhealthy to rely on *feelings* instead of *action* as the basis of a marriage. Feelings ebb and flow. I've seen my parents go through really hard years where I don't think the feelings were all that great. But they continued to respect each other and deal with the poopy vomitous years and got through the rough patch. And now they have the good feelings again. And I've been terribly "in love" before, but the actions weren't healthy or supportive or worthy of building a life around.

    So that's my perspective. Love is central, but I don't think it's the heady emotion-driven passion that we felt at the beginning. I think it's more warm and glowy, precisely because we respect it via action. So it's the action that's almost more important now that the feeling, because it's the action that sustains it.

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  11. You know, the week before my bridal shower was insanity. The landlord had just painted the outside of our house, and the dirty water from the power washing had flooded inside every crack around every window, rendering all the sills and curtains filthy. After they finished, we realized that they had painted all the windows SHUT. Add to this the fact that the rest of house had to be super cleaned for the arrival of the family members.

    Yeah.

    Over the course of several days, this was all we worked on. Prying open the windows with a knife, taking down the curtains and washing them, washing the windows, cleaning the top of the refrigerator, scrubbing the giant metal hood over the oven, dusting every surface, the list went on and on and ON. One night we didn't finish until after midnight. It was absolutely horrific, but we pulled it off. Together. Not without some (a lot) of whining, and definitely not without some sarcasm and humor.

    And I had a moment, several of them actually, where I stepped back and realized the good of what we were doing, and how we were working together. I think this is similar to what you and J have been up against lately. No matter how hokey it may be to talk about working towards a common goal, that IS what marriage is about. I'm glad you guys have found that spot.

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  12. Oh snap I totally forgot to say I am sorry about all the craziness. SOUNDS MIGHTY SUCKY. On the plus side, at least you have somewhere to shower?

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  13. I love this post.

    Is it just me, or does all the stuff about poop and vomit still sound a little bit schmoopy? ;)

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  14. Man, the construction doesn't sound fun but think of the feeling on the other side and maybe you can get a new paint job out of it?

    Anyway, I totally agree - true love, not romantic love is central to a relationship. There are so many nuances and levels attached to it but at the end of the day, it's love and a partnership.

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  15. I couldn't agree more...Isaiah and I are dealing with the aftermath of fleas now...one more vet visit for our also-indoor-only-cats and we should be done. I definitely see that dealing with something as gross and requiring-of-manual-labor as fleas can definitely bring out either the "I can definitely love and live with this person for the rest of my life" or sadly, sometimes, the "Ugh." side of things.

    It's neat to come out of those uncomfortable, nobody-wants-to-be-in-it situations and be a stronger couple! Sorry about the fleas, but congrats on the realization and whatnot!

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  16. One of the best posts so far in my (short) wedblog readership career!!!

    AyeAye to Los Angeles Love's response to Cupcake - I agree you need the romance, but isn't the romance made partly of dark, cynical humor coping mechanisms which only you two can really appreciate? Most romantic for me is the bond, the specialness, the only-with you experiences.
    The main idea that has been crystalising in my mind over the past year of marriage/wedding prep is that you can 'follow the rules' 'do everything right'(plan, invest, save, etc.), etc etc. and the shit can still hit the fan. and bad stuff can happen (like fleas, but also like illness, bankruptcy, etc.). and that's when you need a partner who won't be too shocked if the romance dies down and will just keep on keepin' on.
    great blog!

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  17. We talked about this a bit in our ceremony: the differences between when love is new, shiny and glittery and the older, much warn love with it's soft patina and subtle luster...the one that takes years to develop.

    I can appreciate this.

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  18. Beautifully put, as per usual Becca. As someone who has been married for 9 years, the romantic love does ebb and flow. There are great schmoopy times in there for sure. But there are also the gross times, when he's digging an ingrown toenail out for me b/c I'm crying in pain that I think "THIS. This is L-O-V-E love"

    Oh, and the fleas? Did you dust your house with Diatomaceous Earth? It's worked for us in the past.

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