Flags and Flagpoles (Why I’m So Glad I Didn’t Get the Marriage I Hoped For)
With our twentieth wedding anniversary quickly approaching, along with our first daughter’s high school graduation, my hubby and I decided to take a bit of inventory. (Marriage inventory, that is.) Add in to the mix my forty-second birthday and a fun supper date with a young and sweet thirty-something couple and our wheels really got to turning. Which direction they are turning . . well, that remains to be seen.
The truth be told, during our inventory I realized I am a bit disappointed. See, I thought that we’d be better at it by now. You know, at being married! Thinking like the oldest child, type-A, overachiever that I am, the list I had in my mind of my heady expectations of perfection is shot full of holes! (Not bullet holes, mind you. And no hating on type-A’s please. We cannot help being the children of first-time parents, can we?)
I guess you can see where I’m headed. In short, my dreams for the ultimate utopia of married bliss are dashed. After twenty years in the game, I don’t know much at all, but I do know better than that.
I no longer want what I hoped for. Why?
I’ve got something better.
Maybe my mom and dad are laughing right now reading this. Being married forty-five years next month, they already know. But they were the same kind of love-struck kids in 1970 and they probably had the same problem. But they’ve lasted, and we will, too.
The problem? Wishing and hoping and counting on a relationship without issues. Without challenges. Smooth sailing. Doesn’t that sound wonderful? Can’t you see the glassy ocean carrying a beautiful cruise liner into paradise? Ahhhhhhh.
And suddenly, there’s a bump here and there. Then the wind starts howling. The rain starts pouring. And an iceberg the size that tripped up the Titanic starts to rear it’s ugly head.
Wow, I thought we were SOOOO much alike! I thought we always agreed! Deciding on a restaurant was our favorite thing to do! Our ideas and principles lined up like missing puzzle pieces and we finished each other’s sentences (or “sandwiches,” if you have a little girl who likes “Frozen”)!
Here’s the real problem. Smooth sailing doesn’t exist. It might exist for stretches of time. Certain seasons of our relationship can feel easy and stress-free. But we will never appreciate those seasons without the times of hellacious (is that a word?) scrambling for dear life. Not. Going. To. Happen.
Accepting that (that marriage isn’t always smooth sailing) has been the beautiful reward of twenty years. My new and improved picture of wedded bliss is a couple of fiercely committed lovers, scraped up and worn out, with a look of triumph in their eyes and holding on to each other for dear life. (Oh, and I forgot, the boat is also full of our life’s work so far . . .eleven beautiful and perfect offspring. But I must talk about them in another post . . .)
So, since you know I’m the practical girl, I want to share here one of my favorite revelations for we married people. Here it is.
A great marriage usually includes a flag. And a flagpole.
Let me explain.
Remember that part about being “on the same page about everything?” Liking the same things, even the same movies and restaurants (speaking of the trivial)? Well, yes. But, that is B. M. (Before marriage, before you think I meant something else!) Yes, before the knot is tied, it’s EASY to agree. But the challenge comes once the covenant is struck. Then, a very wonderful thing begins to happen.
We realize how very different we are. Politics, religion, family dynamics and dysfunction, children and in-laws, you name it. While trying to sort all of these things out, one spouse will most likely start to resemble a flag.
Flags are easy going, extroverted, charismatic, dreamy, visionaries, never sit still, fly by the seat of their pants, you get the idea. But here’s the downside for the flag. They can literally fly off into oblivion and you never see them again. They can be flighty (literally) and lack commitment.
Enter the flagpole.
Flagpoles are solid. Centered. Stable and self-directed, disciplined, “rhythm and bass” at it’s finest. But before you think the flagpole is the one who saves the day, they can also be rigid and real sticks-in-the-mud. (And if you’re still wondering which one I tend to be in our relationship, let’s just say I’ve been described by my hubby (in public) as “gray and boring.” Yes, he meant it as a compliment.)
I know you can see the big picture at this point. The flag needs a flagpole. The flagpole needs a flag. You’ve never seen a beautiful flag or nice, stable flagpole operating all by their lonesome and getting anything done. In fact, you’d never see a darn thing. The flag would be off in Never-Neverland, and you’d walk right by the flagpole and never even know it was there!
So, I must repeat myself (I hope you’re still here). What I hoped for would have fallen completely short of what I’ve been given. Supporting my flag (and him supporting me) has given us guts, victories and more “muscles.” Yes, we’ve got a few scars as well. But who doesn’t?
I hope you’re hearing the “Eye of the Tiger” in your head by now. If you’re a husband or wife in the throes of a storm, don’t give up. Know that your differences only make you stronger.
Flags, keep flying high. And flagpoles, keep holding them up. It’s worth the ride.
After twenty years, I can say that.