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.

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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.

J and L 4th of July

After twenty years, I can say that.

Jennifer 🙂

 

 

 

 

10 Comments on “Flags and Flagpoles (Why I’m So Glad I Didn’t Get the Marriage I Hoped For)

  1. Jennifer,

    I have never followed a blog before now and I look forward to reading and learning more from you. I was so impressed watching you and your family the other night during the Super Bowl- I have to take notes from great Mom’s because it’s rare that other’s hold the same values that I do. It is great to read about it but seeing first hand the patience it takes was a great reminder to me to work at being a mom and enjoy teaching them because as you said- it pays off down the road. Thank you for that word! You have a beautiful family!

    Like

    • Thank you, Amanda! It was so nice to meet you and your family too! You’re an awesome momma and have a beautiful family and keep up the great work. I do hope my blog can help in some, even small, way. You’re right…it all pays off down the road! 🙂
      Hope to see you soon,
      Jen 😉

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  2. I rarely read blogs, but I stopped and read this one and I’m glad I did. Good word for all of us married people and the importance of each other in the relationship. Bless you and Lorenzo as you move forward in life. Love you guys and all your family. Ron

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    • Wow. I am soooo thrilled you stopped and read the blog. What a big encouragement! You and Cindy are such great examples and our family loves you both! Thanks so much for all you’ve sown into us! 🙂

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  3. I still miss running into your family around town, even though it’s been so long! I liked your analogy, though it wasn’t what it was expecting from the title. So, from another 40-something mom of eleven, married for 20 years–keep doing what you’re doing, it’s working well.
    🙂 Michelle

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    • Yes, it was kind of a play on words. 🙂 I didn’t intend for it to turn out that way, it came to me at the end of my writing. LOL. Thanks so much for your comments and many blessings to you all!! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks Jennifer. I really needed this today. Lisa and I could not fit more into this category. In fact, Lorenzo talked to me about this years ago, but I needed it today :). Love y’all!

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    • Wow. I am so pumped to hear from you. Yes. It’s an “elephant” that you’ve got to eat a bite at a time. 🙂 You’re doing a great job and so is Lisa!!! You’re a beautiful couple! Please hug her for me and love you both and your sweet babies. 🙂
      Jen 🙂

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