“Love doesn’t make the world go round, Love is what makes the ride worthwhile” ~ Elizabeth Barrett Browning
As a young girl, I often dreamed of getting married. I thought it would be like the fairy tales – you know, meet a handsome prince, fall in love, get married, and live happily ever after. I mean, that’s what the books and the movies told me would happen. And I believed them.
Julian and I have been married for 10 years this year, on August 30th. Ten years. And whilst it started out as a fairy tale of absolute perfection, it certainly hasn’t been that fairy tale I’d always dreamt of. In fact, it has been a roller coaster ride. From deliriously happy moments to absolute devastation, our relationship has certainly run the gamut of emotions.
In the beginning, it was so easy, so effortless. We rarely fought, and when we did we usually made up before bed, or even in bed. I hated the idea of going to bed angry with the person I loved, and so we never did.
And then something happened. We got married and fell pregnant straight away. On our wedding night, in fact. Without even trying. After experiencing the happiest day of our lives, I didn’t think it could get better. And then James was born. And with James came an even greater happiness than I had dreamt of. And a devastation that I never even knew existed.
And that’s when our marriage became harder than we ever imagined.
Current statistics put divorce at 50% for first marriages, and even higher for subsequent marriages. Throw the diagnosis of a chronic or terminal illness in your child into that fray and most marriages will become one of those statistics.
It’s hard. It’s hard to hold it together, to keep that smile on your face, when you are faced with the most heartbreaking realisation – that you will most likely outlive your child, and until then you have to watch him struggle and waste away before your eyes. It’s hard for any normal, strong relationship to survive that.
I have seen so many times, with my own friends, when one of the parents decides that they just can’t take anymore. I have been in that place. So has Julian. And, for a moment in time, we have walked away. But only for a moment. Long enough to get a hold of our emotions and realise what the consequences would be if we didn’t come back. Long enough to grasp the full picture of what our lives would be like if we broke up our family, our beautiful family. Long enough to understand how hard it would be on all of us if we were to each go it alone. But so many partners don’t. So many partners think it will be easier to not have to “deal” with their sick child on a daily basis. Or to not have to listen to their partner, crying out for help in a situation that they have no control over. Some just want to escape the sadness that has enveloped their lives, and they think they can find it elsewhere.
But, for us, it doesn’t exist elsewhere. Happiness is in the family we have created. Beneath all the sadness, all the anger, all the screaming and frustration, there is still that glimmer of happiness that started all of this off. I know it’s there, Julian knows it’s there. And that’s what keeps us going.
When we got married, we promised to love each other “in good times and bad, sickness and health, for all the days of our lives”, and I’ve always been one to keep promises. So is Julian, thank goodness. Yes, we probably need counselling. We probably need to go out into a deserted field and scream out to the heavens “why me?” and hope that someone might answer. And we probably need to take up boxing, just to rid ourselves of the stress that continues to build up. Most of all, it’s been 2 years since we’ve been on a date, just the two of us, and that really is 2 years too long. But no matter what, I’m not going anywhere. I’m not leaving (for longer than an hour or two). I’m in this for the long run. I know that the the fairy tales promised “happily ever after”, but in real life no one ever said marriage would be easy. This roller coaster that our marriage has become is no different to any other marriage. Yes, we have more to deal with than many, and yes there are plenty out there with even more heartache than us, but I don’t want “us” to become a statistic, like so many others before us and around us.
And so we will just keep on trying. Trying to find that true happiness that is buried deep inside. We will continue trying to get through each day (no matter how hard), and hope that we will remember why we fell in love in the first place. There’s still plenty of love there. It just needs a little bit of encouragement and coaxing.
Because it sure would be even harder, taking this particular ride we are on, without the love we have for each other (and our kids) to keep us going.