Relationships are hard. Really hard.
Feelings get hurt. We say things we don’t mean. We yell. We cry. We do things that drive each other crazy. We do things that the other person doesn’t understand. We do things that we don’t even understand.
Lately my faith in relationships has been a bit shaken by the astounding number of divorces and failed relationships around me. How do couples really make it work for the long haul? Is there some secret to a successful and happy marriage? I used to think it was all chocolates, roses, diamonds and candle light dinners, turns out that’s not the case (well… diamonds maybe).
I know that marriage is hard, it takes years of work and more work after that.
Sebastiaan and I are lucky to have parents that are both still together. My parents for over 30 years, his for 26. We both have amazing examples of what love really looks like. I’ve talked a lot about my relationship and relationships in general with both my mom and Linda (Sebastiaan’s mom) and they both seem to say pretty much the same thing even though they are in very different relationships. They stress how hard marriage can be and that no matter what it will have its ups and downs. As people change over time and as life happens, both the good and the bad, relationships are bound to be affected.
My parents recently experienced among the worst tragedies parents can imagine, the loss of my brother. It’s hard not to notice how this has dramatically influenced their lives and also their marriage. At first it seemed as though they were just trying to avoid drowning in their own grief and instead of leaning on each other, a kind of intangible distance grew between them.
It retrospect, I think it was their way of protecting one another. It was as if it was at all possible that for even one moment the other was not entirely consumed with thoughts of Kylen, they didn’t dare take that away. I’m not saying that this is necessarily the right or best way to deal with grief, but what is? There is no prescribed formula for dealing with the loss of a child. My parents still deal with the grief of losing their son everyday but I think now they are finally able to begin making space for one another again.
Sebastiaan’s parents also went through an equally scary and challenging period last year. Linda was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was going to need a mastectomy. They were unsure how much of the cancer had spread and were hopeful but vague about the prognosis. I watched as they, and well all of us, were sent on an emotional roller coaster of fear, anger, uncertainty and hope. Herman’s grief was palpable. He was consumed by the unbearable reality of Linda’s condition. Linda, always the pillar of strength within the family, still managed to hold us all together through it all. Although Linda is now cancer free she is still dealing with the emotional and even physical consequences of her illness. She hasn’t gone back to work full-time and is at time struggling to redefine her role in her marriage and her family. Cancer changed Linda as I’m sure it would change most people. She sees things differently now, has very different priorities and has an entirely new perspective on life. Linda and Herman are too working to redefine what their relationship means in the aftermath.
Sebastiaan and I just celebrated our 2nd anniversary and it feels like we’ve already been through more than most couples experience in a lifetime, and to be honest, we’re really still getting to know each other. We have finally been able to catch our breath and take a step forward with a bit more optimism for the future. I still get annoyed by the occasional toilet seat left up, 30 minute showers, wrinkled clothes and addiction to junk food. And I’m sure he’s had just about all the PMS, Keeping up with the Kardashians and clogged shower drains he can take. But we’re figuring it out. We’re figuring out who we are as individuals and what that means for our relationship. I learn something new about Sebastiaan, and well myself, everyday. We bring out the best in each other, occasionally push each other’s buttons and constantly challenge one another to be better people. I know that we will also have to continuously redefine our relationship as we grow and face life’s challenges together as a couple and at times it won’t be easy, it may even feel impossible.
So what’s the secret to a long-lasting relationship? I don’t know that there is one and I definitely don’t know what the future holds for Sebastiaan and me, but I do know that even during the worst of times I can’t imagine my life without him.