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July 21, 2010

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I read this yesterday, and wanted to comment, but didn't have time. It struck such a chord with me that I came back today to read it again. Thanks for your honesty, mama. My husband and I separated 9 months ago because I wasn't fulfilled. Because I was unhappy and exhausted and felt like a shell of a person.

Now I love my life, have energy and passion and feel more like myself than at any other point in my life so far. And now I have to make the decision of whether or not to get back together with the husband. I ask myself, what is a better for my kids? A mother who is happy and loving life divorced from their father? Or a mother who will stay "for the family," demonstrating commitment but only half-hearted happiness? What do they learn from each scenario, and what pain does each one cause them?

Obviously both happiness and marriage to their father would be ideal, but deep down I don't really believe that both can exist simultaneously. Thus, I am torn.

All that from a rare commenter. You really stirred my bucket, missy.

First of all, I'm relieved and grateful to the honesty of the previous posts.

Marriage is far, far more difficult than I'd ever believed and I wish someone had told me that it's normal to reach points that make you want to scream, throw something extremely heavy at your spouse and pack up all your shit and leave.

But from the honest conversations my husband and I have had and the honesty I've heard from other women, it is normal. Maybe not everyoe reaches that point, but it sure as hell isn't rare or mean your marriage is hopeless.

It means we're human and life is hard. And you have to try and keep trying.

I agree that this is something I'm showing my kids and not really talking to them about. But when they're older I'll try and be honest with them. I'll tell them there were times I wanted to leave and I'll tell them why I stayed.

I stayed because I believed that my husband loved me and our family more thaan anything else in his life. I believed that he wasn't willing to give up either. I believed that we wanted the same things in life, even if how we got there was different. And I believed that our life together was more good than bad and you don't just walk away because its hard.

For all my complaints and bitching and moaning about my husband, I know he puts up with a lot of my crap too and he's man and good men are hard to find.

I agree with everyone who said this is a "show don't tell" kind of thing. My big boys were joking with me yesterday that Dad and I seem to be fighting a lot lately. They were joking but I could sense the worry underneath. I admitted that I hadn't thought about it, but we had been bickering more than usual, but that we are both under a lot of stress right now and sometimes husbands and wives aren't as nice to each other as they should be when life gets hard. And heck, even when it's easy.

It was a good reminder to me that I sometimes get a little more...heated...in my tone than I need to, especially when talking about small things (I actually had to rack my brain to remember having fought with my husband; none of the little arguments the kids were referring to stuck out in my head as unusual). And also, that marriage is just hard and a lot of work, and that how hard and how much work is often affected by forces outside of our control, which is actually a bit comforting to me....to realize it's not just that "he's being a jerk" or "I'm being a jerk" but that life is hard right now and we just aren't being our best selves.

Haha @Amanda @WellReadHostess - That's the ongoing "joke" around here too.

@wellreadhostess: i'm so glad you said that. man, i thought i was the only one who hated my husband during pregnancy and then the first couple of years after that. i just had son#2 and that's it folks. i am done. if i have another kid i will certainly kill my husband the first time he opens mouth to tell me how tired he is.

the older I get, the more i figure out that those surrounding me are either lying or have lots of bumps in their marriages too. It's hard. So hard. Before kids. Adding kids on top of it is like the perfect storm. yes, it's worth it, blah blah blah, but there are some days that it is just hard. And it comforting to hear others admit that too.

I'm not finding that marriage is hard as in rife with conflict, but that it's hard to be present, enjoy it and improve it with the demands of these kids who consume all of my waking hours and energy. My husband can take care of himself, while my kids and professional obligations can't, so I end up focusing on whichever fire is burning brightest. This means that our hours together involve very little adult fun and spontaneity. I am trying not to worry about it and hope that on the other side of little kids, we'll reunite with passion. Probably a pretty lame plan.

I'll never forget seeing the musical Into the Woods on Broadway when I was in my preteens. Not just because it was awesome and so well done, but because of Act 2. Sure Act 1 ended with Happily Ever After, but in Act 2 we saw what happens after that. I think every Disney princess story should have a part 2 in which they actually show what life is like once they've got the prince, slayed the dragons, had the babies, etc.

I also think that the truth of marriage is a lot like the truth of having kids: Even when people tell it like it is and warn you about the downs as well as ups, you just don't get it until you are living it. Although, also like kids, I learned a lot by seeing the truth of what other people were going through. Seeing my sister struggle with breastfeeding and naps with her baby helped me realize what was to come for me. Just like seeing my brother and even parents struggle with early marraige helped me realize what was to come in marraige.

So I guess that's me rambling just to repeat what others have said. It comes down to showing it and being honest in what you show, but being sure to show both the good and the bad, and especially the bad that happens after the good and the good that happens after that!

I want my children to grow up to be happy. Whatever that means to them. I don't want them to think they need to achieve that through marriage or money or religion.

Right now they're very interested in marrying their rocks in their collection. Yes, rocks. So, I guess I can start explaining them that rock marriage can be a lot of hard work...

The ebb and flow thing is FOR SURE, for me.

And I think nothing creates a motherfucking ebb like some little kids.

I think that we as women/wives/mothers do ourselves a great disservice but pretending that our lives, our marriages, our relationships, are all sunshine and bunnies. I felt so alone when I was pregnant and HATING my husband. I felt even worse after I had our son and thought that I was serious about my desire to walk away from our marriage. I felt like I was the only one who was looking at the cost of an apartment and trying to figure out if I could make that work.

And then things got better. And I found a friend who actually shared with me her own struggles. But man, my mom told me that marriage was hard. And I saw the pain of my parent's divorce because marriage was "hard". But no one ever told me how hard. No one ever told me what "hard" meant. And some days things are peachy and some days, like today, I want to throw in the towel, cut my losses and start again. But that's life, and the process, I just wish someone had told me that, a long time ago.

Being a divorced mother of two who was a single mom for two years before now being engaged to a wonderful man...I feel you on this one. Life has had major ups and downs and I don't pretend with my kids.

I am honest with them in a way that is age-appropriate when they ask about things in life...this mornings was why they can't go live more with Daddy..to which I had to tell them the truth finally...I offered your Dad split custody and he didn't want it...not an easy thing to do but I am also not looking like the bad guy. I think kids need to know the honest life lessons...

I'm sorry. They don't tell you everything, do they. I know. I think, however, that it does get better. When the kids are a bit older and less dependent? Perhaps. I'm looking forward to a "second honeymoon" when the last one moves out. Seems like it'll never come, but when it does it'll be like it was too soon.

I blame Disney movies. Not really, but it sounds good ;)

Last week a mom I sort of know from a playgroup sent out an email to a group of us asking for help and advice because disciplining her two year-old (her oldest) was tearing at her marriage since she and hubby had totally different ideas. She was SO embarrassed to admit this and thought she was the only one. And she got tons of responses from all the moms about how they've all been there.

That's what really kills me - that so many moms don't talk about how fucking hard the whole kids thing can be on you as a person and on a marriage, and newer moms are left feeling like there's something wrong with them or with their marriage when they're dealing with normal stuff that just about everybody encounters at some point.

I can honestly say that I don't regret any of my choices BUT I can also admit that I've had those "what the hell am I doing with my life" moments. How could you not when you're a SAHM?

I've never really thought much about what I want to teach my kids though. I'm loving the comments, lots to think about!

So many good comments here.

Our relationship has grown increasingly better over the years, but the absolute worst time was when Tacy was a newborn.

But who knows? He might come home tomorrow and tell me he's leaving me.

My parents let me make a mistake (which resulted in a 7 year marriage), but I'm glad they did. It was my own mistake, and it led me where I am today (which is a very sappy-happy marriage).

Kind of not relevant, but it's what popped into my head.

I think it's more you show them, than tell them. Especially as young as yours are. Show by example. Don't hide small arguments. Don't shy away from the truth, just because it's easier in the moment.

I remember my mom getting crap from my grandma for being honest with us. For telling it like it is. My mom was like, hey you hid EVERYTHING from us and none of us are better off for it.

Shrug. It's a hard one. My girls see the happily ever after on TV. They want that. The Giselle, happily ever after, please watch out for the glitter I just shit everywhere, life. I can't give it to them though. All I can show them, is it's work. Marriage, life, children, keeping up with work and house crap, it's all work. When you fall? You just have to get back up. No choice in the matter really. Some days it's great, some it's good and others, it just plain sucks. It's life.

As little kids, I guess you explain as it comes up. I explain things to mine as things happen. Also? Friendships are hard work sometimes and my girls have both learned that this past school year. It helps to talk about relationships on that level, at their current ages.

I've never (I'll pause here while I say that I was going to write "hated," then deleted it and thought about writing something along the lines of "was so unhappy with," then thought "aw fuck it,") hated my husband so much as certain times during my first and second trimesters with each pregnancy. At least that's what I thought until the first years of each of each kid's life when I knew what true loathing was really was during those times. His breathing could inspire me to heights of rage I never thought possible

Now I like him again, and I'm not having any more kids so that I don't have to test those boundaries anymore.

My mom did that whole, "You're too young. Find yourself. Don't make the same mistake I did." chit chat when I got married for the first time and it ruined our relationship. Granted she was right, but we've never been the same since then. I don't know how you have that talk, it's a slippery slope for sure.

I think that once we crossed the bridge of childbirth and the 'roids, there was no going back. I'm kind of stuck with this man forever and ever because what if we got divorced and he shared it with his new wife? Screw that.

Marriage is hard work, no matter what. Marriage with kids is much, much harder...and I agree with all the comments that it is just realism, not cynicism. It's so much harder to be on the same page when you are both pulled in so many different directions. I am a different person than I was before I had kids...less patient for others, less indulgent of others' eccentricities...at the end of the day, you only have so much to give and kids take a lot! My husband completely irritates me so often now, which rarely happened in our long dating relationship or marriage pre-kids.

I avoid the princess thing as much as possible, and try to focus on the aspects of a person I think are of value when we do discuss marriage (friendship, working as a team, having fun together, interests in common, etc.). My mom always told us that love is a decision, and that is what marriage is about-making the commitment to continually choose to love your spouse. I really believe that. Sometimes it's harder than others to make that choice, but my hope that it's possible keeps me going.

You're just being a realist and I love that. 7 years of marriage and 3 kids later I do look around and occasionally wonder "wtf exactly was it that I was thinking". It's hard, its grueling and yes, sometimes it's also really great. But sometimes it's not, and kids need to see their parents go through those times. They need to witness those "hey sometimes shit gets really hard, and you think you're going to lose your mind, but somehow you have to buck up and find a way to work through it" times.

I don't know what the best advice to give my kids regarding relationships will be when the time comes. My husband and I met in high school, we've had our ups, we've had our downs. We still love the crap out of each other. Some people cringe at the the thought of a couple meeting that young and think the key is to live it up for a good long time and then settle down. I have seen both scenarios work out and not work out, so who knows. We just fasten our seat belts, take what life throws at us, in timing that it not often of our choosing, and hope for the best.

You really can't get past that sugar bowl, can you?

I saw Greg Giraldo do stand up here recently. He was talking about gay marriage and how he doesn't understand why so many people object to it. He said, "Everyone who objects seems to be worried about destroying the 'sanctity' of marriage. Married people, let me ask you - Does it FEEL like a gift from g-d?"

That summed it up perfectly for me. Everyone goes through the same thing. And it doesn't matter what we tell our kids, they'll go through it, too. (Though I like Amy's approach).

If someone had tried to tell you childrearing wasn't all milestones and kisses, would you have listened? The heart wants what the heart wants.

I think you're just trying to be realistic. I hope that by watching our relationship go through it's various fits and starts my children will pick up the necessary lessons. That it is hard. Damn hard, but it's worth all the effort put into it. We will still have the same 5 arguments for the rest of our lives, because at the end of the day we will never change our personalities.

I think like everything else, it just means being honest with your kids. Sometimes my husband and my children drive me crazy but I still love them and want them. Enough to show them how hard it can be.

It's NOT the same for everyone and most of the time I think everyone else must be really good at faking it around other women because otherwise it would make me tragically depressed. I can't even tell you the relief I felt when I heard other wives talk honestly about marriage.

Steph

I totally get this. I'm in the middle of figuring out what my happy is right now. It reminds me of after my miscarriages obsessing about whether I could get pregnant and stay pregnant. Is this enough? Can I make it work?

Everyone's is different. And while I want my kids to hear laughing and love, and see affection, Life isn't all rainbows and roses. It is hard. And I don't think it is bad that they know that it is work.

I just struggle if this is enough for me. The lack of affection. The repetition of every day being the same, and not really feeling love. It definitely isn't the perfect marriage, but it is what we have.

My gauge is that it still turns my stomach to think of us not being together. And I miss him when he leaves. He is in the Army and leaving for a few weeks at the end of August. I'm sad that I am thinking that will almost be good for us.

I think it is healthy for our kids to see us struggle in our marriages. It is real life. Not some fairy tale that people on tv are trying to sell us. Pretending everything is ok all the time just sets the kids up for disappointment down the road.


It's not cynicism, it's realism. You are raising future adults and they learn along the way that life is not fair, and not always what you expect or think you deserve. They also learn that Mom & Dad can disagree and still love each other. Mom & Dad can do nice things for each other "just because". Families are unique and will never fit the cookie-cutter Hollywood mold. We laugh and cry, fight and hug, and don't give up on each other.

You make such a good point.

I've always thought it's interesting that bride/princess/happily ever after/domestic bliss toys are marketed to little girls while superhero/warrior type toys are marketed to little boys. Doesn't that set girls up with unrealistic expectations about marriage and relationships? Those "reality" shows are the same thing, but for adults. There's such an enormous focus on "The Big Day" that the whole point of marriage gets lost (or ignored).

If you feel the need to explain anything to your children do so in relation to their relationship to each other and to you. Sometimes they are mad at you and sometimes they fight. But.. they love you and each other. Same thing with marriage.

I don't think this is something you TELL your kids. I think it's something you SHOW them.

I think you show them by letting them watch you disagree, fight fairly, and give each other a hug to make up.

You show them by letting them see, occasionally, the effort you put into your marriage. Even if it's something simple like saying, "Let's get these for Daddy, they're his favorite!" over the raspberries at the grocery store.

You show them by staying in the marriage, even when it's hard.

You show them by creating a marriage and a family that is uniquely yours - that works for you two and for your kids as individuals and as people - not some cookie cutter "for show" version of marriage that you adapted from the fictionalized "made for TV" version of someone else's life.

And even if you show them, they'll still walk down the aisle someday with stars in their eyes, and the reality of marriage and family will hit them much later, and they'll feel misled. But if they can remember what those eye stars felt like, maybe the stars themselves - the delusions of what it will be like, the lies that our culture tells us about what to expect, the illusion of happily-ever-after - will see them through the hard parts.

I can't be the only person who stares at our wedding portrait when we fight. Remembering the way that 25 year old felt, remembering how naive and hopeful she was, remember how she believed in her happily-ever-after gets me through.

Marriage is ridiculously hard without kids. And when you add one to the "bliss" that was, well, you're just asking for trouble. But here's the thing: I could not imagine doing it with anyone else. Of course we've had a problems and adjustments. He's still the biggest slob I've ever met. He still cooks great meals, using all of the frickin' pots and pans we own, (even for a supposedly one-skillet meal)and leaves the kitchen for me to clean. He still undresses in the living room and refuses to bring his clothes to the hamper, which is on his side of the bed. But man, this dude is one hell of a husband and father. He's caring, attentive, loving and all the other complementary adjectives you can think of. The slobby things is still annoying though...

As for teaching your kids what a good, great, whatever marriage is, I will refer back to a podcast of yours that I heard. That all your children really want from you is to know you love your spouse. Yep, Kristen, that has stuck with me, even in the morning while I'm trying to pick up his dirty clothes while dodging the milk sippy the kid is done with but insists on throwing at me to get my attention. I love him, and we try to show DS that by hugging/kissing each other hello or goodbye. And including him in our hugs. Modeling is huge.

Love your blog and tweets. Pretty sure my hubs also does. Hang in there, Mama!

Married with kids is the hardest thing I've ever done! Everyday is a struggle not to strangle my husband as he complains about how tired he is . . . try waking every 2 hours to breastfeed an 3 month old, buddy. If it wasn't for bloggers like you, I would totally feel like an misfit, a castaway in a sea of my own resentment. ( I don't know if that sounds like a compliment or not, but it was meant to be one.) Instead, i know there are other women out there who are struggling like I am to find the right balance between motherhood and marital bliss while not losing their own identity. I thank the many gods for you ladies every day.

Perhaps this is the thing I object most to about the whole 'Princesses' thing. The idea that love just comes strolling by, is immediately enamored of you, and continues on forever after to the sound of chirping bluebirds.

I don't think you're being cynical. I think we need to let our kids know that marriage, like all relationships, takes time, commitment, compromise, communication, and a constant reviewing/revising of where we are going. And if you live your marriage, the good and the bad, in front of your kids, they will see that.

I don't think my marriage is perfect. I do believe it and I are more complete now than 21 years ago when we first married. But I also know that there are marriages and relationships that form differently to ours and that not everyone has the Happily Ever After from day one (and if they say they do have a perfect marriage from day one, they are probably lying).

Everyone's journey/life/relationship is different. That may need to be all you teach your kids. And you can be gently honest.

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