The world has grown suspicious of anything that looks like a happily married life. – Oscar Wilde
Roughly four years ago, I was so unhappily married that I planned my husband’s funeral on the off chance that he would conveniently drop dead. At the time, I thought our marriage was over.
“It’s dead,” I told a good friend one night. I listed grievance after grievance for her. I told her that I was no longer attracted to him and that we hadn’t had sex in so long I could not even remember the last time. I told her that we’d run out of things to talk about. I told her that we fought about nothing—about what was allowed to go on the bathroom counter. I told her that he was a bad husband and that I’d made a mistake when I’d married him.
I thought she would give me permission to get a divorce. After all, she’d already been through one herself. She didn’t. Instead, she asked me a question. It was, “What have you tried to save your marriage?”
I’d tried nothing. That question led to me ordering 12 marital improvement books, reading them, and using their advice.
It led to—just four months later—me renewing my vows.
It led to me—now four years later—feeling so in love with my husband that he’s the one person I would want by my side if I were dying.
And it led to three revelations about life:
Life isn’t supposed to be easy.
I’ve talked to many long-married couples and most tell me that their marriages went through a rough patch (or several). I often ask, “If you could go back in time, would you undo your marriage? Would you have rather gotten a divorce?”
I’ve yet to encounter someone who answers that question with a yes. Like marriage, life presents us with rough patches. They might be rough physically (illness), mentally (depression or heartache), financially (bad credit or debt) or professionally (the loss of a job).
I’ve yet to meet a person who tells me that his or her entire life has been one peachy honky dory party. There’s been a struggle in there somewhere.
It’s human nature to want to avoid hardship, but it’s empowering to meet hardship, embrace it, and use it to grow into a new and stronger person.
With enough time and effort, most problems can be solved.
I once thought my bad marriage was insurmountable.
I was wrong.
Since working on my marriage, life has presented me with many other problems—problems that initially felt like dead-ends to me. But once I allowed myself to have faith—both in the future and in the benefit of fighting the good fight—I was able to see possibilities where, initially, I thought there were none.
The art of solving problems lies in allowing you to believe that the problem can be solved over time and with enough perseverance. After that, it’s just a matter of breaking the problem down into small steps and trying various solutions to see if they work.
I can change the world by changing myself.
I used to think that my husband was to blame for all of our problems. It wasn’t until I took ownership of our marital problems and began changing myself (learning how to be assertive, learning how to forgive, learning how to be more affectionate) that my marriage improved.
He changed, but he changed by following my lead. I’ve since learned that the same process works with life.
When people around me are not behaving admirably, I now realize that criticizing them for their behavior is not likely to change it. Instead, I do my best to serve as the best role model that I can. I become the person I want others to be.
Nine times out of 10, they become that person, too.