Paul L. Caron

Sunday, June 26, 2022

NY Times Op-Ed: I Married The Wrong Person, And I’m So Glad I Did

New York Times Op-Ed:  I Married the Wrong Person, and I’m So Glad I Did, by Tish Harrison Warren (Priest, Anglican Church; Author, Prayer in the Night: For Those Who Work or Watch or Weep (2021) (Christianity Today's 2022 Book of the Year)):

Warren 3HI truly believe that everyone marries the wrong person. But even by that standard, my husband’s and my match was particularly fraught. We got married young with no idea what we were getting into or how to decide who — or if — to marry. We both brought plenty of baggage into our relationship. We argued a lot, and didn’t handle conflict well. We had a vague sense that marriage was good and a mistaken idea that it was a necessary passage into adulthood. But even as I walked down the aisle, I harbored doubts about whether we should marry.

My husband is now also an Anglican priest and over the last two decades we’ve both presided over weddings and offered premarital counseling. We both admit that if a couple came to us with the doubts and issues we had when we got engaged we’d probably say, “maybe don’t do this,” which is what our premarital counselor told us at the time. He sensed that our life paths were pulling in different directions, that neither of us had a clear idea of who we were or what we wanted, and that I was romantically hung up on another guy. We didn’t listen to his advice.

Nearly two decades later, I’m glad we didn’t. But I can also say that he was right to warn us of trouble ahead.

The last 17 years have held long stretches when one or both of us were deeply unhappy. There have been times when contempt settled on our relationship, caked and hard as dried mud. We’ve both been unkind. We’ve both yelled curse words and stormed out the door. We both have felt we needed things that the other person simply could not give us. We have been to marriage counseling for long enough now that our favorite counselor feels like part of the family. We should probably include her photo in our annual Christmas card. At times, we stayed married sheerly as a matter of religious obedience and for the sake of our children. ...

I don’t know if I truly loved my husband when we got married or if I even knew what love was. But I know that we are learning to love each other with each passing day and that there is profound joy in that messy process. There are nights when he sits quietly reading, and I look at his face and recall what a steep hill we’ve climbed and will keep climbing, and I am overwhelmed with gratitude that he has stuck with me, that we get to live this life together, with all the sorrow, betrayal, glory, loveliness, surprise and mystery that entails. So much beauty has grown from what at times seemed like impossibly stony ground. ...

The last thing that I am is some kind of relationship guru. And I know my husband’s and my situation isn’t translatable to other marriages. I know we’re lucky. We have two people in a relationship willing to work at it, which isn’t the case for everyone, and we’ve been spared substance abuse or severe untreated mental illness, things that often wreck relationships. I don’t give a lot of marriage advice. But I want to simply offer that choosing to stay in a marriage for all kinds of unromantic reasons is a good and even a brave choice. And, even if it would never make a great book or movie, that choice offers its own kind of quiet path of discovery, growth, love and flourishing. ... 

I want to normalize significant periods of confusion, exhaustion, grief and unfulfillment in marriage. There’s an older couple I know who are in their fifth decade of marriage. They are funny and kind and, by almost any standard, the picture of #relationshipgoals. Early on in our marriage they told us, “There are times in marriage when the Bible’s call to love your enemies and the call to love your spouse are the same call.”

I’ve held on to this in moments of deep frustration, when my husband and I sank to the kitchen floor in tears, bone-weary after going round and round, not knowing what else to do but pray, have friends pray and keep putting one foot in front of the other. These kitchen floor moments were awful, yet I think they are when the growth in our marriage really began.

The day we got married, people wrote us kind notes of blessing. Some said, “May you always feel about each other how you feel today.” Even then, that felt slightly more like a curse, a way of wishing for stagnation. I don’t feel about my spouse how I did when we got married. We are both so much more aware of the obnoxious imperfections and real pathologies each of us brings to the table, but I also feel far more loyalty, respect, love, delight and care for him than I was capable of back then. I have discovered how difficult I am to live with and how difficult my spouse is to live with. But we have also learned the tragic, comedic, stumbling and deeply joyful dance of living together anyway.

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Other New York Times op-eds by Tish Harrison Warren:

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