This blog post first appeared over at www.allisonvesterfelt.com - you can read more about Allison there!
When I was twenty and single, the one thing I knew for sure about marriage was that, when I got married, I wouldn’t be lonely.
The funny thing was, the older I got, the less lonely being single seemed. I had a dozen friends and an active social life. We were always dreaming and scheming up something — keeping ourselves busy with careers and trips and spontaneous rendezvous for happy hour. We would cry with each other and call each other at two in the morning sometimes and, before we knew it, we became like family.
We weren’t husbands and wives, but we were men and women, doing life together, getting in-your-mess and in-your-face and learning to how to love until it hurt.
It was a really beautiful disaster most of the time.
Of course, there were moments the loneliness would sink in.
I would be at a friend’s wedding, watching her walk down the aisle (or watching him wait for his bride) and I would think about how things would never be the same again. Not that it was a bad thing. This was how it should be. Marriage changed things. I didn’t really know how it did, I just knew it did.
Even in the moments single life seemed lonely, I had my family.
My parents didn’t always agree with everything I thought or said or did, but by the time I was in my late twenties, I had hit a groove with them — a really lovely groove where we told each other things, and they wouldn’t give me advice no matter how many times I asked, but would always listen and hug me and tell me everything was going to be alright.
And my sister and brother, despite being different from me in many ways, shared comforting similarities like a the shape of my nose and color of my eyes, not to mention the inside jokes and a mutual understanding about how and when and how not to push each others buttons.You learn to function together in family. Even when your “function” is rather “dysfunctional” it is comforting.
Then, I met my husband, and we got married. And something very strange happened.
I lost all of that.
I gained something too, but I couldn’t see what I gained without first recognizing what I lost.
In part this was the nature of our transition (we moved across the country) and in part it was because it’s really difficult to merge two systems together — his system of friends, my system of friends. Each operated differently with its own unique rules and regulations, its own sensibilities about what’s important, what’s acceptable, and what isn’t.
And as much as I swore I would never be the kind of friend who stopped being a friend just because I got married — I found myself doing it. Because friendship is built on common ground and I wasn’t sure what ground I was on. I was building something else now, and I wasn’t sure how it all fit together.
Not “lost” as in gone forever, but lost as in temporarily lost my footing, lost my sensibilities about what it looked like to be a sister or a daughter or a daughter-in-law now that I was married. Who was I supposed to go to when I had a problem? Who’s side was I supposed to take when no one saw eye-to-eye?
It’s hard to merge two families when you’re trying to build your own.
So the first year of marriage felt lonely to me, not because Darrell wasn’t my friend, or because he didn’t love me, or because I didn’t love him, but because building is hard. And because we were starting from the bottom, and because I was building with someone who I had only known, and who had only known me, for a couple of months.
We’re learning, more slowly than we’d like sometimes, what it looks like to bring pieces of me, and pieces of him, into this our thing we’re building together.
We’re learning that when one of us gets sick, or has a bad day, or gets their feelings hurt, there is only the other, cleaning up the mess or doing the dishes or digging deep or soothing bruised egos. After all, if we don’t do it, no one else will.
No one else will build this for us.
We’re learning that if we want something that suits us, that’s big enough for both of us, for my values, and for his, big enough for both of our separate pasts, our separate friends, our separate families, or separate ideals — we have to build it. If we want a system that is functional and comfortable, and fits us, like a good pair of jeans, we have make it.
We can’t get everything we want, all of the time.
But we’re building something.
And the longer we’re married, the less lonely it gets. We find our footing and invite people in and watch each other weave in and out of old and new seasons. And when I think about it, this isn’t that different from before I was married. Anytime we’re building, we’re making difficult decisions, about what to keep and what to leave behind. And we’re all responsible for what we’re creating…
And when it seems most difficult is when we’re making the most progress.
Are you married or single? Are you lonely?