by Anna Arnett
I thoroughly enjoyed Betsy’s blog on The ABC’s of a Happy Marriage. It triggered a lot of thought for me. For the last four or five hours, last night, when I should have been sleeping, and again for another two or three this evening, I’ve pondered about a couple of statements that rather intrigued me. Now, please, do not misunderstand. I’m not judging, nor even disagreeing, nor claiming my way or my ideas are any better than others. I don’t know that I’ve even thought it through logically. But here I go, anyway. They say before marriage one should open the eyes widely, but afterwards it’s better to keep the eyelids at half mast. Maybe I’m squinting.
First, I find myself feeling frustrted by the statement: “There is no such thing as happy ever after.” Why not? I claim to have been happily married for sixty-two years, and expect it to continue. After all, isn’t that what we expect of heaven? Or have I? Do I? Or is it?
Okay, I think I’m starting to figure out my problem. It’s with the definition of happily ever after. If it means being thrilled, laughing or smiling every second of the time from the marriage vows on, we can all agree there is no such thing. Life and our own agency continue to spark trying moments—times when we get sick, when we ache, when a meal burns, when the washing machine floods the floor, when the clock keeps on ticking though we crave more time, when the perfect dinner cools waiting for him to come home, when any number of things go wrong. Granted, iwhen any of these things happen, most of us habitually choose to become at least a trifle annoyed. With only a little more effort, this annoyance can be fanned into hurt and anger. Rehashing it in our minds can raise this little bump to a mountain, and it doesn’t take many mountains to create the Himalayas, or the Rockies.
Now ponder this. If everything went exactly like we think we want it to—if every meal were perfect, if we never had a bad hair day, if we could set our clocks by the moment our husband walked in the door, if there were no challenges, no illnesses, no rejections, no annoyances, no diapers to change, no spilled milk, no misunderstandings—the list can go on and on ad infinitum—would that make us happy ever after? I doubt it. It might be fine for a day (though I doubt if anybody ever has a completely perfect day) but wouldn’t it become boring? I’m reminded of the poem, Richard Cory, by Edward Arlingon Robinson. He was rich, handsome, influential, and had everything, and all the commonors wanted to be like him.
So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without the meat, and cursed the bread,
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head!
So I say, hurrah for disturbance. Hurrah for change, for interruptions. I submit that life, to be happy, must have one challenge after another to either overcome or fulfill. After all, we keep hearing that to write interesting best sellers, a novelist must keep throwing rocks at her strong characters. Marriage and parenting are pretty well designed to keep us challenged, and therefore, ought to make us happy ever afterward if we choose to label the difficult times as challenges to meet rather than burdens to bear and grieve over, thus building into our bosoms our own mountain range.
Second: Marriage takes work, hard work, if it’s to succeed. I know lots of prominent people have said this, so undoubtedly it’s my definition of hard work that’s at fault. To me, hard work means making myself do something when I’d rather be doing something else. Work can be synonymous with drudgery, but not necessarily. Cleaning house is work to me. But when I really want a clean house and there‘s no other way to get it, I can talk myself into enjoying it, because I’m concentrating on the results, not the job. (All right. Anyone who comes to my room can see that, as I get older, I find talking myself into wanting to clean does get more difficult.) To me, if I enjoy doing it, that task is not work, but more like entertainment, or play. I just realized this can’t be true of everybody. After all, people do go to a gym to workout.
Now, what hard work does it take? Loving? Forgiving? Serving? Considering? Listening? Praising? Sure, all that takes effort. But does it take any more energy than it takes to hate? Hold a grudge? Incite to anger? Condemn? Insult? Pout? I submit that it’s easier in the long run to keep the commandments, and to build a good marriage than it is to suffer the consequences of sin, and of heartbreak.
As far as that goes, obtaining anything worthwhile demands dedication, time, and effort. That goes for eduction, career, family, hobbies, spiritual growth, physical health, friendships, just to name a few. But again, if you love school, you pay attention and do your homework. If you commit to honesty, you gladly give a full day’s work for a full day’s pay. If you love the Lord you serve willingly. If all this is hard work, then I’m wrong in my definition. I call it a joyous enterprise.
Okay, I’ll admit that my happily ever after life is undoubtedly because of the man I married. Had I chosen to marry (and reform) and one of the good-looking, athletic, rather charming boys I dated, who liked to break as many rules as he thought he could get away with, I’d have a completely different outlook. I’ve been grateful since June 5, 1945 that 2nd Lt. Charles Arnett, bomber pilot, returned prisoner of war, proposed. We married ten days later, with an everlasting covenant to make it last forever, and have been basically happy ever after.
I asked my husband if he felt he had had to work hard to have a happy marriage. He thought a while and said if he had, he hadn’t been aware of it, that all he had tried to do was to make me happy and, since I’ve always been easy to please, that wasn’t hard. He claims that if a couple both commit themselves to keep the commandments of the Lord, to love, to forgive, to serve, and to cherish, then he believes happiness in marriage is pretty easy, even with a few goofs and emergencies to challenge us.
So, after all that rambling, I’m still convinced that for the most part, with an easy-going, loving, forgiving. upbeat attitude and using a somewhat twisted definition, it’s humanly possible to get married and be happy ever afterwards, and find wedded bliss relatively easy to obtain.