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One of the things I have the hardest time talking about is my marriage. Why? I was raised that you don’t air your private life in a public forum. In so many ways that cat has been let out of the bag for years but if possible I try to keep my marriage more private than public. While fundamentally I know that no relationship is truly ever perfect, I often feel as if my marriage is compared to this unattainable perfection others are seeking. The ugly truth is that our marriage is as imperfect as we are. Even with all of our imperfections one of the many things that has kept our relationship going is that we try to be on the same team even when we are each on different paths.
Too often I hear that a marriage failed because the people within the relationship were just on different paths and seeking different things. The sad part is that half of that statement is a copout. It is very possible to be on different paths and make a relationship work. Most of life is about being on a different path than those around you. There are many things that make a relationship work from common goals or interests to core family values but most of all make sure you are working as a team.
Walking Different Paths
There have only been a handful of times that Rent-a-Dad and I were truly walking the exact same path. Those times all occurred while we were in college. We went to the same school and for a time held the exact same position at the same restaurant.
Since then we have counted ourselves lucky if we have been able to sleep under the same roof for more than a few days at a time and break bread together. The first job after college for Rent-a-Dad had him traveling out of state to train people on the program his company sold. My first full time job out of college had me working 10am to 6pm one month and 5pm to midnight the next.
Even with very different career paths, Rent-a-Dad and I have felt our relationship has done fine as long as we make sure we are still working as a team. Part of that is the knowledge that we have very similar family values. Then there is the shared respect for and support of the other’s career goals. Having shared common interests and respect for interests we do not share also helps. Ultimately, the knowledge that when the sh*t hits the fan that there is no one else either one of us would rather have there beside us is a big plus. The rest has just been the sand filling in around the pebbles, rocks and boulders.
Being on different paths has never been a problem for us. My grandparents used to tell us that as long as we didn’t go to bed angry, or could at least give each other a kiss goodnight, that the rest was gravy.
The World is a Different Place
In my opinion it is very rare that both partners within a relationship are on exactly the same path. My question then is: Why is it that people seem shocked when they hear two people on different paths have been together for so long?
In part it is that the world is a very different place today then it was 150, 100 or even 50 years ago. Part of that difference is the role that women play in the household. Before women were mostly just homemakers and were meant to fully support the endeavors of their spouse.
I have had friends who quote parts of the bible to show that it is the job (as in only job) of a woman to fully support her spouse in all his endeavors. While I am happy to support my husband in his endeavors, I am not 100% sold on the idea that my sole purpose in life is to make his easier.
That said I also don’t quite fit into the other camp. You know the one where a woman is not allowed to be a homemaker without sending her whole gender back to the dark ages, not to mention how it would spit on all of the struggles of our fore-mothers. I truly detest that thought as our fore-mothers did what they did so that we could have a choice. That, however, is a conversation for another day.
The world is different and women have more options today than ever before. Does that truly mean we can not have careers and be a wife or choose to be a homemaker? Does it mean that two people on different paths can not find a common ground on which to build a relationship or be part of a team?
Watching the Evolution of Relationships
Relationships are often judged (based) on what is seen around us. In a day and time where most of the youth are watching the evolution of relationships on TV or YouTube, it can be shocking when a relationship lasts longer then that of a pop-star, let alone longer than one of her songs.
To top that off there are plenty of children growing up in single parent households or homes where their parental figures do not respect each other. Children are witnessing a lot of conflict without seeing good ways to work around or to avoid the conflict. They are growing up with skewed relationship goals and fractured family values. As they are reaching adulthood they aren’t sure how to be apart of a healthy adult relationship where you don’t have to be in each other’s pocket 24/7 let alone the fact that relationships are just 2-person teams. If they could see a relationship in terms of a team then they could better understand all of its moving parts from the importance of trust to shared goals and values.
Then and Now
Some of what I have said probably comes off a bit arrogant considering I do not have a degree in sociology or psychology. However, I am speaking from a place of experience. Even though it is a cliché, it is also the truth.
My head was always in the clouds as a youth. What I thought were “perfect relationships” frequently weren’t. They were relationships built on appearances and consequently were set on the path of break-up or divorce before really starting. The relationships that truly lasted took effort and were often messy in their own right.
Thanks to being a dreamer growing up on Disney romances, I often thought I needed a prince to come and rescue me from my own life. Little did I know then that life is not something you could escape, that life is what you make of it for better, or worse. The first lasting relationship you need to work on is the one with yourself.
Then there was the truth that I was more capable of rescuing myself, and my prince, than waiting around for the perfect person to come rescue me. Too often this inner Disney inspired dreamer led me to looking for a guy that fit an archetype that never truly existed. Or I sought a larger than life “spark” when most good relationships are built on smaller moments.
In essence I ignored all of the truly good relationships around me and opted to seek something out that was fictional. Yes, from experience, I do know some of what teenagers and young adults are going through today.
I know I passed by (and over) some really good relationships. While I was a truly hopeless youth, I did learn from my mistakes in enough time to recognize someone who would be one of my greatest supporters.
While I have been married for over 16 years, our marriage has not always been a cakewalk, nor will it ever be something I would consider “easy”. All relationships take work, and that means effort on both party’s parts. A relationship is never a one-sided affair. When it works it is like a well-oiled machine, or more aptly put it is like being part of a winning team.