Isn’t it funny how the times that should make us the most confident sometimes do just the opposite? That’s exactly what happened after my blog post, “I Didn’t Love My Wife When We Got Married,” went viral.
I was getting all these wonderful, positive, beautiful responses from people. People who were telling me, “Wow, I so identify with this!” and “Wow, this is exactly what I’ve gone through!” and “Wow, you changed the way I look at love!”
But silly blogger me couldn’t help but focus on the few negative comments. They were maybe 1% of the comments but they mocked me incessantly, driving me nuts.
Ironically, the ones that bothered me the most weren’t even that bad: they were more bemused than anything.
They were the people that said, “Really? Wow, you had all these difficulties in your marriage? You had to learn about love and you lost that loving feeling sometimes? That’s so weird, my wife/husband and I have been in love since day one and we never lost that feeling. Oh, dear, yes, we love each other so much, the feeling never left, blah blah blah.”
Punks. With their happy lives and their beautiful loves that never diminished and that they never struggled with.
Of course, for each one of them, there were thousands upon thousands of people who completely identified with my issues. But that didn’t matter to my blogger-brain.
My first level of defense was to deny. I said to myself, “Naw, everyone has struggles. They must be faking it.”
And while that thought placated me for a bit, every time I would get a new comment like that, I wondered if I was just lying to myself.
Eventually I broke down and admitted that there probably were people out there with those “perfect” marriages, people who never had any trouble ever and who just loved their spouse without any effort. Maybe people who were naturally programmed to understand that “love is a verb” since day one.
And so now I was at a crossroads: I had to figure out, did the fact that people like that existed destroy my post? Did it bring down everything I had written?
And even worse: what did this say about my marriage? Was it possible there was (gasp) something wrong?
And so I started to observe my marriage. I wrote that post about a week or so after our second daughter was born, so we had introduced a whole new stressor (um, bundle of joy) into our lives. Some of those old difficulties were coming back.
We were both exhausted, both tense. Both angry at times. Sometimes confused and argumentative. There was this noticeable distance that began since the baby was born, and it was growing.
And the more I observed, the more I realized it wasn’t so much about the marriage itself, but about us. For example, would have a chance to ease the tension, but instead, I would choose to get angry. It was my fault. I could have just said something like, “I love you and I forgive you,” but I didn’t.
And the same with my wife. She got even more whacky the more our daughter was keeping her up, was eating up her life.
“Oh dear G-d,” I thought, “There really is something wrong with us. We’re both nuts.”
It’s true. I have bipolar. I get irritable very easily. When my life is stressful, I get even worse. I get nervous about everything. My wife is equally nuts, and it comes out even more as lack of sleep creeps into the picture.
And at first, this was a depressing realization. We were screwups. Pathetic, unfixable screwups. Love, just like life, for us would never be completely smooth sailing. We just weren’t wired that way.
But for some reason, the more I thought about it, the more my mood actually started to improve. The more I accepted I was a screwup, the less my marriage seemed difficult. At first, it was hard for me to place my finger on exactly why.
But I did know something: If we got into an argument, or we weren’t “feeling it” at every second, it suddenly didn’t seem so weird. We were screwups.
And that’s when it hit me: our being screwups meant there wasn’t anything actually wrong with our marriage. It meant there was something wrong with us. And that realization, ironically, was incredibly freeing.
It meant that our marriage was allowed to have difficult moments. It meant we were allowed to have ups and downs.
And most importantly, it meant that all we had to do to improve our marriage was to focus inward. To stop worrying about what was wrong and start focusing on how to grow and improve our own lives.
Amazingly, all these thoughts really did help. I realized that I, Mr. Screwup, deserved love just as much as Mr. Perfect. It was our Screwup marriage that had resulted in the birth of two beautiful girls. Resulted in a love that gets deeper day by day. Resulted in the best four years of my life.
And it was around this time that I started to notice the other 99% of the comments on my blog post. And I realized that almost all of these other folks were also screwups: people who had difficulties. Who weren’t perfect. Whose love rose and fell just like mine and my wife’s.
And I realized: “Oh my gosh. We live in a world of screwups.”
So many people, whether it be in the realm of love or anything else, give up their chance of happiness, of love, of changing the world, because they are afraid of all the screwups they will do. Of the screwups they are.
But the reality is that the only way we can be happy, the only way we can live the life we are meant to live, the only way we can marry the people we’re meant to marry, is if we accept that we’re screwups, and that we’ll continue to screw up for most of our lives.
Should 99% of the people in the world give up their chance at love just because 1% don’t have the same difficulties? Should they stop taking chances, stop trying to be happy, just because someone else out there does it better than them?
You deserve love, no matter how screwed up you are. You deserve a life that’s beautiful, no matter how hard it is to get there. You deserve it all. Because there’s nothing wrong with being a screwup. But there is something wrong with not embracing life for all it’s worth.