Jan 6, 2013

Why a long marriage is like being a writer


Marriage  = adjustment

 
Hubs and I celebrated 20 years of wedded bliss last week. I've almost been married half my life, which is a little scary, considering we're in the first round of divorces among our friends.

Because you can't experience twenty years of commitment without some kind of why-am-I-still-here evaluation. I started to think of all the things nobody ever told me  before I wore a ring, and it occurred to me that most of these life lessons pertain to the writing life.

1. When people say "marriage is work" what they mean is "marriage is a constant choice to stay committed." As in a daily choice to love, honor and care for your partner. It's a fight to constantly stay interested, to find something about your partner to fuel excitement.
    And the same is true for writing. Every day I have to choose to sit down, to make the mental space to build my story world. And if I hit a wall, my commitment to the story is tested. Am I in this MS for the long haul or not?

2. Marriage isn't always fun. (This one is a shocker.) The notion of happily ever Disney once promoted and has now abandoned -  notice how Brave did NOT end with a wedding? - comes from the disllusionment of a bill of goods gone bad. Unfortunately, this disillusionment has also suggested in popular culture that an unfun marriage should be dissolved. As if character development or maturity or patience has no place in a long-term relationship. 
        The same goes for the middle of a draft. The middle-doldrums hits every author and the successful ones simply cry "onward!", put their heads down and type like crazy people. Being in the middle of anything - cleaning house, raising kids, changing oil, marriage - isn't a fun spot to be in, and the same is true for writing a novel. The payoff will come eventually.

3. Laughter is as important as sex...and more reliable. This lesson is a hard sell in this age of Fifty Shades, but let's face it: there are lots of obstacles to great sex. Sickness, travel, kids in the house, exhaustion, job obligations, etc., etc., etc.  There aren't hardly any to a good laugh. I firmly believe one of the reasons hubs and I have stayed married is our ability to laugh in the middle of an argument. It's impossible to take ourselves too seriously.
    Any writer knows the dangers of obsessive navel gazing. We're in our heads all day long, which leads inevitably to a narcisstic type of self-doubt. Rejections make us bawl, drink, get paranoid about the publishing world in general. A writer's world is me-me-me...which means the ability to step back and get perspective is key to mental health. Laugh, Writer, and the words will come.

4. My spouse does not determine my self-worth. Let me clarify: he's not in charge of whether I'm happy in life or not. Don't get me wrong - when things aren't going well for hubs, I'm sad for him. I listen to him, and do what I can to support and love him in times of crisis. Sometimes, the best thing I can do is just let him stew instead of trying to force the issue.
     Writer's block can be similar. Sometimes my brain hits a wall. It balks, shies, refuses to churn out a scene. My creativity vanishes like fog on a summer day. It makes me crazy. I used to try to push through it. Occasionally, that worked but more often, the harder I tried, the worse/more elusive the story became. I'm learning to let it go, and reminding myself that my worth as a person does not rest on how many words I write that day. 

So: if you've been married a while - and/or are a writer-with-history - what're YOUR tips for surviving? Share them in the comments!


    

14 comments:

T. Drecker said...

Congrats on the 20 years! Your comparison is so true in so many ways.

Kimberly Gabriel said...

Yes - congrats on 20 years! Great post - I love your advice on not taking yourself too seriously - in writing, marriage, and life. Happy New Year Melodie!

Jess said...

I don't have any tips, but wanted to say what a meaningful post this is for me~ my hubby and I aren't nearly to 20 years yet, but I can relate to all the points you've made (and the comparisons between marriage and writing). Last year marked divorces for a couple of my friends as well, and it's been sad to witness. Love the advice about laughter!

Angelica R. Jackson said...

We're at 19 years (also nearly half my life) as of the 3rd, and I think you've got it right in this post. I'm actually the longest-married in my family (13 years was the max) and our daily give and take has a lot to do with that.

Elizabeth Seckman said...

Love #4. Understanding that saved my marriage (I'm a 20 year survivor too!). Young me had to learn that no one can make me happy, but me.

ilima said...

Congrats! I've been married 15 years, and I can say laughter plays a huge role in the success of our relationship. I also agree that it's sad marriages are dissolved because of "lack of fun" these days.

Nicole said...

This is brilliant! Congrats on the 20 years.

Lisa Regan said...

This is so beyond brilliant. True, all of it. Love this post.

Lisa Regan said...

And CONGRATS on 20 years! That's quite an accomplishment!

Michel King said...

In addition to what you've said and laughter (such an important element), I think being true to yourself can make or break a relationship. People fall in love with who they think we are. If we put up a front at any point, then they cannot truly know who we are. So, by staying true to ourselves and being flexible and open to change, we are constantly in the "falling in" phase of love.

Carrie Butler said...

Happy Anniversary, Melodie! :)

Lynn Lovegreen said...

I've been married 28 years and counting, and this is so true about married life! I have only been writing seriously for a few years, and starting to see that it is true there too! Bottom line: it is not always fun, so don't expect it to be. But if you stick with it, it is worth it! :-)

Emily R. King said...

Congrats on 20 years! You have all this advice down. I so agree that marriages last because every day you wake up and decide you want to be with that person. That's how it works!

Elizabeth Varadan aka Mrs. Seraphina said...

My husband and I just celebrated our 39th anniversary in December. I think the key to a good marriage is realizing your partner's happiness is as important as your own. Not more important. But certainly not less.