Testing the Waters

I’ve had this blog post stirring around my head for two weeks now about relationships.  Well, really, about how relationships are hard work.  But things have gotten in the way and I’ve never gotten to it.

Until today.

That’s because this weekend, I was again reminded of the difficulty of relationships–this time, the marital relationship.  You see, The Mister has been jonesing for a boat.  I don’t know what got into him, but he decided he finally wanted to bust out the savings bonds he inherited from his grandfather two years ago and get a starter boat.  This weekend, he got his wish.

So here we were, two people with very little nautical experience, trying to launch, drive, park, and trailer a boat.  True, we once had a jet ski (that was stolen, thankyouverymuch), but that was much easier to care for getting in and out of the water.  A boat takes some finesse and know-how…neither of which we had.

Launching the boat was erratic and hard.  We ended up getting help from the people behind us in the launch line, presumably because they were sick of waiting for our arguing asses to get our acts together.  But it was good we did because we clearly had no idea what we were doing.

Driving the boat was fine, though like with the jetski, I’m still afraid of going too fast.  I don’t know at what point in time I became a scaredy cat in life, but I am one, pure and simple.  But when we parked the boat for awhile and walked to the beach, we returned to a bit of a problem.  As we were backing out, our propeller got mixed up with someone’s anchor line.  Needless to say, it was a near-disaster.  One that we finally, with much yelling and threatening that we’d “never use this $%*(@*@*@ boat again,” we got it under control and out of the shoreline.

Then it came time to get the boat out of water.  And this time, there were no kind strangers offering their knowledge and assistance.  It was just the two of us, yelling and arguing about who had what right and who needed to back up and who needed to grab the boat because it was floating away.  Oh, and two park workers staring at us the whole time.  Let’s not forget those gentlemen who couldn’t be more useless if they tried.

But the whole situation solidified itself when we were driving back and The Mister touched my leg and apologized for yelling at me.  I apologized for yelling at him.  Then he says “It wasn’t that bad, was it?”  I laughed and told him that yes, in fact, it was that bad…it was a disaster from start to finish.  But that was okay.

See that’s the thing.  Relationships are hard, especially when you’re dealing with hard stuff.  Now granted getting a boat in and out of the water isn’t akin to losing a parent or moving cross country or dealing with illness or something, but it is a sort of microcosm-esque example of things that people go through.

The thing is that relationships are hard because we’re human.  We all make mistakes, none of us is perfect at communicating our needs and desires and, frankly, we fuck up more than we’d care to admit.  I’m reminded of this when I think about my parents and the hell they’ve been through in the past almost-thirty years: losing 3 of 4 parents, dealing with estrangement from the remaining parent, financial and economic turmoil the likes of which most people don’t see in a lifetime, a daughter with mental illness that went undiagnosed and/or undertreated for a long time, physical illness and ailments and the list goes on and on.  Just like putting a boat in the water, though, they’ve gotten through it–tooth and nail style–and have managed to get to the other side where they apologize for yelling at one another and move on.

I guess that’s why I don’t trust relationships that haven’t been tested.  It takes a long time to get to the point where you’re comfortable enough with a person to yell at them in a boat launch while your new (used) boat is floating away.  Sure, it’s not perfect communication, but it’s life.  The fact is that more often than we’d like, life sucks, and it’s in dealing with this that we learn how strong our relationships are.  It’s not the cuddling and the niceties that we cherish at the beginning or the promises of forever we make in the middle…it’s the carrying out of the promise when times are hard.  And, let’s face it, times are hard more often than not.

Recently, Brother broke up with his girlfriend of 2+ years.  It was surprising at first because I thought they were on good ground.  But as he talked about it, I realized that he knew better than I did that sometimes relationships are hard.  It turns out they had been having problems for awhile, and not being in a place where he is ready to make that commitment to fix them for better or worse, he was ready to let go when she decided to end it.  And that, too, is a sign of maturity.  Realizing when the love isn’t strong enough to move forward is better than moving forward without thinking twice about the consequences.

My point is this:  whether it’s putting a boat in the water, dealing with someone in a new relationship, or just riding the waves of life things aren’t perfect.  People yell, fight, say things out of anger and move on.  It’s who we are.  In fact, in those rare relationships you see where this doesn’t happen, I worry about the sanity of those people.

Real love comes from being tested…it comes from being in the water to your ass, knee deep in seaweed, pushing a boat to the dock because you failed to keep it there after getting off.  Real love comes from comforting your partner when their father is diagnosed with lung cancer.  Real love comes from going through bankruptcy or other legal trouble with both your names and your livelihood on the line.  Real love is watching the other sick in a hospital bed and not being able to do anything but be there.

Real love isn’t just roses and lovely sayings–it’s putting into action those things we’d rather not do in order to get by.

Relationships are hard ass work.  Sometimes you secretly want the other person to fall deaf and mute.  Sometimes you want the other person to disappear, just for awhile, so you can get your bearings.  Sometimes you want all the world to stand still so you can do what the other person needs from you and move on.

Though this is true of relationships of all kind, especially deep friendships, nothing has taught me more of this than marriage.  And though I’ve only been married for almost three years, I’ve learned that it takes work to keep a relationship going.  It takes constant reevaluation.  It takes constant compromise.  It takes constant vigilante justice on the battle lines of love and hate.  And it takes a wicked sense of humor and a large amount of patience.

When The Mister asked if the whole boat-fiasco was truly that bad and I laughed in his face, he seemed disappointed.  When I told him it was a disaster from start to finish, he seemed sad.  But what he failed to realize was this:  that experience taught us more than we could have possibly learned in good times.  And as much of a pain in the ass it was, I don’t think I’d trade it for something better.

That’s how you know you’re in a good relationship, or at least one worth fighting for:  when you’ve had a totally horrible time and the first thing you think of is what you learned for next time.

Because there will always be a next time.

9 comments for “Testing the Waters

  1. Colleen
    June 28, 2010 at 3:04 pm

    Real love takes work. Plain and simple. Its not always easy, and its not always happy. But hopefully the easy and happy outweigh the hard and unhappy.

  2. kim
    June 28, 2010 at 3:58 pm

    Wonderful post, Kim. I've been thinking about just this thing lately. The big difference between my marriage to my ex husband and my relationship with my -now- fiance is that we're willing to work and compromise. My relationship with my ex husband could never get to the realization that whether we like it or not- we had to actually work and try. I'm happy to be with someone now that I'm willing to work hard for and that I know that he'll do the same. I loved the way you put this. Well written, thanks.

  3. June 28, 2010 at 4:10 pm

    This is lovely. Just wonderful. I'm so glad that you have a marriage that is strong enough to make it through boat-distastes (and also more scary things).

  4. Katie
    June 28, 2010 at 4:27 pm

    Agreed 100%.

  5. June 28, 2010 at 4:42 pm

    This is a lovely post.

  6. Nora_L
    June 28, 2010 at 5:56 pm

    Beautiful post. I think sometimes we (meaning some of us) forget that a relationship can't be all rosy cheeks and smiles. that sometimes it's getting through the day to day aspect of life, grumbling, figuring out problems, occasionally yelling, letting lose and figuring it all out. It's just not that easy. This especially hits home for me as someone who is working through a few relationship wavese of my own :)

  7. June 28, 2010 at 7:12 pm

    Obviously, you know I feel you here (based on my last post) but what you have…it DOES sound strong and solid. Like a tree. Which isn't glamorous, but it IS beautiful. And healthy. 😉

  8. June 30, 2010 at 3:26 pm

    Growing up in Michigan, everyone and their Uncle had a boat. By the time the wasbund and I started trailering and untrailering ourselves, he had been out with my Dad enough to know what to do. We used to watch couples completely meltdown when they struggled with trailering. (Untrailering is by definition not as hard..) He loved to gloat and snicker and wink- he was so proud that we were like a machine, functioning at top efficiency. I used to adore that. I thought it was so cute that he was so proud.

    So it's interesting, in a heartwrenching kind of way, to read this post. Because I know now that he loved gloating like that we had no trouble getting the boat on the trailer. Because I know now that he can't be counted on when there is trouble. Because I know now (figuratively) what it is like to do the work of two people in a relationship, and I know that there will not be a next time. I also know I must accept the possibility that there may not ever be a next time with anyone.

    And you're so right- it's all about choosing love at every turn. I just wonder what makes people start unchoosing. Not choosing. Why?

    I'm scared that the answer is that if you can unchoose, you never really chose in the first place. There just wasn't enough trouble to find out before.

  9. cari
    July 3, 2010 at 4:18 pm

    i hope to remember this post for the next eleventy billion years i'm married to james. seriously. we haven't fought yet, but there's still a long time for that to happen.

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