I’ve been thinking about this topic for a while now. It started with the Oscars when Ben Affleck was thanking his wife during his acceptance speech and referred to their marriage as “work” and that there wasn’t anyone else with whom he would prefer to work with. I watched that and felt a great sense of relief that someone was admitting that marriage is work– but I also cringed at the same time, for, sure enough, the next day the tabloids were all speculating on his comment with ‘Is their marriage in trouble?’ and ‘Affleck admits to working at his marriage’ and ‘Affleck/Garner DOOM AND MISERY!!’ headlines. (OK, so those were paraphrased, but you get the idea.)
It continued a few months later when one day while I was watching The Talk (total guilty pleasure of daytime TV for me) and Aisha Tyler made a comment about marriage being work – and hard work at that.
It was refreshing to hear people talk about the fact that they actively work on their marriage. The more I thought about it, though, the more frustrated I became. Why shouldn’t we be working on our relationships? Why is admitting that you are involved in the process of the largest and (hopefully) most important relationship that you will ever have a bad thing?
The fact is that I have only recently understood that I will be working on my personal happiness and the health of my marriage and family for the rest of my life. Once that dawned on me (hey, I never claimed to be a genius) the ridiculousness of that understanding smacked me upside the head.
Somewhere along the way we as a society seem to have gotten it into our brains that admitting that something requires a vested interest on our parts is a bad thing and that by admitting that we ‘work on’ it we are failing. It’s a systemic problem that stretches from the not-such-a-big deal (plants constantly dying because not enough attention/care is given to them or something along those lines) to the REALLY BIG DEALS like your relationship with your partner, your personal/spiritual happiness, or your mental health.
It’s the opposite of the way it should be; we should be embarrassed to admit that we don’t get involved in the major things that affect just about every aspect of our lives.
There are some people out there who are just naturally happy all of the time. They can always see the positive side to almost every situation. Most of us, however, have to pay a little more attention to our emotional health – maybe not an everyday check-in, but for the most part being positive and genuinely happy takes a bit of effort. Personally, I have found that it is too easy for me to be derailed by one negative thing and in the process forget all of the positive ones. Once I recognized that pattern and accepted that it was totally cool to actively work on getting my happiness balance back in order I felt so much better about everything.
The same thing applied to my marriage. There was a part that I thought could be better, (alright, alright – get your minds out of the gutter – most parts of a marriage/partnership can be better and more satisfying when attention is paid, not just that part), but I realized that I wasn’t doing anything about it to make it change or get better. Perhaps it was a lack of attention on my part, or because after almost 12 years together you tend to fall into certain patterns. Whatever the reason was, once I decided to stop bitching about it in my head and actually do something, it got better.
Recently I watched a video about a remarkable young man, Zach Sobiech, who is one of those born with an extremely positive demeanor, and even though he is dying of an aggressive form of cancer he is still incredibly positive. If you have a chance, try to watch it, or at least listen to his song – which is really, really great. Once again it took a tragedy for me to really look at my life and the choices I am making – the big and the small in my everyday life – and try and commit to truly living my life. I’m not going to say that I will go out and make each moment a MOMENT, but I will try to find the little treasures that are tucked into each day and that can be overlooked so easily.
So, why don’t we all just admit that we are going to take Rupaul’s advice when it comes to the stuff that matters: “You better work!” I think we’d all be better off for it…and perhaps more fabulous in the process.