My husband, John, and I were looking through our Freshman High School yearbook a few weeks ago. He's been trying to place the name of a specific person that we went to school with to no avail. None of the names or pictures rang any bells, but something else chimed out very loudly and very clearly.
Buried deep within the pages of the old yearbook, we found two pieces of school notebook paper with six "Fair Fighting Rules" that John and I were to abide by if something came up that we disagreed on. I think I'd found these rules in a magazine and, of course, I thought that because it had been written in a magazine then these rules must be so.
I remembered the way I felt when I showed them to John back then; empowered in "knowing" that since we had these six rules we were obviously going to be set for a better life. How wonderful this magazine was to give us the key to achieve a perfect relationship. At least that's what I thought then.
After John and I reviewed the rules, we agreed that some of them had been broken many times over the years. It also made us realize that it's very easy to write things down: things married people should do, things married people shouldn't do, etc. But as our marriage progressed we both came to realize that just because something is written doesn't make it so and that the rules we came up with back then, didn’t really apply to our lives in the present.
Why? Marriage is far too complex to be summarized into one distinct category and much too indifferent to have a set of rules to be thrust upon any one couple. The marriage of two human beings is a living and breathing thing. It breathes in and it breathes out and sometimes it even holds its breath. It grows hot, warm, cold and hot again. To put rules on a piece of paper is like trying to map the travel of a swarm of butterflies or alligators. Couples need to realize that each day is its own and each year is another reason to look back and reminisce on what the good and bad experiences were in the relationship and use those experiences to help gather the positive attributes to help strengthen what you share together.
There are many things such as personal experiences, specific circumstances and the overall history of a relationship that reflect what makes any marriage a "good marriage." Sometimes the past mistakes that we’ve made and things we’ve done wrong in a relationship are actually the things that end up making us a closer couple, making us stronger and making our relationship even better.
We are all human, and people will always make mistakes. There is no manual or set of rules written by couples, themselves, that will fit into every single situation you encounter along the way. If there were, it would be marked up with so many notes, exceptions, ifs, whens and maybes that it would end up being mounds of writing on top of writing. Remembering, to live and learn will help your marriage grow and will help it prepare for the unexpected—whether good or bad.
Article published Hitched Magzine: