By Katie Broyles
Healthy relationships, marriages, and families are all around us
I don’t have a list of “Seven Things I Wish I had Known Before I Got Married.” In fact, every time I see an article entitled “Thirty Things You Must Do While You’re Still Single!,” “Twenty Signs Divorce is in Your Future,” or “Ten Reasons Having a Family is a Horrible Mistake,” I cringe. The scaremongers out there would have us believe that being alone is a healthy, natural state, and entanglements in committed relationships, marriages, and parenthood are dangerous experiments to be approached with caution, dampened expectations, and a healthy dose of fear. This way of thinking is straight out of The Misanthrope’s Manifesto. Enough is enough.
All around me, I see examples of loving couples, happy marriages, and adventurous families. If you let the pessimists train you to expect that an experience that should be incredibly fulfilling and enjoyable will instead turn out to be a hoax, you are bound to tiptoe around your relationships seeing life through mud-colored glasses. It doesn’t have to be this way. Sure, choosing a partner, embarking on a marriage, or starting a family are serious decisions – but they can also be fun! My husband and I laugh at each other every day, and we’re not even especially upbeat, positive people. What we don’t do is sit around brooding about if we made the right decision or how we might be inconveniencing each other. And when we do argue about annoyances around the house, it’s exponentially better than squabbling with a roommate. We know we’re on the same team, so bickering is like a form of brainstorming.
There are myriad of dire warnings in relationship advice articles that I see refuted by real couples every day. For one, the gloom and doom propagandists will tell you that once you have a baby, you will virtually never leave your house or go on vacation again – at least not for a few years. Yet I know more than one set of new parents who have recently gone on road trips with newborns – and tent camped! I know a couple touring Europe with a one year old. Most people would tell you that something like this would be an impossible nightmare you should never even consider attempting, but these people all had thoroughly fantastic trips.
Positive examples are everywhere if you look for them. I know plenty of happy couples who truly enjoy each other’s company and don’t wax nostalgic about the things they should have done when they were single. I run into parents living full, balanced lives; they don’t go to cocktail parties and complain or obsess about their children. Every time I look in the newspaper, I see anniversary announcements of couples who have been married over fifty years. here is absolutely no reason why this can’t be you if you want it to be.
There are plenty of relationship horror stories to go around, but that doesn’t mean that you specifically have to walk on eggshells. The truth is that if someone is emotionally unstable, their relationship status is irrelevant. They are going to be unstable no matter what. For the rest of us, we need to trust our own judgment and not be afraid to link our lives with other people. Instead of feeling like we have dodged a bullet when things go well, we should start out expecting healthy relationships. Instead of looking for “Ten Ways Your Partner is Holding You Back,” make a list of you and your partner’s “Top 10 Inside Jokes of 2013.” Expect that marrying someone you love will be an exciting, rewarding odyssey. Expect that if you decide to become a parent, you will enjoy your children and laugh with them every day. If we can all do that – and ignore the negativity evangelists – we shouldn’t be surprised if our lives often feel a lot like a party.