For all the hilarious memes we share about marriage, it’s actually super hard. After the I do’s are said, life has a funny way of presenting one challenge after another.
Like, parenthood, for example.
My husband and I have been happily bickering for nearly 13 years now, and we still don’t know what the secret to a solid partnership is. Honestly, with three small kids running (and screaming) in circles around us, it’s exhausting trying to focus on ourselves.
So when I read a beautifully raw and illuminating Facebook post on marriage this morning, penned by Babble contributor Harmony Hobbs, of the blog Modern Mommy Madness, a part of my heart swelled with pride that my husband and I might be doing things right after all.
“This is the first picture ever taken of Robbie and I,” Hobbs begins her post. “It was 2003 and we’d been up all night in New Orleans when this photo was snapped.”
The mom of three continues on to explain that she recently read something about the “5 stages of love” that really hit home with her. It was an article outlining psychologist Jed Diamond’s “near-universal pattern in the way lovers’ attitudes towards one another change.”
Then, one by one, she takes us through each stage, as she and her husband experienced them.
“First there is the exciting, falling in love stage; that’s when this photo was taken,” writes Hobbs. “I’d never met a man like him and we couldn’t get enough of each other.”
Then, inevitably, reality hits and the “fairytale” stage is suddenly over.
“The second stage is becoming a couple and building a real life together, which we’ve been doing for the past 12 years,” writes Hobbs. “It’s a lot of work. SO MUCH WORK. At one point, I was fairly certain I was going to die of sleep deprivation. I had thoughts of smothering Robbie in his sleep. We loved each other, but … you know. We also hated each other sometimes.”
But if you think Stage 2 is hard, then Stage 3 — “disillusionment” — will really knock you on your butt.
“Most people get stuck here, because disillusionment really freaking sucks,” she writes. “We see each other for what we really are, and it’s hard to remember why we fell in love. Everything is a struggle, and life has worn us out to the point that any kind of work beyond immediate survival feels like an overwhelming task. Date night?!
It’s a dark time.”
LOL — ain’t that the truth.
But here’s the thing: Hobbs assures that if you just hang in there, and charge right on through Stage 4, you’ll be a better person because of it.
“Stage 4 is about creating real, lasting partnership,” writes Hobbs. “It’s finding the kind of true love and acceptance that comes with breaking down to your worst in front of another person, and HE DOESN’T RUN AWAY SCREAMING. Instead of rejecting the ugly parts of me, Robbie is helping me put myself back together again. He trusts that the new me will be even better than the old one, and that helps me to believe it, too.”
So what’s Stage 5? Well, Stage 5 is when you graduate to badass-level coupledom. It’s what you reach when you’ve literally made it through hell and back — and still can stand to see each other’s faces on the other side.
“Stage 5 is using the power of two to change the world,” writes Hobbs. “We aren’t there yet, but I look forward to it. I am so, so grateful that we picked each other.”
If that right there doesn’t totally warm your heart, I’m not sure what will.
As a fan of Hobbs’ writing on Modern Mommy Madness, I’ve watched her marriage evolve through the changes of parenthood, an autism diagnosis, and the revelation of Hobbs herself being an alcoholic. And let me tell you, it’s been one hell of a ride.
“Life, even in a calm and normal state, is still very stressful when you have bills and kids,” Hobbs tells Babble. “Robbie and I were always sort of in a stressed state simply because neither of us had great coping skills. Over time, as life became more and more stressful, I went deeper into my coping mechanism which was alcohol and pills. No one was ever aware of how bad it really was, because I’m a high-functioning alcoholic.”
That said, Hobbs says that her marriage has “always been a happy one” overall — but for a long time, she and her husband “were just hanging on waiting for life to get easier, and it never did.”
Man, do I hear that. It’s no wonder then that Stage 3 is the one couples are most likely to get stuck in, according to Dr. Diamond.
“I feel like Stage 3 is the miserable part of marriage where both parties are exhausted and frazzled and almost feel hopeless because they keep waiting for things to get easier but it doesn’t,” says Hobbs. “So many couples stop trying because it’s so much work. They look outside of their marriages for something easier, or they give up altogether.”
Hobbs and her husband Robbie have been working closely as a team to face their eldest child’s autism diagnosis, as well as Hobbs’ addiction issues, but despite those challenges, she says her marriage is pushing onward.
“I feel like we are in the early phase of stage 4,” she shares. “When I opened up to Robbie about my struggle with addiction, he had a really hard time wrapping his head around it because I didn’t fit the picture of an alcoholic that he had in his mind. But — he watched me go through detox and he drove me to a treatment center to check it out, took me to 12-step meetings, and quietly supported me.”
Despite the difficult, and sometimes painful, process of getting sober, Hobbs says her husband has stuck by her side through it all — and shown his true colors in the process.
“He’s been there when I cried every day for over a month straight and seen my slow, painful climb out of the dark hole I was in,” she shares. “I have never been that vulnerable in the entire time we’ve been together. Because I’ve masked my pain for so long, I never fully let my guard down with him. We’ve been together for almost 15 years! But I think that true partnerships that last forever require both parties to break down to the ugliest, scariest version of themselves and then you rebuild together. My only advice is to keep pushing and don’t give up. Look at yourself and what you can change instead of focusing on the other person’s faults.”
Anyone who’s married with kids knows that there are little eyes watching every move and little ears hearing every word. When it comes to Hobbs’ three kids, she just hopes they’re learning the parts that matter.
“I hope they see love and acceptance,” she shares. “The thing about our relationship is that we are complete opposites in almost every way, and somehow it works — but we argue. A lot. Our kids see us bicker in the kitchen (I slam the cabinet doors a lot), but we keep pushing. Neither of us gives up. So they also see us work through the problem, apologize, and move on with our day. I don’t think knock down, drag out fights are appropriate to have in front of the kids, but we don’t hide our everyday arguments from them. They see us get frustrated a lot, but they also see a LOT of love and respect.”
At the end of the day, I’m pretty sure that’s all that matters.
Here’s to the Hobbs’ — and those of us still crawling our way to Stage 5, no matter what. Because man can this trip be hard; but it is so worth it.