Thoughts on Marriage from Watching Too Much Reality TV
I’ve been watching Hoarding: Buried Alive on Netflix. For those who are not familiar with the show and others like it, each episode follows two people who struggle to get a grip on this anxiety disorder that causes them to fill their homes to bursting with things, most of which they can’t use or can’t find due to its sheer volume.
I watch it because I find the show strangely inspiring. Although there are a number of people on the show who have gotten a divorce due to the hoarding or who have never married, a surprising number are still married. To see the many that cling to their marriage despite many obstacles and many hurts serves as a witness to the importance of their marriage. Though the culture perpetuates the idea of marriage as finding true love and then living happily ever after, the truth is that marriage is tough sometimes. It stretches us and asks us to let go of selfishness, which is never easy, and it is an epic adventure that demands nothing less than the giving of our whole selves. For me, to see couples that are in the trenches and who have serious obstacles to overcome, to see those that are willing to put in the tough work of healing the many areas that need it in order to get to a place where their marriage is thriving again, this is more inspiring and hopeful to me than the many romantic comedies that Hollywood puts out that depicts “true love” between two people who often barely know each other.
As one who loves order and cleanliness, and whose motto is “a place for everything and everything in its place” I can really feel for the partner who is made to live amid such chaos. On the other hand, I can feel for the partner who hoards. As we all have our shadows inside of us, I empathize with the vulnerability the hoarders must feel as their issues manifest themselves in such a visible and obvious way. I imagine if they too wonder if their partners can see this side of them and love them anyway, as perhaps we all have wondered at times. Though they cling to items, it is apparent that the ones who hoard want desperately what we all want, to be deeply known and loved as they are. Though we strive for self improvement in its many forms, we all desperately want to be loved now, flaws and all.
I went to a presentation with a friend a couple of weeks ago. My friend is a grad student and her favorite professor was speaking at a public event, so she invited me to go hear him speak. Similar to “Murphey’s Law” which states that whatever can go wrong, will; this professor has a friend who has a similar “law.” This law says that everyone always marries the wrong person. Of course everyone in the audience chuckled at this, perhaps as we thought of the struggles we or others have faced in marriage. I myself thought, “So that’s why I married the man I did! We often joke that the only thing we have in common is the children. Though humorous, I think this law illustrates that we are all human, with great strengths and often great weaknesses. It also illustrates that if we are facing difficulties in our marriage, it doesn’t mean we married the wrong person. It is just a fact of marriage, indeed a fact of every area of our lives. We are all flawed people in need of grace and healing. Like the earth, marriages have seasons. They have their ups and downs, times of marital heaven and times of great difficulty. If we are in winter, it is usually helpful to remember that it will not always be so. In fact, like the death of Jesus, sometimes the darkest times do not mean that it is the end; it means that the resurrection is on its way.