Monday, April 12, 2010

There's No Such Thing As The Perfect Couple

Drinking rum cocktails watching the sun set over Clarkdale Arizona on a perfect spring night, adorable pets, fantastic climate, newly planted flowers--we are keenly aware of what a great life we've got.

Friends are splitting up all around us, married couples biting the dust.
We've seen it before and all it does is make us hold each other more tightly.

One thing I've learned in the 14 + years we've been married is that there's no such thing as "The Perfect Couple"....because every couple I've thought to be perfect has ended up crashing and burning in tremendous flames.

The Perfect Couple is a figment, something concocted by Hollywood and Hallmark.
Chad and I are far from perfect, be we work at it. We disagree much of the time, and our methods of dealing with the outside world and the challenges of life are 180 degrees different.

Astrologically speaking we just clash on every level. Never a dull moment.

He is analytical, scientific, overly sensitive and easily wounded. He is shy at parties, and sometimes awkward with new friends. He is distrustful of human motives, thinking everyone is out to get each other, or more specifically, out to get him.
I am light hearted, usually never taking things personally. I always think the best of people. People have their own things going on, and probably aren't even thinking of me, much less actively trying to sabotage me.

He is slow moving, and thoughtful. When he says something it is usually because he's given it a great deal of thought, and it is very meaningful. He sometimes cries at children's dance recitals and during heart-tugging films.
I am rash, shoot my mouth off without thinking, and sometimes make foolish detours, or neglect to read directions.

He thinks with enough pre-planning and list making one should never have to encounter anything bad. Never. You can circumvent anything bad simply by doing as much advance research as possible.
I think that you can never plan for every variable that could possibly happen, therefore I minimize the planning and just go with it, riding the world as it rotates, taking it as it comes.

He doesn't get angry quickly, but when he does it's a slow boil that lasts all day.
I get mad quickly, but forget it just as quickly.

We are night and day, yin and yang. I see the world through rose colored glasses, and he is a bit more realistic. I like to think these differences are complementary--that we make each other more well-rounded and a stronger team in the long run. Chad has taught me valuable lessons- like, foremost, "Not everyone thinks like you do, Ellen". Everyone's mind works differently. I am not always right. I do not always know everything. Stop and read the directions. Enjoy the silence and the scenery. Being the wife of Chad has made me a better person. Though sometimes the reality of being so different from each other also amounts to a major pain in the keester.

Yet still here we are together, after 17 years, almost 15 of them hitched as husband and wife.

In the 15 years we've been in Arizona, just about every couple we've known has since split up. With the exception of older baby boomers born in the 1940s and '50s, currently celebrating their 25th, 30th, 40th wedding anniversaries.

We sit in the yard sipping our lime crushed rum, and wonder how it is we've survived this minefield, with our peers crashing and burning to the left and the right of us. Couples more alike, more beuatiful, more seemingly together and in love than we've ever seemed to be. Was it all just an act for the public? Behind closed doors was it something else entirely? If they couldn't make it, how they hell can we (the obviously imperfect) ever make it?

"Maybe our values are more old fashioned, like the previous generation?", offers Chad.

His parents celebrated their 40th anniversary this year. They were high school sweethearts, first loves.

My marriage model is far different.
My parents were married for less than 8 years when my dad died in a car crash. I was 5, and my brother, Jimmy, was 3. We were raised by a single mother, and it seemed perfectly normal to us because we didn't know anything different. I certainly never thought I'd be married at 23.
For my generation marriage was no kind of commodity. There certainly wasn't the same importance placed on it as say, 30 or 40 years earlier, when women went to college to get their "MRS." degree.

My view to marriage was mostly based on my bickering grandparents who spent 58 years together before Gramp died at age 78. Would they have ever gotten divorced? No. Never. Unheard of. They toughed it out, even when they drove each other bonkers. I'm not saying this is good or bad-- just the way their generation did things. I never saw them be outwardly affectionate with each other, but I knew they cared deeply about each other. Could they have been happier with other people? Possibly? Would they have lived longer if they'd gotten hooked up with someone else? I don't think so. When Grandpa died, Grandma fell apart. She lived less than 2 more years, then was gone too. That's what happens when couples have been married for almost their whole lives.

Why are people so quick to hang it up? This is what always confounds me.
I bet they've not had nearly the number of challenges Chad and I have had, yet they hang it up.
Do I put up with an unusual amount of stress and drama in being married to such a different person than myself? I don't think so. Marriage is a tough gig. Anyone who signs up for it oughta realize. You think it's 50/50, but truth is a lot of times it's one person giving 100% and the other giving far less. Sometimes we take turns.

A key to happiness that occured to me recently, while running along the river on a glorious new spring day. The kind of day where the sprouting leaves are freshly green, the herons and hawks fly overhead right on cue, and the world just seems impossibly awesome.
The key to happiness is that you've got to be able to make yourself happy. You cannot be reliant on someone else for your happiness. For one, you're bound to be disappointed. And two, it's just not fair to that person. The key to happiness is to be happy alone, doing your own thing, generating your own good cheer. If you can do that you will be happy, I promise you.
You'll also be a valuable asset to your loved ones-- such a self-contained source of happiness will provide delight for all, with all the extra you'll have to share.

If you rely on your spouse, your friends, your family, any other person, to supply you your happiness it will end up a big mess.

A car club pal of mine recently pointed out to me that Chad and I are the only married couple still married from the club's early days. I also should have pointed out to her that I also still have the same car for the past 12 years. I pick something I like, and stick with it. Even when is gives me grief. I stick with it.

Ellen Jo Roberts was born a Dahlberg in 1972. She became a Roberts in 1995
Read all about it at


  1. Check out the big brain on Sheck! You're a smart mo-fo....that's right, the metric system.

  2. Thank you for sharing that, I love it!

  3. Your article is really well-written and one that is believable. You have pointed out some really great truths.