The photo Whitney Fleming posted to Facebook with her husband is the type of picture flooding most people’s news feeds — a smiling husband and wife, posing for the camera.
Fleming could have easily captioned the picture with “Date night with the hubs!” or “Kids are gone so mommy and daddy are all dressed up!” and no one would’ve batted an eye. But Fleming didn’t write that; she wrote about wanting to walk out on her family:
Fleming, the blogger behind “Playdates on Fridays,” wrote that after 22 years of building a solid life with her husband, she sometimes imagines giving it all up:
Sometimes I want to give up on the stability, the memories, the relationship built on 22 years. Sometimes I want to leave the man who gets frustrated too easily or often doesn’t see the world the way I do or still leaves the toilet seat up upon occasion. Sometimes I crave a simpler life, one without conflict or obligation or concessions.
Fleming wrote that after two decades together, marriage can just be “too hard.”
And, unfortunately, sometimes “too hard to see it through to the end”:
This smiling woman in the photo is not the same person at 44 as she was when she met this man at 22. She is hardened and jaded and often feels broken. She is more compassionate to those in pain because she also suffers; yet sometimes she forgets to dispense empathy upon those closest to her. She puts others’ needs before hers because that is simply what mothers do; although sometimes she resents it. She loves hard and full and fierce; but sometimes she wonders if that is enough.
Fleming, who has three children, admitted: “Sometimes I want to give up on this — and I’m not sure what stops me.”
Yet, it’s the very moment Fleming weighs her needs that she realizes the toll her actions would take:
Certainly, it is the three young faces that stare back at me over the family dinner table. It may be the fear of living a life without a partner. Perhaps it is the complications of separating two intertwined lives.
It would not be uncommon or unusual. I’ve watched couples disintegrate before my eyes because of tragedy or betrayal, and other unions slowly rip at the seams because two people grew apart or sought different lives.
Then, by looking at the very photo that could have wielded a different, if perhaps superficial, caption, Fleming is reminded why she doesn’t really want to leave. The truth behind the reasons she wants to stay is staring right back at her:
So, sometimes, when I want to give up on this, I look, I mean really look, at the pictures of us. I see the multitude of lines that adorn our faces, the result of so much joy and laughter shared between two souls. Each smile reminds me we overcame the pain of miscarriages and infertility and deaths and illnesses that we endured only by grasping each other tightly. The sight of us touching reminds me of how just simply grabbing my hand used to take my breath away, and still does upon occasion.
And I look into his eyes, and I see that he is still the most decent man I have ever known.
Although sometimes marriage is hard, by seeing herself beside her husband she is reminded all the pain and challenges have all been worth it:
Giving up may be logical, easier or sometimes even the right thing to do.
Sometimes I want to give up on this, but not today.
Because although I’m in the season of marriage that is difficult and exhausting and hard, in these pictures and in this life, there is always a new reason to fall in love with this man all over again.
Fleming may fantasize about what it would be like to walk away from her life, her obligations, and her family, but she stops when she is reminded that every day is a new day:
So, in those times when I want to give up on this, I am reminded that for our marriage “joy cometh in the morning,” as it always does.
“As I hope it always will.”