One Marriage, Two Lives

Brock and I watched American Sniper last weekend.

We both walked out in tears.

It’s a powerful movie.

And one that highlights many uncomfortable truths.

I’m not going to get into the story. Or the controversy.

But I do want to address one common issue the movie emphasizes.

That people who share one marriage often lead very different lives.

In one poignant scene, the sniper is riding in the back of an armored vehicle through the streets in Iraq. He’s on the phone with his new wife, who was walking out of the doctor’s office where she had just learned the sex of their new baby. On his side, shots are fired. The phone falls and is trampled as soldiers respond to the immediate threat. On her side, she wails as she hears the shots fired across the world. She screams for her husband while clutching her unborn child.

One marriage, two lives.

A military marriage with one spouse deployed is an extreme example of spouses living in different worlds. One occupies the domestic world where daily concerns are often limited to the mundane while the other is living on the edge of hell. The one left behind is desperate to connect, wanting to know about the experiences. Whereas the one who has returned has witnessed scenes that no one should ever see and works to shield his or her spouse from what they saw. It’s no wonder that military spouses often have trouble relating once they are reunited.

This phenomenon is not limited to military marriages.

Lives diverge when distance separates partners for protracted periods of time. Whenever one spouse has job that reveals the darker side of humanity, they may be more likely to erect a screen, safeguarding their partner from reality. When one partner assumes most or all of the parenting duties or when one is fully responsible for securing a living, they have to make a continued effort to maintain a connection between their worlds. And even a couple that shares much of daily life risks growing apart if they fail to check in with the other.

In every marriage, there are two distinct people with two distinct lives.

In every successful marriage, there are two people who actively work to build and maintain a bridge between those two existences.

So that rather than one marriage splitting into two lives, it’s two lives joining into one marriage.

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