Pretty perceptive for a cheapo greeting card, right? It doesn’t matter how much you love each other, or how virtuous you are, or how Catholic you are; marriage only works if you are constantly working on it. What spoke to your wife when you were dating may not mean much to her now, and something that still screams “romance” to you may be just kind of embarrassing for your husband. You have to sit down and have awkward conversations, and learn to use phrases that sound stilted and artificial to you. You have to read cheesy self-help books, and it wouldn’t hurt you to log some preventative maintenance at the marriage counselor’s, either–even if you think your problems aren’t serious enough for therapy. (More on this in a future post.) Over the last five years, I’ve been constantly surprised by how much work marriage is.
In Bruce Springsteen’s Tunnel of Love, the tunnel isn’t something you dig so much as something you have to survive, but his descriptions ring true to me. The song uses an amusement park as an extended metaphor for a relationship, with distorting mirrors and a “room of shadows.”
…the lights go out and it’s just the three of us
You, me, and all that stuff we’re so scared of.
The tunnel is supposed to be a place where you have your lover all to yourself, under cover of darkness, but Springsteen points out that nobody comes without baggage. There’s all kinds of things you don’t learn about someone until you live with them (and I don’t mean anything sinister! People are just…complicated). Sometimes the complications help you get closer, but sometimes they get in the way, or they were never really there at all–they’re just false projections from miscommunication:
There’s a crazy mirror showing us both in 5D
I’m laughing at you, you’re laughing at me.
There’s a room of shadows that gets so dark, brother,
It’s easy for two people to lose each other….
Springsteen laments the counter-intuitive nature of a relationship, which starts out so simply but gets so complicated just at the height of intimacy:
it ought to be easy ought to be simple enough
Man meets a woman and they fall in love
But the house is haunted and the ride gets rough
And you’ve got to learn to live with what you can’t rise above
if you want to ride on down in through this tunnel of love.
I’ve always been intrigued by the line “you’ve got to learn to live with what you can’t rise above.” It sounds cynical–how can love turn into something you just have to “live with”?–but I don’t think that’s what he means. The “tunnel”–the experience of real intimacy and commitment, with all its difficulties–is something you can’t “rise above.” You have to go through. When you’ve done everything you can to solve your problems, you are still two different people, and it’s never going to be entirely simple. You have to live with it–embrace it as part of your life, instead of resenting it or pretending it’s not there. Let me know if you find out what’s at the other end of the tunnel!