Thursday, October 28, 2010

Meaning of Hard Enough Lyrics

Hard enough is the marriage is hard song.   Everyone hears that marriage is hard.  But you don’t really understand the difficulty until you are married.  It is essential to understanding this song, however, so I’ll give it a go.  Lyrics at the end.


When people get married they mostly think romance.  My true love is going to love me forever.  Maybe they even wrote their own vows to be really romantic.  But what newlyweds quickly confront is that the old vows, for better for worse, richer for poorer, sickness and in health actually sum up marriage pretty well.  
Compare shacking up vs getting married.  Most young people tend to think that the only difference is a party and a piece of paper.  Hardly.  When you live with somebody and something goes wrong--and it will, nothing kills the heady romantic feelings like laundry and dishes--you immediately start to question if this the right person for you.   Are you meant to be together?  If nothing else, after a while you might bail because you are tired of asking the damn question.  
When a married couple comes across their first real problem, they don't get to rehash their decision.   They have a revelation of, “Crap, I'm stuck with this person for the rest of my life.”  At this point the struggling spouse--these questions don’t always come to spouses at the same time--can either say this marriage stuff is bunk and walk out, launch a score keeping war, engage in sex manipulation, or other assorted games that won’t end well.   Or, the spouse can decide that marriage really is forever and work toward a practical solution.  Trust me when  I say that the decision is often a scary leap of faith.  It does little good to complain that the decision should have been made earlier.  The reality of your choice and its consequences don’t hit you until after you are married.   (I am happy to say, that if you take the leap and choose to worry more about what kind of wife you want to be than what kind of husband he is, it gets much easier.  If he has the same outlook, then you can weather anything.) 
For most marriages, this leap of faith spot comes from relatively mundane things, budgeting, dividing household chores, holiday plans with families.  You’d be surprised how quickly score keeping--'I cooked last night so you cook tonight' or 'we always go to your brother's so for Thanksgiving we should go to my mom’s'--can cause real problems.    Flowers’s marriage started out with bigger issues.  Between the rock star environment, young children, travel, etc. the potential for scorekeeping in this marriage is astronomical.  The resolve required to avoid it, probably exhausting in the beginning.  
With that in mind, to the actual song.  The first verse is straightforward.  They met and it was a quick, hot start.  By the “on a whim” Flowers is setting the scene for her not realizing how hard marriage to him might be.  I’m going to guess that Flowers didn’t have many previous serious girlfriends.  “I was just a little boy” is probably more a reference to experience and maturity rather than age.  He did some unspecified screwups that caused her lots of hurt.  But he’s learned from them.  Notice, the “older now” lines are all different.  The “All I know” is a bit of a defeat because he can’t go back and change what he did.  He feels guilty about those mistakes and that guilt has aged him, in a lost innocence kind of way.  He can't fix it so all he knows is that he has learned from it.
Second verse alludes to how he must have had to persuade her to marry him.  By modern standards they are too young to get married, so should they just shack up for a while?  No, the people who don’t get married are have lives with “holes and emptiness,” either because shacking up isn’t better in the long run (see comments above) or because they just avoid commitment in general and live hook up to hook up.  She must have also been worried about whatever happened in the past and how he would handle his future rock star life.  Hence, “Girl, I promise that I’m older now.”  He’s learned.  He can do this.
Third verse, I wasn’t looking when we built these walls/Let me spread my dreams at your feet.  Guessing again, but I think he means he went in thinking of stars and romance, that he didn’t notice the import of what he was doing.  To his credit, few do.  He’s having to spread his dreams at her feet because marriage and family life don’t dovetail nicely with the rock star life.  He realized that he was at her mercy, in a way.  He can’t do what he does without her blessing and sanctuary--he explores that more in Crossfire.  Let’s not let time’s bitter flood rise--that’s all the score keeping, grudge holding.   “Before my thoughts begin to run” I think refers to the mental pruning that one must do in a marriage, especially if caught in “time’s bitter flood.”  Despite popular theory, you shouldn’t share everything, say anything that comes into your head.  You shouldn’t allow a “what if” thread to sneak into your thoughts.  Resentment and paranoia are not a fun combination.  He’s realized this.  He “thinks [he is] getting older now,” not from guilt, not as an argument, but because he is truly maturing.  
Finally, I think there is a little of the paranoia in the next line after the chorus: “can’t stand the thought of another”.   He’s worried.  Marriage and fatherhood are hard.  He’s asking a lot from her.  She fell for him on a whim, he begged her to marry him, and he still has a calling for his music.  (Yes, a calling.  That will come up again in other songs.)  I can imagine how hard things are for her.  What if she left for someone who was around more?  Where would he be without her?  Again see Crossfire for how important she is to him.  
The chorus is about each of them acknowledging that this is hard on the other.   They are trying not to keep score, trying to keep the other’s difficulties in their thoughts.  By trying to “roll with the changes”, they are trying to adapt the demands of husband/father and wife/mother.  Its just a lot harder than they thought.  


You let me into your life on a whim
And there was magic and fire in the night
In loving I was just a little boy
I made mistakes that caused you so much pain
All I know is that I'm older now

Some people think that it's best to refrain from the conventions of old-fashioned love
Their hearts are filled with holes and emptiness
They tell themselves that they're too young to settle down
Girl, I promise you I'm older now

And this has been hard enough on you
I know it's been hard enough on me
Been telling myself that I can roll with the changes

And when the water gets high above your head
Darling don't you see,
While this has been hard enough on you
It's been hard enough on me

I wasn't looking when we built these walls
Let me spread my dreams at your feet
Let’s not let time’s bitter flood rise
Before my thoughts begin to run
I think I'm getting older now

And this has been hard enough on you
I know it's been hard enough on me
Been telling myself that I can roll with the changes

And when the water gets high above your head
Darling don't you see,
While this has been hard enough on you
It's been hard enough on me

Can't stand the thought of another talking to you sweet, my dear
Where would I be tonight if you hadn't held me here, in your arms?

And this has been hard enough on you
I know it's been hard enough on me
Been telling myself that I can roll with the changes

And when the water gets high above your head
Darling don't you see,
While this has been hard enough on you
It's been hard enough on me 

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